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Irish grads launch fan app

Declaring your college football fandom digitally is about to get a little bit easier, thanks to a new mobile phone app developed by a pair of recent Notre Dame graduates.

A sample image of TextPride's Notre Dame app set to launch in the next month.

The app, called TextPride, allows its users to add images of licensed logos and mascots from most popular college football teams to their text messages. The idea is the brainchild of Sean O’Brien and Evan Wray, a former walk-on football player for the Irish. The pair laid out plans to develop their app while putting the final touches on their undergraduate degrees last spring.

Users of the app can purchase a package of a couple dozen emoticon-like images from many of the brand name schools in college sports for $1.99. Notre Dame was the first of nearly 40 schools to jump on board and allow TextPride to use several of its official images like the monogram, the golden dome and the leprechaun. Wray said getting Notre Dame, a notoriously tough licensing nut to crack, on board was their biggest early obstacle to starting the company.

“Licensing is very difficult in any situation, especially for a start-up company with no proven sales or a business model. Especially if you’re a start-up company that’s run by two college kids. That was definitely hard to get going,” he said.

With Notre Dame signed on, several other big colleges such as Texas, Michigan and Florida joined in as well. After securing a handful of licensing rights, O’Brien and Wray — a political science major and an economics major respectively — were able to find the funding they needed to pay a developer and get their company off the ground.

O’Brien and Wray met through Wray’s roommate at Notre Dame, current senior safety Chris Salvi. Wray and Salvi played football together at Butler as freshman and both transferred to Notre Dame and walked on to the Irish team. Wray’s career ended after two season because of concussions, which left him with plenty of time to run through business ideas with O’Brien in their apartment.

“It’s just one of those things where it was really just a light bulb idea,” O’Brien said. “We wanted to be our own bosses and the best way to do that is to think of good business ideas.”

They first fleshed the idea for TextPride out on paper in March and both are surprised with how fast it’s gone from a plan in a notebook to an operating company. They hope to eventually expand to more college teams, professional teams and any other group that has a brand and people willing to text about it.

Wray and O’Brien will both be in South Bend for the Notre Dame-Michigan football game this weekend to promote the company and put the app through its final round of testing before launching to the public. They hope to be on the market within a couple of weeks. Wray said while they are being particularly cautious not to break any NCAA compliance rules, he is hoping that his connections with the Notre Dame football program will help spread the word for the new business.

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