GridView was an app I wrote for Facebook, a social networking site. GridView let you add the profile pictures of all of your friends to your Facebook profile, so everyone could see them. GridView ultimately grew to 1.3 million installs, and was one of the top 100 apps on Facebook. It was popular when Facebook had a single page profile. Use fell off a cliff when Facebook switched to a multi-tabbed profile. GridView was shut down when Facebook removed apps from profiles at the end of 2010.
I think GridView was so popular because it was profile artwork.
I came up with the idea on the last day of 10th Grade (the summer of 2007). I was thinking about Facebook's name: a book of faces. Thinking about it made me realize that they don't really have a place where you can see all of your friend's faces. I used my new found free time to get to work. I wrote GridView all that afternoon in about 5 hours. I had to become familiar with Facebook's API, and APIs in general, because it was my first app using an API. Facebook provides good tools for helping people get started. GridView was basically 3 lines of code - an FQL request to get the photos of all of a user's friends, and then a for loop to display the images. GridView was originally called FaceView, but Facebook doesn't like apps which have the word "face" in the name.
Very quickly the application became popular, with the number of users snowballing. I think it became so successful because of the Facebook's Newsfeed which spread word about the application, as well as its viability on user's profiles. I think the cleanness of the design attracted users to it. I tried to keep it clean and usable, without all of the ads everywhere. (The square grid arrangement of photos was inspired by Flickr)
During the summer of 2007 I tried to extend on the GridView concept by adding a photo mosaic feature. Mosaics lets users create photo mosaics of their profile pictures using their friend's profile pictures as tiles. I then added a feature to make each tile smaller, allowing more detail on the photo mosaic.
Also during the summer of 2008, I tried to capitalize on the success of GridView by selling GridView Mosaic products with a partnership with QOOP. This was the first time I was entering in such an arrangement. We never sold much of anything, so the option was soon dropped.
I was also looking for additional help on the business side of things. I went to a Facebook developers conference when I met my future business partner. We negotiated a deal and I turned over equity in exchange for an investment (~$10,000) in the business. We formed a holding company SocialView in January 2008. Together we started building up GridView.
I designed a "rearrange" flash applet for GridView, we put it out for bid, and then I got up at 5AM every day before school to manage the overseas development team building the project. This was a lot of fun. I worked with them every day to refine the project. I also hired and managed an independent domestic developer to work on some minor features.
GridView grew to over 1,300,000 users. Unfortunately in late 2008, Facebook changed the layout of the profile to have multiple tabs. The usage of GridView fell precipitously; GridView was essentially profile artwork - when Facebook changed the profile the art work become hidden. Very few people clicked over to the "Apps" tab.
The entire economic environment became a lot more challenging. In addition, GridView's revenue was mostly from other app developers waving VC cash advertising their applications. I think there was a bit of a Facebook bubble burst.
We tried twice to build a second act, when we acquired my business partner's old firm ForumsPlace and building a petitions platform 4Change. Unfortunately I did not have the time to dedicate to the projects and they never got any traction. The ForumsPlace was a particular mistake. I had no goal - my business partner just got his money back on selling one of his old assets to me. The forums just added extra load to my servers. I set up ForumsPlace in December 2008 and shut it down in January 2010. 4Change was built October 2008 to March 2009.
SocialView was shut down at the end of 2009 - we were not making any money because all our users went away. GridView continued to just run for another year. GridView fully shut down at the end of 2010, because Facebook completely removed applications from the profile page at that time.
It was great experience for a high schooler to have their own company. The amounts of money (~10,000) seem small at the time, but were huge for me in high school. I personally made a profit from the venture, which was nice. It also wet my interest to learn how to build a business in MIT. It also showed me the dangers of being reliant on a 3rd party (Facebook). As I write this during junior year at MIT, I look back and see a lot of mistakes. However, it was a great learning experience for me. As a result, I did not feel the need to start a startup while I was at MIT.