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Michael Karr: Creator of 69 Positions, a #1 Sex App

A friend of mine bought plants for her apartment this year, and she named them “6” and “9”. Guests love the humor in the plant names. I for one think 69 jokes are hilarious…I know-I’d get along great with a bunch of 8th grade boys.

What is it about that number that ignites laughter in so many? I remember being young and naively laughing at that and other dirty jokes that I didn’t understand. (No “birds and bees” talk will ever teach me as much as urbandictionary has.) Upon researching it, I thought to myselfYou put what where?!  But it turns out that 69 is no joke at all. Just ask our new Campus Celebrity, Michael Karr, who created an iPhone application called “69 Positions”. Popularly known as “Biebs,” Karr’s app has over 5,000,000 downloads in more than 80 different countries. Here’s his story:
How did you first get into iPhone app development?
I first became interested in developing iPhone apps after reading an article about a guy who made a fortune on his own with a simple game he created. At the time I had no experience programming apps whatsoever, but I believed it was something I could learn on my own since I was pretty smart and decent with computers. After a few weeks of trying to learn, I gave up entirely because I found the material to be very dense and ultimately not worth the effort. That was until I had been approached by one of my best friends with the idea to bring sex positions to the iPhone, he even had the name already planned: "69 Positions." It was going to be huge.
Fueled by the motivation to make this app, I initially learned how to create apps while developing 69 Positions. Every time I learned something new that might fit well in the app, I included it. The majority of the time spent developing the app occurred over Christmas break when I had the most free time. The app was complete before I even finished the book I was using to learn.
How did you come up with over 100 positions for the app?
The content for the app was created entirely by my two high school friends and myself. My friend with the idea for the app made the silhouette illustrations as well, and my other friend wrote the descriptions. The positions themselves came from a variety of sources. Some of the positions are commonly known, but others came from research and personal experiences.  One of my favorite memories from working on the app was meeting with my friends at a coffee shop in business attire and naming some of the original positions we made for the app based off the printed illustrations. We started with a list of 69 positions, hence the name 69 Positions, but the number one feature request was for more positions. The name has stayed the same despite the additional positions due to brand recognition and, of course, being very fitting for the app.

You are currently selling the app on sale for $0.99, how much of that does Apple actually keep?
Apple keeps 30% of the app's revenue, which I think is more than fair considering they created the entire concept of the App Store making everything possible. The app originally started at $1.99, but after a weekend sale of 50% off sales skyrocketed to say the least. The "weekend sale" has been going on for almost two years now.
Why do you think your application became so successful?
We had a ton of hype spread throughout our network of friends building up to the release of the app. I still remember the exact moment in English class when I received the email from Apple saying the app had been approved. The hype generated enough sales that first day to push the app into the top of the Lifestyle category, which then led to triple the amount of sales the next day and continued rising gradually every day thereafter. Some of the social media marketing tactics I used included Facebook, Twitter, a website, and viral marketing.
My goal was to have the app in the Top 25 overall list of apps. With 250,000 apps in the App Store at the time, this was obviously not going to be easy. However, at this point the app was already ranked about 1,000 overall since it was a top app in its category. The solution came down to three main factors: App Store search optimization (69 Positions was the number one search result for "sex" for a while), a weekend 50% off sale that lowered the price to $0.99, and the release of a free "lite" version that offered fewer positions. The lite version quickly went viral and was receiving over 100,000 downloads a day. These factors combined launched the app to being ranked #3 overall at its peak. Furthermore, translating the app into Japanese made it the #1 app in Japan for a long time.
Was your family supportive of your unusual business endeavor?
My dad thought it was a brilliant idea from the start, but my mom was a little hesitant and even worried that I might be kicked out of my religious high school due to the sexual content of the app. Eventually, my mom came on board with the idea after seeing what a success it has been. The rumors of my parents abandoning me because of the app, while hilarious, simply aren't true at all.
Will you continue to work on applications in the future?
I have since started a new company that develops professional apps for businesses starting at $10k, which is considered to be pretty affordable for custom app design. I decided to go this route because app sales can be very unpredictable. Today, there are more than 500,000 apps in the App Store, so it's not as easy to penetrate the market with new apps. Luckily for 69 Positions, it still has a pretty good foothold on the market and sales have remained fairly steady over time.
In addition to applications, what else do you do?
This year I am also the Social Chair for Kappa Sigma. One of the things I was looking forward to most was organizing Heaven and Hell. When I was a freshman, it was definitely my favorite party. It's a night where everything--the venue, DJs, pre-parties, buses, lights, theme, costumes, decorations, etc.--come together to create an unforgettable experience. A lot of pressure is involved when planning an annual party that has been ranked nationally, and this year it definitely delivered.

While this screen shot of the app might make many readers uncomfortable, it's what made Michael Karr a self-made millionaire.

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