The App Guys
by Michael Ventre
Apps are like your friends: Ideally, you’d like to have as many as possible.
But to brothers John and Sam Shahidi, friends are like apps and apps are like friends—the two are almost indistinguishable. When they create a smart-phone application at their Irvine-based company Rock Software, the brothers (who are from Orange County and still reside there) make sure it’s based on a meaningful relationship. “I don’t want 200 clients,” says John, 30, who is the company’s CEO, while the 27-year-old Sam serves as CPO. “I’d rather have 20, 30 clients that I’ll be with for 10 years.”
An ideal example is one of their latest creations, an app for Chad Ochocinco of the Cincinnati Bengals. The star wide receiver can be seen in a game called “Mad Chad,” which depicts a caricature of Ochocinco traveling the world to recover stolen possessions. Ochocinco and the Shahidis connected through a mutual friend, Bengals reserve quarterback Jordan Palmer, who told Ochocinco about another app they created called RunPee. That one tells you the best time to run to the bathroom during a movie so you don’t miss any crucial plot points.
Rock Software, which the brothers started in 2009 after they worked for years with DirecTV, offers an eclectic mix of mobile games and apps, featuring names like ESPN reporter Erin Andrews, boxer Mike Tyson and NBA star Carmelo Anthony. While the business has grown at a fast pace, the Shahidis have proceeded slowly. “John and I make sure we’re extremely hands on with our clients.”
But it’s certainly not all work and no play for these entrepreneurial brothers. “Chad and I talk almost every day,” says Sam. “We took a trip to Cincinnati in November. I told him we want two tickets in his box, and we want the rest of the box to be filled with girls. We’re single guys, by the way.”
PHOTOGRAPH BY BRITTANY RENE PHOTOGRAPHY