WSU med student creates app company - in spare time
UnlimApps tops 2 million downloads
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Enea Gjoka says he's committed to becoming an oncologist, but for now he's making his mark in smartphone app development.
Photo: TOM HENDERSON
Medical school is workload enough for most students. But not for Enea Gjoka, who will start his second year of med school at Wayne State University this summer.
Gjoka, 22, is also something of a Renaissance man of the iPhone and iPad, a business owner whose app development company, Ann Arbor-based UnlimApps Inc., has earned more than $100,000 in ad revenue in the past two years.
UnlimApps is the fourth-largest developer of apps on Crain's list of largest mobile app developers, with 2.3 million downloads as of May.
Gjoka's most popular app is UnlimDownloads, which speeds up video. It had 1.6 million downloads as of last month.
Other apps he has developed have 700,000 downloads -- including UMBus, which tells Ann Arbor bus riders where the closest bus stop is and when the bus is due to arrive, and Color Mail Label, which helps organize various email files on smartphones and tablets. Those have been downloaded 700,000 times.
Gjoka also is one of four principals in another Ann Arbor company, VZL LLC, which plans to launch a website on June 30 called HangTrend.com. The site will be a combination of social media and retailing aimed at young women, and the plan is to raise at least $5 million in venture capital after the site is launched.
Medical school has long been a goal for Gjoka, who came to Dearborn from Albania when he was 10 and majored in cellular and molecular biology at the University of Michigan. The rest of it has been more happenstance than planning.
After Gjoka got his first iPhone in 2009, he thought it would be useful to be able to speed up YouTube and other videos, but there wasn't an app available to do that. So he taught himself computer programming, formed a company and developed UnlimDownloads.
The app is free at the iTunes store, but small ads that run in the corner of a phone or tablet while the app is being used -- ads generated by a Palo Alto, Calif., company called Mobclix Inc. -- are paying his way through med school.
Gjoka is working on three other apps, two of them games and one an app that lets you respond to someone in a chat group without having to close out of other windows.
"Enea is an extraordinarily bright guy. He's been quite a phenomenon," said Matt Jackson, assistant dean of academic and student programs and associate professor of immunology and microbiology at the WSU School of Medicine.
That includes revamping the way WSU's med school delivers classroom lectures to students online. The school makes all lectures available online, but until last year, Mac users frequently had trouble with downloads, and the videos were only available at normal speed, not helpful for student reviews.
"Enea sat in my office and said, 'I think I can figure this out.' And a week later, he had it done," said Jackson. Gjoka showed his code to the school's IT people and soon, "regardless of platform, you were good to go. The videos load and stream just beautifully."
More than business
After VZL was launched, in January, Gjoka has worked full time for the firm as chief technology officer and lead developer. "I don't need much sleep. Two hours a night is enough," he said, "although during exams I don't sleep at all."
Gjoka working full time might be a little too much to ask for once school starts, again. "I've heard the second year of medical school is harder. But I'll still be here a lot."
Which begs the questions: If his own company has generated $100,000 of revenue in two years, and he's now a principal at another company that hopes to have at least $5 million in funding by the end of summer, why medical school?
"I love programming and I love the business stuff, but medical school is what is really important to me," said Gjoka, who wants to be an oncologist. "I was a volunteer at a hospice, and I learned there how much I love helping people. Business is fun. With school out, I pretty much live here. But being a doctor is what's important."
Tom Henderson: (313) 446-0337, firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @tomhenderson2