It’s 2008, Jim Garvin and Ryan McGeary are out to lunch at a Thai restaurant with a few other "nerdy" buddies. The usual exchange of IT stories dealing with incompetent coworkers permeates the table.
Someone mentions a simple problem with a coworker not knowing how to close an Outlook window.
“I tell them I don’t know the answer, google it, then email them the first link” someone says. The others laugh, and agree they do the same thing. They even agree that it would make a funny site.
The idea for Let Me Google That For You (LMGTFY
) was born.
“Everyone looked like a bunch of sharky card players to me after that. I guess I was the dumb guy in the group who thought everyone was going to leave lunch and rush back to their office and start coding.,” Garvin said.
Garvin spent the rest of the afternoon building the first version of LMGTFY.com. Ryan McGeary came over during the coding frenzy, and immediately jumped on board.
“Ryan came over and saw what I was doing and was like ‘Lets get this thing built and hosted by midnight,’” Garvin said.
The site went live, and before Garvin and McGeary knew it, their creation was getting up voted on Reddit and Digg.com (11, 905 Diggs and 2,300 up votes on Reddit).
“I think it was one of the most up voted things on Digg at the time,” Garvin Said. “The website has received healthy traffic and has been steadily growing. Honestly, we never thought it’d get this far.”
Well, LMGTFY did get that far, and as the site grew in popularity, the clamoring for a native iOS app grew too. The snarky masses wanted an easy way to respond to stupid questions when a simple Google search would suffice.
Tyler Bell, a 19-year-old senior at Iowa State, provided the solution.
"I started developing the LMGTFY app during the summer when a friend sent me a trivial question via text message,” Bell said. “Just to be 'that guy', I went online and generated a LMGTFY link and sent it back in response to his question.
That got me thinking, ‘Hey, there should be an app for this!’”
After a quick search on the App Store Bell found an application that generated a LMGTFY link, but it wasn’t particularly eye-catching and not officially endorsed by Garvin and McGeary.
“At dinner with a couple of my friends, I threw the idea around,” Bell said. “After a movie we all went to, I came home and started working. After one night of work, I had designed enough to send a mock-up to the LMGTFY guys, Ryan and Jim.”
Bell’s night of work lasted under three hours with Bell creating the first project folder at 10:22 p.m. on July 17, 2011 and then sending the first screenshots to Garvin and McGeary at 1:01 a.m. July 18, 2011.
“We didn’t actually have much time to build an app ourselves. We tossed the idea around, and then we heard from Tyler Bell,” McGeary said. “Bell contacted us and said ‘hey, I already built this app, and I’m wondering if you want to publish it cause I’m going to upload it official or not.’ He sent us screenshots, and we liked it so much we bought it from him.”
Garvin’s and McGeary’s offer to pay for Bell’s work shocked the 19-year-old.
“When Ryan and Jim offered to pay me for my work I was taken aback,” Bell said. “In my first message to them, I even offered to do the work for free, so getting paid for it was a very nice surprise!
McGeary and Garvin didn’t disclose how much they bought the app for, but Bell is now part of the LMGTFY team. His name and contact information appears in app and Bell has access to change the app's content as well. However, Bell is a full-time student at Iowa State University and has full plate himself with other side projects.
In fact Bell’s longest running project—the official application
of the College of Engineering at Iowa State—launched just last week. Bell works for two startup companies as well, his own Made by Bell
application development service, and Unique Labz
a company Bell founded with a friend. Unique Labz first project—Weatherator
— will be available soon.
Garvin and McGeary do much more than simply maintain servers for LMGTFY. Garvin has been developing software since he was a child and currently owns Three Thirties
a software development firm in Northern Virginia. McGeary owns his own software development and consulting firm McGeary Consulting Group
and is the co-founder of LMGTFY, FitFreak and SplashWireless. However, both Garvin and McGeary are gearing up their next big project BusyConf
, a conference organizing web application.
Despite Bell, Garvin and McGeary focusing on numerous other projects, the LMGTFY crew doesn’t see the site disappearing anytime soon.
“Nothing lasts forever, we know that, but we like to think it serves a purpose,” Garvin said. “LMGTFY will be around as long as people deserve to have that link sent to them, and people want to send it.”
Garvin and McGeary were kind enough to give us four licenses to pass on to you the readers. As usual comment on the post and we will randomly select the winners. This time though, use your comment to chronicle the dumbest question someone has asked you.
Also, the LMGTFY crew will be mailing out stickers to the first 20 users who download and review the app in the App Store. Simply email [email protected] with your mailing address and they will send some stickers your way.
LMGTFY is available in the App Store for $.99.
, Tyler Bell