App takes center stage

Devin Turner and Charlie Beckwith, both Eng ’14, are working together to grow FocalCast, an app they created as students. Their app allows users to control PowerPoint presentations directly from a phone or tablet and project them onto a television or other display — no cumbersome cords, connectors or adapters needed.

Their business is gaining attention quickly as consumers adapt to controlling the digital world around them with their personal phones, tablets and watches. After winning Marquette’s ImpactNext competition, FocalCast took top awards at the Rice Business Plan competition and then won a $50,000 financial boost and a spot at a business accelerator in St. Louis.

“We’re doing really well,” says Turner, who serves as the startup’s CEO. “But we’re not getting a lot of sleep.”

FocalCast developed an Android app, and the company is beta testing an iOS version that will hit the iTunes store this summer. More than 7,000 people have downloaded the existing app. Next up, FocalCast’s founders say, the Apple Watch is on their roadmap.

In the three-month accelerator program, the duo is working with a technical team in India, and practicing their investor pitch and honing their business skills with an advisory board of mentors that includes the former CTO of Panera.

“The amount of progress we’ve made in a month and a half is incredible,” Turner says. “We went from zero to 60 really fast.”

“Fifteen-hour workdays are standard, 16–18 depending on how late you go,” says Beckwith, who serves as CTO. “It’s been pretty ridiculously fast paced.”

They credit classes, faculty and extra-curricular opportunities like the Kohler Center for Entrepreneurship at Marquette for setting their foundation — and those roots are still helping today.

“Since graduating from Marquette we have met several times with the Golden Angels network of alumni investors,” Turner says. “I’m sure our Marquette connection will continue to shape the course of our company.” — TC


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