Free App Development Contest

Deadline for submissions: 2 October 2015, 12:00 PM midnight, UTC.

Proposal description:

  1. We are offering, for free, one month of a senior USA-based developer's time (40 hours per week for 4 weeks) to develop an app for you or your organization.
  2. Not just any app will be suitable for this proposal. See the details below on our requirements as to the app content, but something that contributes to the community and/or something fun is a good start. Also, please realize that apps vary greatly in their complexity, e.g., the amount of time taken for development. You should be thinking about a relatively simple app, or a prototype for a more complicated app, or a feature change or addition to an existing app. Also see the note below about the amount of time it takes for app development.
  3. We place no geographical restrictions on who can submit a proposal. However, we are English speakers, so you must be fluent in English, and your proposal must be submitted in English. Plus, we need to be able to have ongoing communication with you, visually/acoustically, i.e., not just via email. So, if you are on the other side of the planet, you will have to take the brunt of dealing with timezone differences to talk or Skype with us.
  4. Upload, using the button below, by the deadline date above, a description of your proposed app. You can email us with technical questions (e.g., if our upload mechanism has a bug), but please do not email us your proposal unless we specifically ask you to do so.
  5. This must be for a native app for Apple iOS iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch devices (we don't currently have the resources to develop for Android or other mobile platforms).
  6. The proposal is limited to 1 page of text, English language, 12 point Times font. Please be reasonable with margins (e.g., use the defaults available with MS Word). We won't read past the first page. Really.
  7. Make sure to clearly state your location on the planet in your proposal. You don't have to give your exact location if you are concerned about privacy, but definitely give us a town or city name, and a country name. A phone number would be good in case we have a problem with your email address, but that's at your option. Definitely give your email address at the top of your proposal. You will also give your email address when you upload your proposal, as part of our upload process, but it doesn't hurt to have a little duplication of this important information.
  8. If you use URLs/Web links in your proposal, we will not use them in our review (i.e., we will not follow them and look at the web page).
  9. There is no way for you to retract or remove an uploaded proposal. Make sure you have prepared your proposal well before uploading. If you submit a second (or 3rd etc.) proposal, we will ignore it.

Upload Your Proposal

Submissions for 2015 are now closed. If you have not yet submitted a proposal, please check back next year, when we may offer this contest again.


While possibly there is no free lunch, many businesses do give back to their communities. For example, some businesses give a percentage of their profits to animal shelters or other non-profits, and some professionals do occasional pro-bono work. We have decided that we will donate one person month of our time, this year, and potentially in subsequent years, to the community doing something we have skills for-- software development. This is an experiment. If all goes well, we will definitely continue the contest in subsequent years.

Review Process

Our review of your proposal will be based on the content of your proposal and our interest in your proposal. Think of this as analogous to applying for a grant from a Foundation. That Foundation has interests, and we have ours. How do you know our interests? Well. They are fairly broad. We'll give priority to proposals that can help the community. Ideas that are fun. Ideas about apps that are within our technological skill set (which, again, are fairly broad). Oh. And we also like pets. And apps about pets. We love good food too! Yum! 😀

In contrast, we don't like vanity apps. Web pages are good for that. Mobile devices are amazing and fun little workhorses. We want to make suitable use of them-- e.g., for storing a boatload of local data.

Anyone can apply, given our previously stated language restrictions. You could be a highschool or elementary student in Sooke, B.C., Canada. You could be a grandmother in Greely, CO, USA. You could be a non-profit in India. You could be a small business in London, England. We would rather you weren't a large corporation with lots of money, but we'll not dismiss that possibility out of hand.

Clearly written, technically feasible, and well thought out proposals will be given priority. Keep the jargon to a minimum. We don't generally like acronyms either. If we can't understand it, if it is incoherent, if it has lots of typos, if you are trying make a Universal Artificial Intelligence, or make a Time Machine, we'll put it aside (we do like science fiction, though, so how about a sci fi app??).

After choosing a set of finalist proposals, we will interview (in-person, Skype, or phone) the finalist authors. We are committing our time to this project. We want to make sure you are serious and committed as well. Plus, we want to make sure you have the time to collaborate on this with us. Apps are not created by developers in a vacuum.

Other Details

  1. We are not graphic designers, but many apps out there in the wild have had extensive work on them by graphic design talent. We love graphic designers. They are awesome. We're happy to work with yours. Have an existing app design ready to go, created by a graphic designer? Great! Make sure to tell us that in your proposal.
  2. We will develop for the latest production release of Apple's iOS system (as of 7/29/15 this is iOS 8.4, but within a month or two this will change to iOS 9).
  3. You will be granted intellectual property (IP) ownership of the resulting software. The only limitation on this IP ownership is that the developer, Spastic Muffin, LLC, may develop more general purpose software tools (or use already developed tools), and for these general purpose software tools, you will receive a non-exclusive license. We will retain the right to use representations of the app (e.g., screen shots, web links) in our web sites and marketing.
  4. Submitted proposals will be reviewed by Spastic Muffin, LLC personnel only. They will not be made public.
  5. Any further development, or maintenance, of the resulting software will be done at your own expense (e.g., by contracting Spastic Muffin, LLC or other firms), or by re-applying to this contest in later years.
  6. At your discretion, the resulting app can be published on the Apple App store under the Apple developer subscription of Spastic Muffin, LLC, or you can become an official developer with Apple and publish the app under your name. There will be no charge for publishing the app under our company for the first year it is on the Apple App Store. Or you may decide to delay publishing the app, if for example, one month is only sufficient to create a beta version.
  7. We will not enter into a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) to review a proposal. At our discretion, we may enter into an NDA after reviewing your proposal, if we decide to accept and pursue your proposal. If you need such a post-review NDA, please let us know in your proposal. Even in this case, if we agree to such a post-review NDA, we will still need to agree on a schedule by which we can use representations of the app in our marketing materials.
  8. Please realize that the amount of time taken to develop one app versus another, different app, can vary greatly. A really simple app might take a week or two to develop. More complicated apps might take months or years even for a team of people (e.g., see the time taken to develop v1.0 of our app, Petunia; also see this article on the costs involved). So, set your expectations on a relatively simple app, or a prototype of a more complicated app, or a feature addition to an existing app.
  9. The cash value of winning this contest is about $16,000. No, we're not going to give you a cash option, we just like numbers! And we're trying to communicate to people the cost of high-quality professional contract developers. We're not cheap, but we do good work.
  10. We will not send you much email. In the process of reviewing proposals we may send you a few emails just to keep you posted on the review process. We'll also need some email communication with people where their proposals make it to the finalist stage. We will definitely let you know about the outcome of our review process, either way it turns out for you. We know about waiting to hear back on proposals!
  11. If you win the contest, we will expect some regular collaboration with you. App development projects where you meet once at the beginning, and don't meet again until the end, are a recipe for disaster. Incremental deliverables, and continued discussion are much better suited to arriving at a product that meets expectations.
  12. If insufficient quality proposals are received, we reserve the right to postpone a winner to this contest to a later date (i.e., a later contest year), when further proposals are received.
  13. If more than 250 proposals are received, we reserve the right to stop reviewing proposals at that point. If this happens, we promise to post an announcement on this page.
  14. After the winner is chosen, the winner of this contest, and Spastic Muffin, LLC will need to decide on a starting date and ending date for the project, agreeable to both parties.
  15. Only one proposal can be submitted by each person.
  16. Duplicate proposals, even if submitted by multiple people, will be ruthlessly tossed.

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