A quick look at QuiqLabs
• Upstart software company QuiqLabs helps businesses build mobile marketing campaigns through scanned QR codes.
• Co-founders and best friends Thomas and Phipps met as high-school students in Ohio before establishing their business in Fresno.
• The Fresno Metro Black Chamber of Commerce said it’s the city’s only African-American-owned technology business.
Two best buddies who cut their technology teeth as high school and college students in Ohio have emerged as entrepreneurial pioneers in Fresno’s African-American community, working to bring mobile marketing and web software to Valley businesses.
Damon Thomas and Curlen Phipps are the co-founders of QuiqLabs, a company touted by the Fresno Metro Black Chamber of Commerce as the only black-owned software technology business in Fresno. The pair celebrated their recent move into downtown Fresno’s Bitwise Industries building with an open-house event Wednesday, near the end of Black History Month.
QuiqLabs’ products revolve around unlocking the business potential of QR (quick response) codes — those little square-shaped codes that are joining bar codes on a growing number of products, brochures, business cards and other materials. Those codes can be scanned by smartphone cameras to instantly open up a business client’s mobile website on the phone’s browser. The duo won the 2013 edition of Fresno’s 59 Days of Code software competition with QikLead, an application that allows business customers to not only create logo-branded QR codes, but enables clients to track the effectiveness of the codes in real time — how many times a particular code is scanned, as well as when and where.
“When we started, we were surprised how many companies here are not mobile, how many are lacking a moble user interface,” Thomas said. “It’s really about engagement, where people don’t have to type in a long URL (web address); they just have to raise their phone and scan the code.”
QikLead is the centerpiece of Phipps’ and Thomas’ business model, along with QikScan, the free QR code-reading application for smartphones, and QikPages, their platform for building web pages specifically designed for mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets as destinations for a customer’s QR code campaigns. The idea is to help clients build a mobile marketplace for their business.
“We’re really driving people to think in new ways about reaching customers,” Thomas said. “It’s about using QR codes for connecting, for scanning to register for an event, for scanning to pay. When a person walks into a business with their smartphone, it’s like they’ve got cash in their hand.”
Thomas and Phipps met in 1984 as freshmen in an inner-city high school in Ohio when both were accepted into a special computer education program. Thomas, a graphic artist with a knack for rapping and break dancing, developed a friendship with Phipps, who had begun writing computer code as a 12-year old. “My background was graphic design, and my thing was I wanted to learn how to use a computer to draw,” Thomas said. “And Curlen, this guy knew so much already, I admired him for his programming.”
“We had a deal: if he would teach me how to break dance, I would teach him how to do programming,” Phipps said.
“That was the beginning of our friendship, and we’re still going today,” Thomas added.
The pair started a couple of businesses in high school and at Ohio State University, and continued to collaborate on projects even after Phipps and his wife moved to California in 1997. Eventually, Phipps convinced Thomas to join him in Fresno, and Thomas relocated in 2006 to start a new software company focusing on website construction for customers. They won the first 59 Days of Code in 2010 with a web-based business-to-business service.
Their skill sets continue to complement one another. “What we do is analyze problems together,” Phipps said. “Depending on what we’re delivering, I come up with the software solution, and he comes up with what it’s going to look like. It’s a great combination.”