Tony Brown, a University of Missouri graduate student in Journalism has entered the annals of history as yet another North American Internet entrepreneur marching in the footsteps of Facebook founder Mark Zukerberg.
Tony, together with three of his friends, has created NearBuy, a real estate application for the iPhone that helps, for free, apartment or house seekers to browse real estate listings in their vicinity. Tony himself got the idea from his search for an apartment while an undergraduate student at UM.
“It kind of dawned on me that there had to be an easier way to (find an apartment) than trolling through Craigslist and the Internet,” Brown told the Columbia Business Times. Although he is not yet making any money from NewBuy, Tony and his friends have got job offers and worldwide attention with NewBuy already attracting hundreds of thousands of users. He currently works for Newsy , a video news website where he helps to develop new applications. One of the friends that helped him to create NewBuy, Peng Zhuang, has landed a job with Google.
Tony's invention has also led to another big achievement in his university career: it has led his university to take a closer look at the intellectual property rights of undergraduate students, something that was not very much in the radar of University of Missouri administrators before he came along with his invention. He now has full intellectual property rights over NewBuy, something the university has unexpectedly decided to offer without a fight. This means Brown can do whatever he likes with his application without interference from the university. Brown, who feared the university would take over his invention, could not believe his luck. In an interview with the Washington Examiner he said:
"We were incredibly surprised, and intimidated at the same time. You're facing an institution hundreds of years older than you, and with thousands more people. It was almost like there were no other options than to give in."
Normally inventions or creations by faculty and graduate students in universities are usually controlled and owned by those universities because they usually provide funding or guidance for the research that led to those inventions.