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An app for lazy husbands, programmed by a 12-year-old

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When in doubt (or when you’re too lazy to speak), click.

“So my mom comes home with, like, 40 dresses. … She tries one thing on, she comes in, she says, ‘How do I look?’” Ethan Duggan says, pausing for effect. “‘Well, uh, you look great.’ She does this, like, three times. I’m thinking: I hold in my hand a smart phone. So I pull it out, I go into video and I record myself saying, ‘You look beautiful,’ and I just play that.”

And LazyHusband was born. While Ethan had help from his father Rick (who heads up web development for Zappos) as well as mentors in the Vegas Tech community, the 12-year-old dreamed up, designed and coded the app, which is a cheeky tool to help lazy husbands deal with their wives’ loaded questions. The menu offers a range of clickable answers (recorded in Rick’s voice), including the ultimate kicker: No, you don’t look fat.

The LazyHusband tech team of son and father are working on expanding its functionality so users can add their own phrases, get random reminders to send thoughtful texts to their wives and maybe even buy flowers through the app. It was officially launched for iPhone, Android and Kindle this week at the SXSW festival in Austin, Texas, where LazyHusband represented Vegas Tech along with a handful of other promising startups. Right before Ethan and his parents left town for the festival, we caught up with them to talk about JavaScript, more Lazy apps on the way and whether Ethan’s mom Marni really brought home 40 dresses …

How does a 12-year-old know how to build an app?

Ethan: I learned JavaScript from my dad and Codeacademy.com. I learned in about three or four months. And then I started to code the app.

Rick, given your many tech adventures, is that pretty fast for someone to learn?

Rick: For someone of his age to pick it up is definitely rare in that amount of time. A lot of people who can program can easily pick up JavaScript faster than that, but when it’s your first language I think it’s harder. … Obviously I helped him with learning the program, and when he runs into issues I can help him with those. Marni is more of the PR-type specialist, and then we’ve also gotten tons and tons of help from people in the community—Geoff Sanders from LaunchKey, Victoria Cail, George Moncrief.

Marni: Vegas Tech has been very, very helpful.

How has the app performed through beta tests leading up the SXSW?

Ethan: It’s been pretty good. We’ve had a couple bugs that we’re in the process of fixing; we’re actually ending the beta later today or early tomorrow before heading out to SXSW. I’ll be inside the Vegas Tech booth for most of the days. I’m also going to be on the Samsung Podcast on the 12th with Sarah Evans [chief evangelist at social collaboration platform Tracky], Sarah Austin [of Pop17 and Bravo’s Silicon Valley] and a couple other people.

You have a contest going for the best new phrase, which will be added to LazyHusband. How do people enter?

Ethan: Tweet @LazyHusbandApp or use #LazyHusbandApp and put the best phrase that you can think of. … We’re looking to end the contest on the 10th, and then by the 12th we’re gonna have the final three, put those up on Wedgies and let those run for a couple days. And then we’ll pick the final winner from the survey and we’ll put that in the app for a limited time.

So, is your dad actually a lazy husband?

Marni: I think they respectfully refuse to answer that question on the grounds that mom’s right here.

Ethan: Right now we’re working on LazyWife and LazyKid. We’re hoping to have those released in a week, about.

Downloads are 99 cents, meaning there’s profit to be made. How is the business structured, considering the CEO isn’t even a teenager?

Rick: I actually had to register the Apple developer account under my name because he wasn’t 18, so these are currently just sort of a sole proprietorship. If things take off we’ll probably look to make it more of a corporation.

With a busy school schedule, how will you find time to keep working on your Lazy empire?

Ethan: I’m gonna be programming a lot over the summer. I’m also gonna work a lot over the weekends, which is my primetime for when I can actually work.

Marni: You know how some kids go to football practice or whatever practice? This is Ethan’s extracurricular activity. He goes to Vegas Tech meetings, he goes to workshops, and we’re going to SXSW. This is his big extracurricular thing.

Inspired by you and your 40 dresses. Did you really bring that many home in one go?

Marni: It wasn’t all dresses, but it was a significant amount of clothing, and the story he told is pretty much exactly how it happened.

How did you react to his clever response, which turned into this clever business venture?

Marni: Honestly, I was like, “Oh my god, that’s such a great idea!” I was amazed that he thought of it.

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