UIC grad designs emoji app for Olympic medalist

promotional image for Alyraismoji app

Thomas Ma graduated from UIC last May with a bachelor’s degree in economics and a great deal of experience already attached to his name.

Thomas Ma

UIC alumnus Thomas Ma’s startup, Sapphire Apps, created an emoji app for Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman. “I got a lot of ‘No’s’ but I kept going and didn’t give up,” Ma says on collaborating with the Olympian.

In spring 2015, he founded Career Podium, a job-hunting site to help millennials transition from college to the workforce.

“No one would hire me. I never had a corporate job, and I was inexperienced with the ‘real world,’” Ma said on his inspiration for Career Podium.

Ma kept pursuing his goals and has started another company, which has partnered with Aly Raisman, an Olympic gymnast. Raisman was a member and captain of the 2012 and 2016 U.S. women’s Olympic gymnastics championship teams.

Ma’s startup company, Sapphire Apps, is creating the official Aly Raisman app, AlyRaismoji. The app includes 75 illustrated emojis of the Olympic medalist crying, kissing her medal, doing backflips on a beam and more. Ma is collaborating on the startup with former University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign student Anish Dalal.

It took persistence to land an app deal with Raisman.

“I’m the outbound guy. I reach out for mutual relationships that offer value,” he said. “I got lots of ‘No’s’ but I kept going and didn’t give up when people didn’t respond.”

He encourages students  to find mentors and start making their dreams a reality.

“Network with your peers,” he said. “Find your own group.”

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