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The Most Influential Women in Technology 2011 – Jessica Kahn

The Most Influential Women in Technology 2011 – Jessica Kahn

Jessica Kahn is the brains behind the most popular iPhone game, Tap Tap Revenge. Now VP of Engineering for Disney Mobile, she manages engineering, operations, and strategy for the Tapulous title, which works a lot like Dance Dance Revolution, except with finger-tapping and phone-shaking to match the beat instead of foot movement.

In December 2010, just six months after being acquired by Disney, Tapulous released TTR 4 to a massive 25,000 downloads per hour, landing it in the #1 App Store position.

What makes TTR so successful? “Music is the social glue that exists in the world, outside the gaming environment. In Facebook, you fill in what music you like,” notes Kahn. The genius of the Tapulous team was to capitalize on the music zeitgeist, funneling some of the energy to their app.

“We doubled down when we saw every opportunity,” says Kahn. When the team noticed that Ke$ha’s single “TiK ToK” was trending toward the top of iTunes, the team rushed to act. They managed to secure a license to the title in 48 hours, and a team of coders worked through the night to create a custom level. “Right as the track was hitting number one, ‘TiK ToK’ showed up in the game as a paid purchase,” says Kahn. The custom level was purchased 100,000 times within two weeks; by the New Year, it had been downloaded about 380,000 times.

Kahn thought she’d be a lawyer, until she took a coding class her senior year at Dartmouth. “I just sat there and thought, ‘Oh my god, people will pay me to do this? This is so much fun! It was logical like law, but there was more tinkering and playing games and solving puzzles.” Before joining Tapulous in October 2008, Kahn spent nearly 10 years at Apple as a software engineer.DZ