FARGO-Long before Uber came to town, three North Dakota State University computer science students were working on their own ride-sharing app called RideSynth as part of NDSU's 2013 Innovation Week.

Kalith Kumasaru, Pasindu Withanage and Pavithra Lamahewa, all natives of Sri Lanka, advanced to the final round of the competition designed to challenge students to solve real-world problems, advance technology and create new business opportunities.

While their project did not win, a solid working relationship was established.

The three regrouped earlier this year to launch Thiken, a new web and mobile application firm.

Employees responsible for the ideas and design are located at the headquarters in Fargo, while the coding and development team is based in Sri Lanka.

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"The main advantage behind having people in Fargo and Sri Lanka is that it helps us be super cost effective in the current competitive marketplace," said Withanage. "We also wanted to bring the startup culture we experience in the U.S. to Sri Lanka, as well."

One of their biggest projects to date was initiated in Sri Lanka. A Mitsubishi dealership there hired the company to produce an augmented reality app to coincide with the launch of their new Outlander and L200 models.

Mitsubishi was able to use the app in two ways.

One involved a newspaper advertisement that included an augmented reality marker that enabled readers who hovered their iPad or iPhone over the ad to get a 3-D view of the vehicle. It also allowed them to customize the vehicle, such as changing the interior colors or adding a sunroof.

The app was also used at the dealership's launch party. The app worked in a similar way: Customers who hovered their mobile device over a mat on the floor could get the same experience.

Kumasaru believes that augmented reality and virtual reality technology will be the next big thing for developers.

"With the integration of VR, it gives a person the ability to actually interact with a 3-D object and get the real feeling," he said. "I think that's the next step or the next big stage for marketing."

In addition to client projects, Kumasaru said they are also developing their own startups as subsidiaries of Thiken.

"We always encourage our employees to contribute their ideas and do our own startups. Once we have collected a good idea, we spend some time in the week to build it," he said.

One such project is a social network app. He is mum on the details right now, but said they hope to debut the mobile app in the next few months.

Why 'Thiken'?

Kumasaru said deciding on the business name was a challenge, but he thinks they came up with something memorable.

"We sort of looked for synonyms for growth. Thiken is the growth. We just dropped the C to make it unique. We think it's catchy," he said.

Business profile

What: Thiken

Where: 118 Broadway, Suite 510, Fargo.

Online: www.thiken.com