An app for ads might just be what commuters want

Sometimes the best ideas are the ones that at first seem the most ridiculous, so don’t dismiss those ideas.

“If I don’t shut it off, then it’ll probably burn the entire house down.”

With one swift yank, I unplug the scorching-hot power cord from the outlet and plop myself back down into my chair.   It’s July of 2011, Toronto is in the midst of a record-breaking heat wave, and R2-DCool, our B-movie-esque air conditioning unit, has proved so power hungry that the wiring in my house is threatening to burst into flames. Mark, my co-founder and fellow coder, suggests we retreat to the (cooler) kitchen for a break.

We had both left software development positions several months earlier to work on Bird Blaster, our first iOS game. While writing software for larger companies has its merits, we wanted to build something of our own while we were still in our twenties and the opportunity was prime in the mobile space. Having stepped out of our upstairs oven, we find ourselves discussing our next steps after the game is completed.

Mark has an idea: “We should make games targeted toward commuters.  People love to do crosswords on the bus.”

I’m intrigued, but skeptical. “Yes, but that’s because crosswords are free.”

“Alright, then let’s make the game free.”

“Ok, but here’s the thing: Then we’ll be poor.”

“We’ll just sneak ads in.”

I don’t see it. Mobile advertising pays notoriously low CPM rates.  Users have to play your game virtually every day for it to be worth your while. I air my concerns to Mark.

“We can have more ads than in a typical game.  Commuters will be less sensitive to their intrusion since they’re already so bored.  They might even like them,” he responds.

Suddenly, an image of Bird Blaster 2.0, with Pepsi-tattooed pelicans and 30-second vignettes featuring flamingoes driving BMWs, flashes through my mind.  It’s gaudy.  It’s ridiculous.

“Ok, well by that crazy logic, why even bother making a game?  Let’s just make an app full of nothing but ads, all-day, every-day.  I’m sure people would just love that!”

I’ve made my point, or so I think.

“You mean, like a flyer app?”

“No, that would just be stup-“

That was more than a year and a half ago, and since then we’ve built the app full of nothing but ads and launched it into the wild with excellent feedback. The night Mark proposed this, we emailed and pitched our idea to our friend Clay, who was working at Deloitte.  He immediatly responded, “Did you guys not read the email I sent you eight months ago?”  We did some digging through our inboxes, and  found it buried in an email from late 2010, with a bunch of other startup ideas.

Clay is now our CEO.