Aug. 17 2015 07:08 PM

App technology may have good marketplace timing

A wrapify-ed car
Photo courtesy of Wrapify

    There's a great TED talk from the serial entrepreneur Bill Gross, in which he explains why some tech startups make it and some don't. After looking through tons of different businesses that flew, floundered or failed, Gross came to the conclusion that there was one factor more important than any other. 

    It probably wasn't what you'd think. It wasn't the power of the idea, though that was important. It wasn't leadership, though that was important too. It wasn't money or connections or location or team members, either. 

    It was timing. It was all about being in the right place at the right time with the right idea that resonated with its target market or the masses exactly when it needed to. Capturing the zeitgeist and riding it like a tiger. Sometimes, it's vision. But often it's vision combined with a little luck. 

    I've seen it up close, from the wrong side of the calendar. I remember back in my days in Washington, D.C., when a good friend of mine worked in the still-nascent cable television industry for the first all-sports news network. It was called, not so creatively, Sports News Network, and sprang to life as a bullet-point sports news supplement that would complement ESPN—no live games, but lots of scores, highlights, trade info, gossip: A Headline-News-for-sports type of thing. 

    SNN lasted a little more than a year before getting sacked. But as ESPN-2 or Fox Sports might tell you, it was simply an idea ahead of its time. Timing was more important than the idea, the on-air talent, or the content. 

    That's why the most interesting and exciting startup I've seen in the San Diego area is Wrapify, a tech company with an advertising angle that accentuates individual empowerment. Wrapify's timing feels right on time, in the right place with the right idea at the right time. It literally rolled out its product less than a month ago in San Diego and San Francisco, has nearly 10 brands on board and nearly 2,000 people interested in working with the company.

    What we're talking here, basically, is an Uber for advertisers. Wrapify connects brands with drivers, then empowers the latter by allowing them to monetize one of their primary material assets: Their car. 

    Wrapify takes an idea that's already in the marketplace—wrapping cars with company logos and marketing messages—and drives it into the 21st century by incorporating macro-economic and technology trends like crowd-sourcing, the sharing economy and the sovereign individual.

    Drivers download Wrapify's proprietary mobile application, which can only be engaged in their personal vehicle. GPS technology tracks their mileage as they go. Advertisers and drivers share access to tracking, analytics and reporting, which chronicle campaigns, push notifications, gather insights, offer scalability and promote and accept bonus offers.

    CEO James Heller says Wrapify is the perfect example of an idea that never would have gained traction a couple years ago but is perfectly poised for right now. 

    "For one thing, the technology we leveraged to be able to track, manage and scale these campaigns on a nationwide basis didn't really exist a few years ago," Heller says. 

    But there's something even more critical than that, he adds. 

    "The biggest part of this, the thing that sets Wrapify apart, is the crowd-sourcing community, using contract labor for a specific activity," Heller says. "A few years ago, for example, the idea of summoning someone through an app and then jumping in a stranger's car wasn't an accepted idea."

    Today, however, it's become fairly common to monetize personal assets—Uber and AirBnB have already breathed fear into the taxi and hotel business, while newer examples like Instacar may turn the car dealership business on its head—so it feels completely in-tune to consider turning what might be your most important asset into an organic way to make money. 

    The average driver will make about $450 a month for doing nothing he or she wouldn't be doing anyway, while the cost to an advertiser to have five wrapped cars on the road for three months would run about $20,000—significantly less than the cost of a billboard in a heavily trafficked urban area, while providing more views for the dollar. 

    Brands already using Wrapify—you may have seen them around town—include Petco, Coldcock Whisky, HomeHero, and The company's quick, early success has led to accelerated plans to roll out Wrapify vehicles in Los Angeles, Orange County and Atlanta by the fall. 

    "What we're offering here is a chance for the everyday American to get a piece of the action," Heller says. 


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