There’s no question that the guys at Seattle startup Giant Thinkwell are funny, as evidenced by their April Fool’s Day stunt outside of the Amazon.com headquarters. But can they build a successful business? That’s one of the questions we tried to pin them down on during the GeekWire Podcast this past weekend.
Joining us were co-founders Adam Tratt, Kevin Leneway, and Kyle Kesterson. If you missed the show, or just prefer text, continue reading for selected excerpts from their comments.
What is Giant Thinkwell, exactly? Adam Tratt, CEO and co-founder: We are working on a range of playful games and other experiences that bring celebrities and fans closer together. In a world where the very notion of celebrity has changed and become democratized, we think that fan engagement is something that’s not as much fun, that’s not as social, and it’s not as engaging, in general, for fans. And we think there’s this huge population of folks that have fan followings out there that want to earn money from their fans, and it’s not easy to do that. So we’re focused on figuring out fun new ways that celebrities can earn money from their fan base.
We’re starting with games, on Facebook, and ultimately they’ll live on tablet devices and mobile devices, too, and what we want to do is create games that celebrate celebrity. Whether you’re someone on TV or you’re the star of your high-school football team, we’re going to give you a bunch of different schools, and we’re going to let you upload assets and customize those games, or other fan engagement experiences, so that your fans, when they visit your Facebook fan page can engage with you.
The importance of their distinctive artwork: Kyle Kesterson, co-founder and artist: With branding in general, I kinda look back to the 1950s — they seem to have nailed it on the head. Toothpaste had a personification through some sort of character, you’re changing the oil in your carm your tires. Anything had some sort of very fun, vibrant face that someone was able to associate themselves to, and it really gave that company a voice and something to gravitate towards, and that’s the approach that I take when I think about what’s our mission, what’s our message. What is that face like that’s telling that message — what does it look like in context. With us, it’s big, it’s bold, it’s colorful, it’s aggressive, it’s a whole mixture of things swirling together.
How the startup came to be: Kevin Leneway, co-founder: Giant Thinkwell started based on an idea I had a couple years ago, actually. I had this blog called A Startup a Day, and I was throwing out all these random startup ideas, and one of my favorite ideas was the idea of a little tamagotchi virtual pet, only instead of raising a little animal, you raised a little John Stamos, and you raised him from being a baby to starring in the hit TV show “Full House.”
John Cook: Who says we’re not innovative out here in Seattle?
Leneway: So I had a full-time job, working at Microsoft, and love startups, and had attended an event called Startup Weekend, which is a great, 48 hour quick coding marathon type of event. I showed up Friday night, and I pitched the idea, and pretty much the whole room just laughed at me. Went home, came back the next day, and somebody had said hey, I know the perfect person for you, you have to meet my friend Kyle. So he brings Kyle in, Kyle and I met, I told him what I was doing, he’s like, sounds good, I can help out. And within half an hour, he had the most amazing baby John Stamos caricature I had ever seen. From there, it just sort of blew up. That was the start of Giant Thinkwell.
So what’s the business here? Tratt: When you think about the number of people that have tremendous followings on Twitter, and Facebook, and YouTube subscribers, celebrity means something different now than it used too. So there’s actually a sigificant marketplace for people who have huge numbers of fans. … The business is that we’re going to build a set of customizable tools that anyone can customize, really, and take those elements and put them on their Facebook fan page.
To hear their comments on those and many other topics — plus our news roundup and a new Name that Tech Tune contest — listen to the full audio of the show below.