Transforming video ads into vehicles for giving back
Mike Cassidy is the co-founder of AdWap, a media platform he runs alongside his cousin, Matt Sawyer, and their friends, Jack Carey and Sherrod Davis. AdWap—an acronym for “Advertising With a Purpose”—allows individuals to give to charities and causes simply by watching video ads on their devices. Each view triggers a donation, as well as an entry into a daily cash giveaway, further incentivizing people to use the platform every day.
EDWIN WARFIELD: Tell us about launching the company and finding an audience. What challenges have you run into as a startup?
MIKE CASSIDY: We launched pretty much December 1, 2016, so we’re just shy a full year at being a destination where somebody can actually download AdWap. That didn’t mean that on November 15, 2016, we decided that we had the idea. It took us a long time to develop the app, develop the website, develop these partnerships. It took us a lot more time than we anticipated and cost us a lot more money. I remember from my entrepreneurship class at Wake, they said, “imagine that it’ll take twice as long and cost twice as much—that should be your anticipation,” and our experience was far more drastic. It took us longer—more than twice as long as we thought it would—and cost us more than twice as much, but that’s all part of the experience, and we always say if it was easy, everybody would do it.
At first, our approach was “let’s go strictly national charities,” just because for distribution purposes and frankly, credibility purposes. When you’re a startup, you need some credibility, so if you can show, “Hey, these are our partners; these are recognizable brands,” that helps. We were smiling and dialing: “Hey, this is why it makes sense,” “there’s really no risk,” “it’s a free fundraising tool that isn’t stopping anybody else from sending the money they otherwise would—it’s just that we’re touching a much wider demographic of people who otherwise wouldn’t give.” You know, we took our lumps along the way. You’d be surprised how many people turned us down, but since then, we’ve crafted our pitch and we have developed a lot of great partners. You name the cause, we try to have it. Whether it’s some type of cancer research to, as I mentioned earlier, urban youth development; to education systems, to diseases; all the way down to the environment. It’s a little bit of everything. We don’t want somebody to feel compelled to download AdWap or watch one of our ads on one of our licensed publishers and then not see a cause that they care about. The idea is that there’s something on there for everybody.
What we’ve realized as we move forward is a terrific demographic for us is college kids. If you think about a college kid—it’s a gross generalization and I get it—but by and large: more time than a working professional, less money. If we can go to them and say, “Hey, we know you care about causes,” “We know your university maybe runs a dance marathon,” they maybe have some type of cancer research initiative—whatever it may be—we go to them and say, “Look, it’s a couple of minutes a day. You can do this while you’re walking to class. You do your part every day.” These universities obviously have tons of students, the vast majority of which both have smart phones and use them on a daily basis—look, there’s a way that the students can raise a ton of money for that cause. We’ve since reached out to about 25 universities, all of whom have partnered, and they’ve been terrific partners for us. The adoption level from these college kids is really impressive.
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