When you put together a list of the fastest growing technology companies in Iowa, you probably don’t include Hatchlings, Inc., but you should. I recently had the chance to sit down with Brad Dwyer the company’s founder, who is also a senior in Computer Science and Entrepreneurial Studies at Iowa State University, to learn about his Ames-based startup.
Hatchlings started as a Facebook application that Brad put together for fun about two years ago. “I was procrastinating from studying for a test,” Brad confessed, “and I had an idea of a ‘Where’s Waldo?’ for the web but obviously Waldo is a trademarked character so I thought of other ways to do that and Easter Eggs just kind of came up. I did it and within the first day it took off and users started using it and it started spreading virally so I decided to run with it.”
Brad describes the game itself as “a mix between Beanie Babies, Pokémon cards, and Tamagotchis.” It’s Facebook-based, marketed virally from user-to-user and based on the simple idea of a virtual Easter egg hunt. Users of the application have the ability to find and collect eggs that are hidden in their friend’s profiles. It has since evolved to include the ability to hatch the eggs into a virtual pet, which the user can then digitally care for.
Brad’s initial outflow of cash was a mere $100 and he said that his revenue on day one pushed him into profitability. Now, it pays for him to work on the company full-time as well as supporting both the application’s infrastructure and part-time pay for a team that spans from as close as Des Moines, Waterloo, and Iowa City and as far away as Vancouver, Argentina, and Tel Aviv.
At its peak, Hatchlings has averaged 250,000 users per day, rating it one of the Top 100 applications on the Facebook platform. It has a total user count approaching 3.3 million and Brad says there’s still a lot of room for growth as he sets his sights on Facebook’s largest application Farmville, which Brad said averages 83 million users each month. Image above, a screenshot from Facebook’s Hatchlings page, is an example of what it looks like when you’ve found an egg.