A tale of resourcefulness from the little-guy economy.

A tale of resourcefulness from the little-guy economy.

A tale of resourcefulness from the little-guy economy.

How to start and grow companies.
July 30 2010 6:40 PM

How a Failed App Became a Business

A tale of resourcefulness from the little-guy economy.

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In February, board member Clay Shirky connected Social Bomb with Chad Stoller, an executive at BBDO Worldwide ad agency. In April, Stoller called from Sweden and asked Varland if he had seen True Blood. Varland hadn't, but said he would go home and watch it. "It was a True Blood marathon," said Varland.

As a top HBO show, True Blood has a voracious fan base, including 2.5 million Facebook  fans. Stoller tapped Social Bomb to devise a feature that would connect viewers in real-time with Facebook and Twitter users—and extend the fiction of the franchise beyond the cable box. To drive super-fandom and "aggressive sharing" on Blu-ray disks, Social Bomb created a feedback loop that would allow viewers to share scenes and artifacts directly from Blu-ray.


Given the sweat involved in building the Fisher-Price platform, the technology was almost ready to go. The team merely reconfigured a programming interface that was already communicating with devices that weren't computers (they worked with Technicolor and Deluxe on the disc side features). "Blu-ray was just another device," said Dory.

Six weeks later, the project was done. The platform went live, and fans exceeded their sharing limit of 32 posts per day. In a classic social-media conundrum, the nimble upstart, which has clients as Facebook friends, hesitated before sharing racy True Blood content with its Fisher-Price cohort. "There was a moment when we thought, 'Hmm, will they care about that?' " said Simon. "But then we thought, 'Well, that's what we're working on.' " The start-up was forced to stomach the awkward crossover.

In the little-guy economy, once you tackle one beast, there are others waiting. Social Bomb knows it needs to move quickly. As it demonstrates success, competition will follow.

Jill Priluck wrote “The Little-Guy Economy” column for Slate. Most recently, she was a Reuters Opinion contributor. Her work also has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, Time, Fortune, the New Republic, n+1, and elsewhere.