For Everything Butt Art developer Madbrook, success comes from keeping it simple

April 14, 2012

TabTimes first noticed developer Brian Snyder at New York's Tech Meet-up, where the Madbrook CEO was utilizing the drawing talent of his four-year-old daughter Madeline to demonstrate Everything Butt Art, his company's new kid-friendly app.

“I was working at IBM and my daughter started drawing," says Snyder. "It reminded me of the silly way that I started [drawing] as a kid. I started with the butt shape. I showed her. She thought it was awesome. And it occurred to me that every kid would think it was awesome the way she did.” 

In a snap, Everything Butt Art was formed, and Snyder readily admits on the brand's website that the principles behind EBA's concept – the butt shape – are the same principles behind the Torrance Test of Creative Thinking.

Snyder left his financial services position IBM at the beginning of October 2010 so he could devote himself to developing ways to help children draw more easily. By posting an advertisement, Snyder found Alexis Moniello, an illustrator and designer. Snyder says, “She had a cool/whimsical style and she seemed like a good fit. She came on as a contractor.”

Snyder then pitched his start-with-a-butt concept to Independent Publishers Group (IPG) in Chicago, with some early prototypes. IPG loved it and gave Snyder a book distribution deal, allowing him to bring Moniello and his best friend, CTO David Markle (who runs Passports.com by day) on as co-founders.

At the same time Snyder was putting together the deal with IPG, Apple was close to finishing work on the iPad. Snyder says, “The iPad was about to launch, it was still rumored, so we started to build around that idea. We thought that we would launch the iPad app before the books, but that turned out to be wrong.” 

The books launched on May 1, 2011 and the iPad app was released on February 2 2012. Despite controlling book distribution, IPG doesn't have any distribution rights on the iPad app.

Hindsight is 20/20

Since all of Everything Butt Art's books are computer-based, using layered vector files to adapt the drawing concepts for the iPad was a relatively simple task.
Thus far, the startup has been completely bootstrapped. Snyder reflects, “I should have cast a wider net and been looking more at angels,” as he was looking primarily at venture capitalist firms for initial investments. “Investors say it's a hits driven business. If it's not Angry Birds, it can be a bust.”

But looking forward, Snyder is encouraged by the recent sale of OMGPop to Zynga, which was fueled by the smashing success of Draw Something for iOS. He says, “I think it's great that people took to it.”

And like OMGPop, which has a series of apps, Snyder says, “Publicly, we're known for Everything Butt Art, but behind the scenes we're working on other stuff.”

How do you market to toddlers? 

Since its launch two months ago, Everything Butt Art, which is currently free, has achieved more than 10,000 downloads. One challenge that Snyder is coming to terms with is that because EBA is for kids, marketing it is more difficult. He notes that virality is difficult to achieve because toddlers generally aren't hooked up to vast online social networks. 

Despite this challenge, Everything Butt Art is seeing a greater than 11% in-app purchase rate. He's referring to the two packs of six additional characters that each cost 99 cents. (The initial download is free.)

“Maybe if I had to do it over again, I would have gone mobile first," Snyder admits. "But the tablet is such a great platform for kids.”

With more books being released on June 1 and September 1, Snyder's “sitting on a pile of content that has so much potential to be unlocked in apps. You could build a whole app out of every book.”

Broader audience than intended? 

Surprisingly, if you look at what's popular in the Everything Butt Art gallery, it's clear that a mix of kids and adults are using the app.

As for the future, Snyder says that he's investigating creating “an HTML5 version that runs off the site and a version that's built into Facebook. We talk about a parent-kid draw together function where we can integrate Face Time into the app.”

Like any startup founder these days, Snyder's looking for solid developer talent. “If any developer wants to come and work on this, within the app is Butt Hunt, our search for all the hidden butt shapes. We want to take Everything Butt Art mobile, add gamification, and see what happens.”

Though Snyder acknowledges that there are dozens if not hundreds of drawing apps, he says, “My view is that in the kids space, drawing apps largely don't have back ends. They'll let you directly e-mail from the app, but our app automatically sends every drawing to mom and dad when you hit save.

"Clearly the brand is something different. There are a lot of generic 'learn to draw animals' apps. But we're utilizing a  science of starting with a fixed shape and turning it into something, built on the same principle as the Torrance Test of Creative Thinking.

"On our back end, we're tagging for color preferences, character preferences, dates, and we're storing it all in the cloud.”

When asked if Everything Butt Art has a storage limit, Snyder smiles. “I'll be happy when we have to worry about that.”

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