From Dorm Room to App Store
What they do: Distributor of consumer apps and games
Success story: Eleven years ago, three Minnesota brothers decided to put the future in their own hands by selling screen savers and desktop wallpapers from their college dorm room at St. Cloud State University. What started as a way to make some college cash has turned into the leading distributor of mobile and desktop apps, generating north of $30 million per year.
How they did it: In 2000, brothers Rob Weber, Ryan Weber and Aaron Weber launched Freeze.com. Their goal was to become the leading provider of desktop applications, which, at the time, consisted mainly of screen savers and desktop wallpapers. They had recognized an under-served need in the marketplace to provide a distribution platform that catered to end-users, while helping developers generate revenue for their otherwise free applications.
As the app market evolved, so did the Weber brothers. Freeze.com still exists today and maintains an average of 100 million page views per month. But the site is now just a portion of the primary business.
Today, W3i (which stands for Weber, three brothers and internet) is a global revenue generation and user acquisition platform for consumer apps and games. The company has delivered more than 650 million apps and represents 16 of the top 25 iPhone apps and games.
The company has gone from a total of nine employees in its first year to more than 100 today. In addition to their headquarters in St. Cloud, they’ve recently opened offices in Minneapolis and San Francisco. They won the regional Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year competition.
Rob Weber credits their success to a variety of factors—the biggest being the appointment of CEO Andy Johnson, former CEO of Fingerhut. Weber says that until Johnson’s hire four years ago, they relied on a strategy of “hiring friends.” Johnson brought a strategic focus, which has resulted in the hiring of key people in critical positions.
In addition, Weber says that focus and cash flow have also been key. Their early commitment to serve a rapidly growing market (internet-based consumer software), along with prioritizing opportunities that presented the best chance of a return, were critical. mb