Since opening their doors last year, creative agency Uppercut and mobile development firm Decoder have established a unique working relationship. In addition to sharing the same office space, they’re also funded by the same investment group, Anagram Inc., which headed up by venture capitalist and entrepreneur Brad Zumwalt. The partnership has already yielded a successful music discovery app, Remixes, and snowboarding game, Mythic Mountain.
Every quarter the startups host a “Pitch Day” to encourage employees to dream up new projects focused on ROI, learning opportunities and brand building. From copywriters to web developers, anyone is eligible to participate—all they need to do is pitch Anagram’s investment committee who will either green light a project or provide suggestions for improvement.
“Pitch Days have become an important part our culture and what we do, which is why a lot of people are still with us today. They want the opportunity to invent things and create projects that turn into recurring revenue,” said Don Wieshlow, COO of Uppercut. “All of our employees are shareholders so when the company does well, everybody wins.”
Pop Quiz Show was born from a Pitch Day in November 2012 after Uppercut’s Anders Svensson and Stephen Peasley came up with the idea of transforming iPhones into game show buzzers.
“Many people feel phones interrupt social interaction, so we started working on ideas that would combine multiple phones into a high-tech tabletop game,” says Anders Svensson, Senior Copywriter at Uppercut.
Since neither Svensson nor Peasley had much experience working on apps, they approached Art Director Dan Parry and Decoder to see if it was even possible. Shortly after, developers Ronny Fenrich, Kyle Langille and April Luk were enlisted to figure out how to make the phones talk to each other.
“When we work with Uppercut on any project, we like them to come up with the final design first so that we can understand the architecture down to the pixel,” says Tim Nakamura, President and cofounder of Decoder. “That way, all our developers have to do is write code to make the app exactly the way it’s intended to be. It’s a more efficient way to develop software.”
After several iterations, Pop Quiz Show launched in April 2013 with a retro feel and a very orange theme inspired by the 70s game show Concentration. Unlike most multi-player iPhone games, where users interact over a virtual network, Pop Quiz Show requires that players gather together in the same physical space—just like they would for a board game around the kitchen table.
Once all the players are connected to the same wifi network, the host activates the game on their iPhone and starts reading the app’s trivia questions aloud. Players must buzz in to give the correct answer. Get a question right and the host will assign a point. Get a question wrong and you lose a point. The player with the most points at the end of the game wins.
The free app includes two themed trivia question packs (movie quotes and science facts), with a third available by liking Decoder on Facebook. There are currently 24 themed, 100-question trivia packs available for purchase starting at $.099 each or $1.99 for a bundle of three, $2.99 for a five and $3.99 for 10. Only the host needs to purchase a trivia pack for everyone to be able to play. The app offers a diverse range of topics ranging from general science for kids and popular TV shows to New York landmarks and sci-fi film franchises.
Nakamura and Wieshlow credit the success of their partnership to the fact that most of their employees, including themselves, worked together for years at Veer until it was acquired by Corbis and moved to Seattle. When relocation happened, the 18 people left behind wanted to continue to be entrepreneurs and build businesses together so they pooled their resources together to form Uppercut and Decoder.
“In Canada it’s hard to raise cash and find mentorship especially in the tech creative space, so we needed to start our own businesses,” says Wieshlow. “Without the same funding and resources available for startups in Silicon Valley we leaned towards a revenue model from the start—that’s why we do consulting work to help feed ideas and get ventures off the ground. When they get off the ground we can then generate revenue through subscriptions and in-app purchases.”
In addition to gearing up for another Pitch Day in the fall, the Uppercut and Decoder teams are busy working on their next projects: Health Tracker, which helps cancer patients taking different medications track how they feel after they’ve taken them and Conveyer, an app to help reporters source ideas so they get access to the best stories.