Ever find yourself squirming after that that 32 ounce diet Pepsi at the movies and being totally conflicted? Should you run now and risk missing this scene? Should you wait for the action to slow down? Dan Florio and his wife were having date night at the movies when he asked himself those same questions. Then he thought…what if there was a place to go, a website, that listed times in each movie that one could easily miss while running to the bathroom to empty their poor bladders.
This was the genesis of RunPee.com, a internet sensation that seems oddly suited to a programmer who’s worked at as a Mission Director at the United Space Academy in Huntsville, a prototype developer for X Box in Seattle, a nude model for a class at Northern Arizona University and renegade who’s lived in a tent during a semester in college as a way to afford a Dell laptop and who slept for 3 months in the back of his pathfinder in a library parking lot while starting his work on Xbox.
Every business sets out to solve a problem. Do you have any sense of how big this problem is?
I did some extensive research by looking at my bank account and determined that I don’t have enough money. And that’s a big problem for me. Fortunately my needs are small: decent housing, computers, movie tickets, a space craft to reach Mars, etc. So I think RunPee can help solve this problem.
Seriously, when I’m watching a movie to get PeeTimes for RunPee.com I sit in the very back of the theater so that I don’t bother people with my light as I jot down notes. From this perspective I can see how many people get up during a movie - presumably to RunPee. I’m not able to get an exact headcount but I would estimate that about 1/10 people RunPee during a movie. Obviously that has a lot to do with the length of the movie and the demographic of the audience. But lets assume that number is generally accurate. I did a quick search and it’s safe to assume about 1.5 billion movie tickets are sold each year. That’s 150 million bladders in need of some help. Now if just one in a hundred actually figures out that they need to use RunPee.com then I’ve hit something like 1.5 million people. I think I can make a few bucks off that sort of traffic.
And it’s worth mentioning that those numbers are United States only. I think people in other countries see movies too.
How did you get the idea?
I needed to pee real bad at the end of Peter Jackson’s remake of King Kong. I didn’t leave the theater but by the end of the movie I was just praying they would kill that damn ape so I could go pee. When leaving the theater, on opening night, I noticed a queue of people lined up to go into the next showing. I thought to myself, “I could tell those people that they should run pee during the scene with the big bugs.” But I’m not that outgoing so I just walked on - plus I still hadn’t gone to pee yet.
But that got me to thinking about building a website to solve this problem. I’m a Flash Platform developer by profession so eventually - three years later - I got around to building the site. Mostly as a project to teach myself how to develop database driven applications.
How did you launch this business?
I never considered this a business until recently. As I mentioned it was a personal tutorial project. Last August, 2008, I went to a developer conference, 360Flex, in San Jose. I worked hard to finish the site up in time for the conference so that I could show it to my peers. The guys running the show were nice enough to let me go up during the keynote and talk about the site for a few minutes. I got a good response and lots of encouragement but not much site traffic.
The site lay dormant over the winter. Then this Spring I put up the PeeTimes for Star Trek and then took my mother’s advice and contacted Leo Laporte. He mentioned it on air. Then invited me back for a phone interview. Then NPR, blogs by the hundred, TV, radio. It was nuts. In one day I did 10 radio interviews. Most of them in the US but also South Africa, Australia, Britain, New Zealand, Germany, Columbia.
How’s it going?
On May 9th when @LeoLaporte mentioned RunPee on his weekend show daily visitors climbed from 10-15 to about 350 aday. Then Leo and Amber invited me to join them via phone on their net@night show. A few people here and there heard about it. Like Dave Barry. A producer from NPRs All Things Considered found out about RunPee from Dave’s mention, and invited me to be on the show. With all that, the site traffic has climbed over 30,000 uniques a day!
What does running RunPee entail?
Obviously seeing lots of movies. The site is wiki based meaning that anyone can submit a PeeTime. But in reality it’s my mother, sister, wife and myself that do the bulk of the PeeTimes. My wife handles the majority of the blog. And of course as a developer I’m never satisfied. I’m looking forward to rebuilding the site this Fall with the help of a professional designer.
Do you think RunPee can produce meaningful revenue?
I expect that by summer 2010 it will comfortably support me and my wife. Anything else would be gravy.
Are the number of PeeTimes indicative of a movies success?
I would say that the number of PeeTimes submitted by the public might be an indicator of success. I was very pleased when I came home from watching a 9:00 AM showing of Harry Potter on opening day to see that there were two PeeTimes submitted by the fans.
How has Hollywood reacted?
I’ve only had one contact to this point to do some cross promotional work. I expect that in time it will grow. We could do some really cool and funny things for the right kind of movie. I’m excited to see how this pans out as RunPee grows.
How are you expanding run pee?
Right now my efforts are focused on the mobile market. Because the website is built in Flash it is inaccessible to mobile browsers. Though it wasn’t intentional it turns out well for me because I’ve partnered with RockSoftware to develop the an iPhone app which sells for $.99. They will be building mobile versions for all of the major mobile platforms: Blackberry, Android, MS-Mobile, etc.
This Fall I will be launching RunPee2 that will support any character set. Then I will be able to produce local versions for China, India, Australia, Brittan, Europe, etc.
Are you going to make your pee times available anywhere besides your site?
As I mentioned there will be the mobile apps. Plus I’m going to talk to theater chains about the possibility of having handouts with the PeeTimes for their movies printed on them as a promotional material. Many people have commented that RunPee lets them go ahead and get that soda and candy that they want. It’s obvious that theater chains stand to improve their sales as RunPee becomes more popular.
Will you expand into TV or Theater?
I think that between commercials and TiVo TV is taken care of. Theater is a possibility. It would be no problem at all for me to create a Broadway.RunPee.com site but I wouldn’t be able to do the PeeTimes. Perhaps there is a partnership out there waiting to happen. And besides, I think most theater shows have intermissions.
What has this experience taught you?
Never underestimate an idea. The popularity of RunPee in the media has absolutely blindsided me.
What’s your greatest challenge/opportunity in the months ahead?
Rebuilding the site and branching out internationally. Talking to theater chains and Hollywood types about marketing. And we have a slew of ideas that we’re going to work on that will be hilarious.
I’m working on a game that will start a whole new gaming genre. When I tell people about it they go from, “huhh, I don’t get it” to getting a grin on their face and saying, “Wow, do you have any idea how huge this is going to be?” When I say huge I’m talking about something that will change the rotational speed of the Earth, very slightly and for just a few minutes. But it will be measurable.
To visit Run Pee, Click Here
To learn more about and his fun and crazy adventures, Click Here