Kettering startup rides texting to success

But a Kettering start-up making moves in the mobile app market is turning a few heads, as well. And the company’s co-founders say they have had their own conversations with Facebook.

TextPride licenses and offers symbols mobile texters can use in text messages — emoticons or images of well-known companies, business brands, universities, athletic mascots and more. The business sells those images to apps and gets a revenue share based on usage.

The company obtains and offers the little pictures — sometimes called “emojis” or stickers — that are increasingly part of the digital shorthand mobile users everywhere deploy.

The business was born in November 2012 in a Notre Dame dorm room, out of frustration with the limited number of stickers available to TextPride co-founders Sean O’Brien and Evan Wray, now 24.

Thanks in part to TextPride, there are plenty more available today. With TextPride connections to messaging apps such as Kik, Viber, Cubie and Maaii, TextPride stickers can reach a potential 500 million users, Wray said.

“We make it very easy for those brands, being the one touchpoint for all those apps,” he said.

The small company scored more than $1 million in venture capital support late last year, and in January, more than $200,000 in winnings from its victory in the 2013 “Tap the Future” Miller Lite business plan competition, modeled after the “Shark Tank” TV show.

The $19 billion acquisition of WhatsApp was 19 times what Facebook paid for Instagram two years ago. So the pickup of WhatsApp and its 55 employees is definitely on TextPride’s radar, acknowledged O’Brien and Wray.

“I think it puts a stamp on the value of the market,” O’Brien said in an interview last week at the Oregon District offices of the C-3 Group, where TextPride shares work space.

TextPride’s job is to bring brands and their images into that market, said the TextPride execs. And that market — the world of text stickers, in-app purchases, e-commerce and more — is changing the way we live and do business faster than nearly anyone predicted, they said.

“You could almost argue that Facebook got a bargain,” said Wray, a 2008 Kettering-Fairmont High School graduate.

TextPride stickers include the Sega brand hedgehog, and symbols for Miramax, yhe Ohio State University, Notre Dame (of course), the U.S. Navy and some 8,000 other brands.

The nature of their business pulls Wray and O’Brien increasingly to New York City, Chicago and elsewhere, to talk with customers and colleagues face-to-face. But they say their Dayton-area ties remain strong. Taft Stettinius & Hollister law firm has advised the company, and so has the Dayton Development Coalition, Wray said. They have worked with the C-3 Group, too.

“There are great resources here,” Wray said.

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