The new iphone dinged and Craig glanced down at the screen.
“Money just cleared in the bank,” he stated flatly, as if his dry cleaning was ready to grab on the way home. He slipped his phone back into his pocket and looked over at the designer sunglasses displayed in Macy’s. He didn’t smile, or comment, or celebrate in any noticeable way, but at that very moment, he had just become a multi-millionaire after years of struggling.
His struggle began personally with being on the autism spectrum, but his business endeavors were extreme and difficult as well.
Craig grew up humbly in a lower income family, working hard in school where social interaction was brutal, but math was a breeze.
During his college days he co-founded Yupi, who after raising $150 milion privately, saw their big IPO implode during the dotcom bubble crash. Craig was left broke even though the company eventually sold to Microsoft.
After meeting his future wife, Rica, at an airport in Denver, he returned to his home state of Wisconsin and took a stab again at tech. He founded LoanSifter with prompting and funding from his new father-in-law.
Craig initially built LoanSifter as a subprime mortgage engine for an industry he knew little about, launching the product immediately preceding the subprime implosion of 2007. But he led LoanSifter through a successful pivot to the prime market where it became a significant player with 26 quarters of sequential growth by its sale in 2013.
how do you spend it?
The money cleared with a ding, but only after a tumultuous, crazy rollercoaster of circumstances. With it, Craig was now at a point in his life where he could do anything that he wanted. A place that, up until this point, only seemed like a fantasy. But here he was walking around the mall with me, millions in his bank account, with no clear plan. He could retire. He could go into ministry, maybe back to Rwanda (Africa) to build up the mission to widows and orphans of the genocide. Travel, buy a new home, at least he knew his wife could quit her nursing job and stay home with their four young kids.
“Well, I suppose we should buy something,” I said, expecting his flat, autistic affect. “We need to pray about what to do with the money,” he responded matter-of-factly, and so we did.
The vision of dodles
Craig had previously approached me, asking for prayer as he was battling impossible circumstances due to the corruption of his CEO in LoanSifter, and we had heard from the Lord specifically how to navigate it. Having previously witnessed those miracles transpire, we began praying about what to do with this money, expecting an answer.
That’s where the direction for dodles, an easy animation app for your phone, came from. And what seemed like the end of the rollercoaster was actually just the beginning. We were surprised at first because animation did not yet play a significant role in social media, though we had seen advertisements pop up using the eye-catching pull of animation.
Animation is very difficult and time-consuming to create. It generally takes a lot of education and expensive technology to create it. But dodles is countering this as a free phone app where you create an animation in literally seconds. Dodles is poised to revolutionize animation by making it attractive for casual use on mobile devices.
Over the summer of 2015, we kicked off the project by fleshing out the functionality and design with the help of UXPath, a design team in St. Louis led by Ron Strawbridge. UXPath also helped gather early feedback from the market. The reactions were overwhelmingly positive, confirming that dodles was on the right track.
We hired another local consulting company in expectation of building a deep platform with a superior technology stack, but their efforts failed while bleeding us dry on capital.
As Craig has done successfully in past startups, he rebuilt dodles in-house on a shoestring budget to get the product into a solid foundation for beta. We’ve grown a team that is diverse in their respective skills and expertise, that have come together to create and market this incredible platform.
In this together
Along the way, we have been supported by an intermittent trickle of funding from a range of crowdsourced angel investors, friends, and family. This trickle has sometimes left the staff without take-home pay for long stretches as they have continued to buy in with sweat equity, but it has also developed a level of commitment, teamwork and grit in the remaining staff, who have staked their futures on the success of dodles.
We’ve launched an initial version of dodles in select countries as we’ve enhanced the platform, and we are looking for additional support with finances and partnerships as we move towards launch in the major countries in early 2020.