Drifting in the cloud: Local software firm aims to simplify mobile app and Web development

Under the shadow of the Capitol dome, entrepreneurs Ben Sperry and Max Lynch, both 25, proudly point to the new refrigerator they just installed in their Drifty.com King Street space, then note a small beer refrigerator around the corner. The Ping-Pong table in the center of the 900-sq.-ft. office was Lynch’s idea. “As a [computer] programmer, you don’t solve problems on a keyboard,” he said. “You solve problems when you’re not programming — in the shower, or while playing Ping-Pong.” 

Drifty.com launched a year ago, though Sperry and Lynch, friends since kindergarten, have been making money through their entrepreneurial efforts for years. “This is play for us, not work,” Sperry noted. “We love this stuff. It’s a treat that we can make money doing it and help a lot of people.” 

Drifty builds HTML5 mobile- and Web-development tools. Its first product, Codiqa, is a simple drag-and-drop program that bypasses the programming-by-hand step in mobile website and app development. It is a visual development tool for jQuery Mobile (a JavaScript library) that allows developers to make websites interactive. A second product, JetStrap, is similar but works with Twitter Bootstrap components. 

“Tools like this have existed since colors were added to computer screens,” Lynch said. “What makes this different is that we’re not targeting professional developers, just people who want to make something with tools that are easy to use. We’re not a template tool. We’re actually a development tool.”

Their products have garnered tech community acclaim, and when jQuery Mobile spotlighted Codiqa on its website, things instantly took off. “We gained about 10,000 users our first month,” Lynch said. 

While overwhelming, it was the impetus both needed to leave their full-time jobs and dive in.

Sperry and Lynch just returned from San Antonio, Texas, where they participated in a three-month TechStars program. TechStars is a national startup accelerator that provides mentorship and seed funding for a small but select roster of highly qualified companies. “It was good for us,” Sperry recounted. “It was like a meter stick for us to see where we were and what challenges we might have ahead.” 

TechStars, meanwhile, provided Drifty.com with $18,000 in seed funding and another $100,000 through an optional convertible debt note. But the company was profitable even before the TechStars infusion. According to the co-owners, its eight employees make “normal programmer money.” Drifty does not offer group insurance – yet – because “no one has needed it.” 



Their biggest regret thus far? “That we didn’t charge for our products early enough and didn’t charge enough,” Lynch said. “We didn’t know who would use our product and didn’t understand that businesses pay for things that are valuable to them. I’m a programmer, Ben’s a designer. We didn’t really know what was an appropriate amount to charge.”

Subscribers to Drifty.com pay a monthly, tier-based fee of between $24 and $100, but that could likely change soon, as the co-owners say they are now in discussions with some of the largest and most recognizable names in the business.

They’ve already received a few buyout offers, but they’re not interested. 

“Our goal wasn’t to build a company to exit it, it was to build a company we could work at every day,” Sperry said. 


104 King St. #202, Madison, WI 53703

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