Gabor Cselle is the first to admit that the app he’s building isn’t going to become the next Instagram. It might not even be the next Draw Something. But if you want it? It’s yours, assuming you have several thousand dollars to bid for it.
How Cselle’s app ended up on the auction block is a bizarre story, and a testament to the unpredictable nature of success and entrepreneurship in Silicon Valley. What was once a developer’s diversion took off unexpectedly, and Cselle was stuck with two promising startups on his hands (he had already moved on to a new venture when the other took off). So now he’s selling off Draw Chat to anyone who wants a shot at it.
Cselle and his co-founders put together DrawChat in about five weeks as a way to clear their heads after leaving Google (s GOOG) and before moving on to their next venture. The group pitched the app, which allows users to create and communicate via their own mobile memes, at the Founder’s Den demo day in September, but by November, they’d moved on to their (still stealth) new venture. Aside from a few hours a day fixing bugs for the approximately 20 to 100 new users who were signing up each day, Draw Chat was a static project, albeit one with decent traffic.
“It wasn’t really taking off, but it wasn’t flooring to zero, so we decided to keep it going,” Cselle said. “Because it’s built on Parse, it was easy to keep it going. But then on Saturday I was shopping at the farmer’s market. I pull out my phone and as I’m chewing on my food I see a message.”
The message told Cselle that he’d exceeded his data quotient, which had an upper limit of 100,000 messages sent via DrawChat per day. Because the app had been averaging about 1,000 a day, Cselle thought the message was a bug. But he came home that day and checked the analytics, he saw the spike in traffic was real.
Massive DrawChat user spike this week. No idea what happened. We did release a small update but AFAIK no press. pic.twitter.com/KrJY1FD0
— Gabor Cselle (@gabor) November 10, 2012
The app had been featured on the homepage of the Apple (s AAPL) app store in the United Kingdom, and had taken off. The number of users skyrocketed, and suddenly Cselle found himself with a lot more work on his plate to keep the app functioning than he’d intended. So he decided to sell DrawChat to the highest bidder, putting it up for auction on Apptopia, a site designed for mobile tech acquisitions.
Bidding starts on Wednesday and will stay open for a week. The opening price is $10,000, and Cselle said he’d be “shocked” if it doesn’t sell, because of the value of the pure technology, even if the acquirers don’t want to continue DrawChat.The winning bidder of DrawChat will get two days with Cselle and his co-founder and developer Jeremy Orlow learning the ropes of the tech. Cselle said he thinks some of the technology, which involves a simple sign-up via SMS rather than Facebook connect or remembering passwords, could be desirable for a variety of purposes.
Having used DrawChat myself (and having several friends get really into sending group-annotated-Ryan-Gosling-meme-pics), I’m not surprised the app has been popular once users found out about it. The founders have had startup success before, so even their semi-joke project was well-designed and well-executed, in fitting with their backgrounds. Before Google, Cselle founded reMail, a mail search app that came from Y Combinator and was acquired by Google in 2010, and then went to work on Gmail and Android.