Twittad, GeoClip.it, Uppward: James Eliason is a part of them all
James Eliason behind his computer at Eliason Media's Des Moines office. They also have an office in Chicago. Photo by Levi Rosol.
This week I had an opportunity to sit down and get to know one of Des Moines' most active entrepreneurs, James Eliason.
A 1997 graduate of Valley High School in West Des Moines, Eliason had a decision to make: play baseball for Central College or Wartburg College, or take a shot at the University of Iowa or Iowa State. Ultimately landing at U of I, James graduated in 2001 with an economics degree.
In 2002, after spending a short amount of time in Denver with family, Eliason came back to Des Moines to do financial analysis for his dad's startup, Dynamic Telecard. Over a period of three years, Eliason helped the company find and build partnerships that would ultimately help position them to be acquired by Euronet Worldwide.
Then in 2005, Eliason obtained his Series III commodity license. At that point, he and his dad formed a commodity trading company. Although it's not a large part of his time today, Eliason still maintains his license and does some trading.
All of this experience led up to Eliason's first startup company, Twittad. In 2008, with less than $100,000 in funding from his family, Eliason was able to build the company into a service that gave over 5,000 advertisers access to over 25,000 Twitter users.
A bootstrapped startup, James relied on outsourced developers to build out the Twittad application. With this being the first project that he outsourced, he learned a lot. Primarily that monitoring the work that was being done was difficult to do while keeping up on the business side of the business.
Ad.ly and SponsoredTweets.com are two of Twittad's primary competitors. Both of these companies are using their resources to focus on celebrities as their primary channel for advertising. This has allowed Twittad to focus on the larger, small business market with much success.
While building Twittad, Eliason saw a larger vision. This vision lead to the creation of Eliason Media, a technology company focused on web and mobile development. Building on the base that was created with Twittad, Eliason Media has the ability to better serve the needs of larger clients. Sears and Motorola are two clients that have worked with Eliason Media on various social media related projects.
In the early days of building Eliason Media, James was fortunate enough to work with Mike Colwell at Business Innovation Zone to refine their business plan, secure $50,000 in angel funding, and ultimately land a $100,000 grant from the Iowa Department of Economic Development's Demonstration Fund. Although this process did take roughly five months to complete, the company was able to continue moving forward, building on the relationships that were established with Twittad. They've since opened an office in Chicago, as well.
Continuing with the idea of building upon what they had already created, the idea for GeoClip.it was born. GeoClip.it is a service that aggregates coupons from over 20 deal providers, including Groupon, LivingSocial and ValPak. These coupons are then delivered to users via the GeoClip.it iPhone app, based on where they are located, without requiring a check-in from the user. Partnerships with Yellowbook and Local Offer Network have allowed GeoClip.it to provide its users with access to over 175,000 mobile coupons.
GeoClip.it has been able to attract over 850 users to its iPhone application in just over one month's time, with very little to no marketing. They are currently in talks with other companies who will be able to give a large amount of exposure of GeoClip.it to the general public.
Eliason at his computer visiting the GeoClip.it homepage. Photo by Levi Rosol.
GeoClip.it has also spawned another Eliason Media company, Gordilla. Gordilla is a daily deals aggregator that pulls in deals from sites like Groupon and other daily deal providers. Although Gordilla is very new to the market, they are pulling in deals for over 85 metropolitan areas.
While these four companies have kept James very busy over the past few years, he has also partnered with three other Des Moines locals Nathan T. Wright, Nate Becker and Ben Sinclair to form Uppward. The goal of Uppward is to “make the skies friendlier, one passenger at a time”.
Initially a mobile web application launched in March 2010, Uppward released an iPhone application this fall that allows users to check-in when they board a flight, collect and earn airline miles, chat with other passengers, and post messages to Twitter letting others know where they are headed. They do allow users to utilize the application privately as well.
Clearly, Eliason has made the decision to base himself out of Des Moines. He's doing so for many of the same reasons other entrepreneurs in the Silicon Prairie do: ease of lifestyle and family. He has proven that he's not afraid to act on an idea and he's more than capable of bringing the right people together to make it happen.
To see our past coverage of startups Eliason has been involved with, from GeoClip.it to Uppward, see: siliconprairienews.com/tags/james-eliason.