Wrapify Q&A: Adhesive Giant Puts $3M in Car Advertising Schtick

After the adhesive products maker Avery Dennison (NYSE: AVY) recently made a $3 million investment in San Diego-based Wrapify, we tracked down Wrapify CEO James Heller, and stuck him with a few questions about the deal.

Heller founded Wrapify in early 2015 with the idea of creating a business that would pay motorists to wrap their cars in digitally printed advertising. Heller started at San Diego’s EvoNexus incubator, working with Glendale, CA-based Avery Dennison, a Fortune 500 company that makes adhesive vinyl films that can be applied to motor vehicles, conform neatly to automotive curves and corrugations, and can be peeled off without damaging the paint.

Graphic designs can be laminated or coated on these films to produce high-quality outdoor advertising.

Taking advantage of the “sharing economy” business model, Wrapify pays users to wrap their own cars in advertising, and to drive these rolling billboards around town. Payments are based primarily on mileage, but take into account other factors, such as time of day and whether the driving took place on busy freeways or over back roads, where fewer people would see them.

The startup developed a mobile app that enables Wrapify to track its users for advertising partners like Bud Light, eBay, and Petco. Wrapify says more than 40,000 drivers have signed up to “wrapify” their cars, and the company now operates in 29 U.S. markets.unbelievable.

Heller responded to my questions by email, and his responses have been edited for clarity:

Xconomy: When did Wrapify get started?

James Heller: We started two years ago February, and had our first cars on the road in two markets—San Diego and Los Angeles—in July 2015.

X: What is Wrapify’s core technology? How is it innovative?

JH: Wrapify combines a bunch of different technologies, most significantly smartphone-enabled GPS technology and geospatial data and analytics, to innovate out-of-home advertising on consumer vehicles. Our technology is digitally innovative, but so is the wrapping technology. It’s made such advancements, you can wrap (and unwrap!) a car much faster than in the past, and the finished product actually protects the vehicle’s body.

X: How did Wrapify fund its operations before the Avery Dennison deal?

JH: Before Avery Dennison’s $3 million investment, we raised $3.1 million from a variety of angel investors and other VC investors. I put up a lot of my own money, cashed out my 401(k) and sold most of my cars. And I really liked my cars.

X: How many employees does the company have now? Do you expect that number to grow?

JH: We have 15 full-time employees. Yes.

X: Avery Dennison strikes me as a good fit as a strategic partner for Wrapify. Can you describe how you connected with them?

JH: We’ve worked with Avery Dennison since day one. They’ve always treated us well, and we’ve done our best to give them the same. This really just grew and evolved over time, where it just made logical sense to both of us. We use their stuff, the better we do, the better they do, and we like working with them.

X: How is Wrapify going to use this capital?

JH: We are going to expand our sales force and our tech and operations teams. Our goal for Wrapify is to reach the top 50 US cities by end of year.

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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