Former student hatches popular app

Alexander Furman

After investing only $100, former ISU student Brad Dwyer grossed over $120,000 last year with the Facebook app he started building while procrastinating for a test. The app, Hatchlings, lets the user participate in an online egg hunt.

Dwyer, who has been “throwing stuff up online since high school,” posted Hatchlings to his Facebook once he finished it, and within a few days it “grew like crazy.” Today, Hatchlings is played by over 3.5 million users.

Dwyer did not have any idea how popular the game would become when he decided to leave school a mere 18 credits short of graduating Iowa State with a major in computer science to pursue his business. 

Bright colors and the ability to send eggs to friends, post on your wall or even to “incubate” an egg to get your very own hatchling animal are just some of the things users experience in the game. Many of Dwyer’s users grew up collecting things as a hobby, and Hatchlings encompasses that.

Once Dwyer left college, he set up camp in Panora, Iowa, making his headquarters in a home office above his garage. He started hiring designers and artists to fuel new items for the game, and today he has five artists in Iowa, and four graphic designers located around the world. 

His first employee was his mother, Carmen, who primarily handles the bookkeeping and customer support. She’s been there for him since the beginning, and he said she is “an awesome employee.” 

Brad said that once his family understood what he wanted to do, they were supportive, and that leaving Iowa State was not a big decision.

The lead interactive designer for Hatchlings, Lyndsay Clark, is a 2009 graduate of Iowa State and a key part of developing the game along with Dwyer. He found her last year when she joined a project called Design+ Tech in December 2011. This program puts together programmers and designers to make an integrated development. Dwyer and Clark were placed together, and they clicked very well with each other. A month ago she joined the company.

One of her priorities is “trying to make sure they’re making the right kind of game for premium users.” The game has more than 1,000 premium users, who pay $10 per month for features like decreased ads, custom networks and early access to new features.

Hatchlings currently is working on version 2.0, which will be released soon. The updated version will add additional content to appease user suggestions. 

“My priority is making this huge,” Dwyer said.