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Q&A: Brandon Yoshimura, Loffles

Have you ever punched Mike Tyson and won a free iPod? Or have you ever completed an online survey and actually received something other than a ton of email with offers for stuff you'd never consider buying?

Probably not, and that's OK. According to Jupiter Research, 80 percent of all Internet users have participated in an online sweepstakes or contest in the past year.

That's partly why Brandon Yoshimura co-founded Loffles derived from combining 'lottery' and 'raffles.' The new advertising channel, which launched in July, awards prizes to consumers for watching promotional ads, connecting advertisers with targeted and engaged potential customers. Yoshimura, a Main Line resident who's living with his parents in Gladwyne until they "kick him out," has nearly completed his undergraduate degree at Brown University in Rhode Island, where he and his team have been refining the concept for the last two years, splitting time between there and Philly (the company is incorporated in Wilmington, Del.)

"Sweepstakes and contests are proven to increase purchases," Yoshimura says. "Also, there are low clickthrough rates on banners and with video ads, people were toggling windows the second an ad came on and bringing up their email. So there are problems with the advertising market, and online is the fastest-growing media market."

Yoshimura, who primarily handles business development for Loffles, has helped his company raise $500,000 in seed funding (including a hefty portion locally). Six weeks after going live, Loffles had more than 6,000 users and 775,000 page views, with enviable averages for time-on-site (16.39 minutes) and pages-per-visit (19.1).

Early believers include large brands like Bonomo Turkish taffy, Skyauction, Adventure Aquarium and the International Spy Museum.

Flying Kite (FK): How is Loffles different from what's out there?
Brandon Yoshimura (BY): We're not the pay-per-ad model like we've seen in the past. We're targeting 80 percent of consumers, a huge market of people. We've consolidated and legitimized the noise around the space. We streamlined the whole entry system to less than 30 seconds, and we've provided a platform to legitimately enter sweepstakes without jumping through hoops or spamming your friends. We provide access to all these amazing contests without the surrounding negatives.

FK: How is Loffles less intrusive than other online contests?
BY: The minimum we're asking for is age, sex, location and some product preferences like electronics or sporting events. The system is built so we can accommodate a lot more, and one of them is incentive-laden stuff as far as providing more info, like access to unique contests or special rewards.

FK: How did the idea for Loffles gain traction?
BY: It sprung out of a conversation with friends. A good buddy at Brown happened to be a graphic designer who worked for some agencies and mocked up some rudimentary .psd files and made a powerful presentation and started shopping it to friends. The guy who took it from that very base level is Stephen Goodman at Morgan Lewis. He told us we could do a business out of it, got us with some emerging growth practices, helped with an execution plan and has been there the whole way.

FK: Why do you think investors are excited about Loffles?
BY: The big opportunity we're looking at is really the number of brands that are already comfortable using these pretty much every major national brand and really the lack of a place people can go find them easily. We're providing brands with advertisements with really rewarding engagements. In the last week or so the phone has started ringing with calls from people who represent national brands. That says we're doing something right.

FK: Who will actually use this?
BY: I think there's a ton of downtime people have, like waiting for a bus, where they can play Angry Birds or scroll their Facebook feed. But we're offering a full catalog of prizes while you're sitting there. It's pretty exciting to enter to win a tablet while you're waiting.

FK: How robust is your sweepstakes offerings at the moment?
BY: We have a catalog of 100-plus prizes at any given time. When you first log in, there's a recommendation for what sweepstakes you qualify for. A lot of companies are looking for sweepstakes solutions. We're hearing positive things about what we're offering when it comes to level of engagement and how quickly we can ramp up.

The thing I'm most excited about is we're talking to a lot of big brands right now. There are great prizes on there now, but it's really going to get a lot more fun.

FK: What kind of growth do you expect for Loffles?
BY: We're definitely going to expand. We have two developers right now and we'll probably add another as well as a few salespeople. We have an incredible content management system and the platform is set up to require as little as possible. But we're not going to be a 50-person company anytime soon.

One of the things we'll be rolling out is our Student Ambassador program. High school and college kids are falling in love with our service. We'll be offering a lot of cool, exciting prizes for back-to-school time. We're also looking at building location-based offerings for contests that will allow us to offer prizes based on where you are. We're pushing that hard.

JOE PETRUCCI is managing editor of Flying Kite. Send feedback here.
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