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When Nature Calls

RunPee.com lets you, well, you know, during movies.

What: RunPee
When: August 2008
Where: Arizona
Startup Costs: $7,000

Dan Florio couldn't recall ever getting up to use the restroom in the middle of a movie, but he was tempted when he went to see the remake of King Kong.

"By the end," Florio says, "I was hoping they would just kill that ape." Then, as he walked out of the theater past the queue for the next showing, something else occurred to him: how great it would be to tell them which scene provided the best chance for a bathroom break.

While Florio wasn't gregarious enough to engage the crowd--one can only imagine the reaction--he quickly realized that this was an opportunity to use his skills as a web developer and have some fun, too. Soon, RunPee.com was born.

The website started as a lark. "I never expected it to be anywhere near this popular." But when the media caught hold of it and the server started crashing every day from overload, he realized there might be money to be made here. "Everyone was screaming for an iPhone app," Florio says. "I figured if people want it, they'll pay for it." He heeded the call.

The RunPee iPhone app launched just in time for the big summer movie season, and it wasn't long before it became the fledgling company's bread-and-butter revenue source. Florio says the site made about $45,000 in the last half of 2009 and he expects that number to increase significantly this year, though he was reluctant to make specific projections. He did, however, cite two major factors that he believes will drive growth: improved access on non-iPhone smartphones, such as BlackBerry or Android, and the rollout of more language choices, including Chinese.

"The site is really popular in China even though it's in English," Florio says, adding that, somewhat inexplicably, China sends the most visitors to the site of any country outside the U.S.

What started as a cheeky side project has become a full-time gig for Florio, who attends nearly every widely released major movie and personally makes PeeTime recommendations--shown on a timeline with full descriptions scrambled to avoid unwanted spoilers.

Florio says that he's currently in talks with Harkens and Coca-Cola to advertise RunPee at concession stands or other prime locations in movie theaters. He expects the deal to be completed before the end of 2010.

This, he says, could be good news for moviegoers as well as concessionaires. Pee breaks might very well translate into more soda sales--and the cycle happily continues.

Kimberlee Morrison is the startup and finance channel editor for Entrepreneur.com.

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This article was originally published in the June 2010 print edition of Entrepreneur's StartUps with the headline: When Nature Calls.

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