Going Mobile

With Two New Execs and Lofty Expansion Plans, Onswipe’s on Its Way Up

But can it make ads something people actually want to read?
 With Two New Execs and Lofty Expansion Plans, Onswipes on Its Way Up

Mr. Baptiste (jasonlbaptiste.com)

The first sound we heard upon ringing the doorbell at the Onswipe offices just off of Union Square was the pitter-pattering of puppy footsteps. “Is that a dog?” we asked aloud to the well-dressed man who was also waiting to be let into the office. Sure enough, an Onswipe employee opened the door and a scruffy white dog excitedly greeted us.

Once we were in the loft-like offices, out came TechStars alum Jason Baptiste, Onswipe’s colorful founder, who after introducing himself made the dog (named Johnny) sit and shake. Johnny refused to do a spin though. “He’ll do anything if you have food,” acknowledged Mr. Baptiste, wearing a dapper grey suit and pink tie.

We were at Onswipe to discuss the company’s recent growth, which has been on an impressively upward swing since February. Onswipe’s staff has quadrupled to 25 in the last year, with plans to grow to 48 employees by year’s end. The company also recently added two new executive level positions: former VP of AOL Video Richard Bloom as its first COO, and former VP of sales at Jumptap Jared Hand as its first CRO.

Onswipe is a platform for publishers to transform their presence on iPad, iPhone and Kindle Fire–and soon other devices–into beautiful experiences. By serving up both the content and the ads, Onswipe can anonymously collect data about the browsing habits of users, and use that information to better target ads based on interests. The number of page-views Onswipe’s platform powers has increased by 344 percent since January, Mr. Baptiste told us.

“The mission of Onswipe is still the same,” said Mr. Baptiste, once we’d settled into a conference room. “Apps are bullshit. A lot of companies love to pivot and change ever so slightly to something vastly different. Our mission from day one is to be the platform to power the way the world experiences the web on touch devices, reimagining it for devices that aren’t built for onclick but for onswipe.”

On an iPad, Onswipe renders web pages beautifully. They take on the appearance of glossy magazines–swiping through articles becomes a luxury. But Onswipe also serves ads in between articles, which have taken on a more print-like feel, boosting the bar for ads on the web. “Most ads on the web, they’re not about emotion–they’re about algorithm. They don’t give you the storytelling that a print ad gives you. We think that’s finally going to change,” said Mr. Baptiste.

“I hate bad ads. Our altruistic mission is to fix ads on the Internet,” he added. “In print they get ads that are so beautiful people rip them out and put them up on their wall. Why can’t we do that with online ads?”

Toward the end of the meeting, Mr. Baptiste pulled up his own website so Betabeat could get a good look at Onswipe. A quote from Joan Didion’s essay “Good-bye to All That,” written in chalk on a patch of asphalt in Washington Square Park, dominated the screen.

“I love New York,” said Mr. Baptiste. “That’s why we’ve succeeded. There’s just a certain energy. We hire people that are raw talent, hungry; they have a Silicon Valley-esque energy and hacker talent mixed with New York’s own secret sauce. Onswipe takes the best of what New York does: emotion.”

We wonder what Ms. Didion would have to say about that.

Follow Jessica Roy on Twitter or via RSS. jroy@observer.com