You may have encountered Rob Shoesmith before. He first made headlines in 2009 after the then 27-year-old binman from Coventry, England, submitted one of the first ideas selected by MEDL and its App Incubator service.
The competition was to help people develop app ideas without having the necessary technical knowledge, and it promised potential developers 25% of any profits.
Shoesmith hit the headlines again last year for grabbing freebies as part of a publicity stunt while he camped outside London’s flagship Apple Store in Covent Garden for ten days, as he sought to be the first recipient of the new iPhone 4S.
Central to his so-called “experiment” was that he couldn’t spend any of his own money whilst in line, and it generated over $30,000 worth of sponsorships from more than one hundred companies around the world. He was given:
- A belly dancer traveling from Scotland to keep him entertained
- A hairdresser cutting his hair outside the Apple Store
- Gadgets and camping equipment
- A UK hip hop artist performing tracks
- A luxury holiday to Dubai
Then earlier this year, Shoesmith published his first eBook, Bin There Done That, on Kindle, and it eventually arrived on iTunes last week. And he’s now taking his quest for quirky tech-related promotional stunts to the next level by offering to give his house away.
Shoesmith, now 30, has announced that he will be giving his house away to a homeless charity when he sells 1 million copies of Bin There Done That. The book is an account of how apps and technology have transformed his life after hitting rock bottom, culminating in the 10-day camp-out for the iPhone 4S last year.
Shoesmith says he decided to make the pledge after meeting dozens of homeless people in London throughout his stay outside Apple’s store. Expecting a fairly straightforward camping experience, he says he hadn’t been prepared for the connection he would make with the homeless people.
“After setting up my camp, a homeless man of my age approached me and asked me what I was doing,” he says. “I explained the experiment and he then offered me some slices of bread, saying ‘I don’t have much to give you, but I want you to help you with your experiment.’ I felt incredibly humbled and overwhelmed at this man’s generosity.”
He also says that he could quite easily have become homeless himself several years ago. “Throughout the course of my 10 day camp-out, the homeless people outside the Apple Store played a huge part in helping me get through to the end, and I was motivated to stick with it so I could give away some of the camping equipment to people who really did need it,” he says. “Before coming into the world of smartphone apps, I was suffering with severe anxiety and depression and without the support of my family and friends, I could have possibly ended up on the streets.”
The big giveaway…
So what about the big giveaway…why would he want to give away his own home when there are countless other things he could do to help those less fortunate than himself? Well, firstly, strictly speaking he’s not giving away his home to a person…if he hits one million downloads, he’ll sell his home at market value and give away the proceeds to a homeless charity.
“It would be very easy to rattle a collection tin outside a supermarket, collecting some loose change for a homeless charity and patting myself on the back, but I know I can do more,” he says. “I’ve decided to aim for one million downloads to capture people’s attention and do something different, which will hopefully raise awareness for anxiety and depression sufferers and the homeless. I want the book to inspire people.”
Without meaning to be negative here, if he sells one million copies of his book for around $5 each online, it doesn’t take a mathematician to work out that giving away his £100,000 GBP ($160,000) home won’t exactly leave him out on the streets. Though he does add that he will be making charitable donations along the way to him meeting his target, but wasn’t specific about the exact numbers here.