Why we didn’t apply to Seedcamp or running a startup in your 30s

Posted September 10, 2009 by jussilaakkonen
Categories: business

Tags: , , ,

Seedcamp is an amazing program for European startups. The best and brightest of European startups compete for a spot in the Seedcamp week in London. The week is stock full of amazing workshops, tutorials, hands-on training and perhaps most importantly world class networking with European and US serial entrepreneurs, investors and deal makers. If you are chosen as a winner the Seedcamp organizers (The Accelerator Group) will invest €50 000 at a quite rational valuation.

Sounds perfect for any startup. So why didn’t Everyplay apply to Seedcamp? Double why as I even participated as a mentor in the Seedcamp Helsingborg event?

The truth is yes, I really wanted to apply because I love the concept, but it is was made impossible by the “extended Seedcamp concept“. The main use for that invested €50 000 is to bring the core members of the startup team to London for three months to take the company further. By applying to Seedcamp you agree to this.

Let’s just stop there for a moment. This works perfectly for 20-somethings that don’t have obligations to anybody but themselves and who can just pack a suitcase and go. It also requires that your core team is quite small, so that you can get your whole core team over to London.

The concept fails when you or any core member of your team is married, has kids or in general has a life outside of the company. It also fails if you can’t bring all core team members over to London as otherwise you are totally impairing your company’s progress at a very sensitive stage by splitting the team into two (one part staying at home base and another part in London).

Everyplay’s core team has several people who are over 30 year old, are married and have kids. Packing up our lives and moving to London for three months isn’t an option, so we had to pass on Seedcamp. To be fair, this is not dig on Seedcamp. They are just doing the same as Y Combinator is doing in the States.

However, it is interesting to think about this selection criteria in the light of research results reported by TechCrunch that the average founder of a high-growth company launched his venture at age 40. I believe Seedcamp is limiting itself unnecessarily with this “move to London for three months” requirement.

(CC) by tibchris on Flickr

(CC) by tibchris on Flickr

Seedcamp aside, the bigger question is how can one succeed as an entrepreneur in a high tech startup and have a family life. Steve Blank recently posted about how he and his wife managed to stick together and raise their kids while going thru a couple startups. My own experiences and arrangements are very much like his.

The reality is that it feels like running two startups in parallel. It is physically, mentally and emotionally taxing, but also immensely rewarding. At the risk of sounding corny, seeing things thru a child’s eyes is eye opening. Being a parent is a monumental, continous learning experience. It does sound just like running startup =) and I actually do think that having an entrepreneurial mindset really helps in parenting.

I like to compare running a startup to having kids as both bring with them higher emotional highs and lower lows at a lot faster pace than before. With that in mind, it is easy to justify Seedcamp’s and Y Combinator’s selection criteria  – less hassle, just focus on the startup. But with age comes victories, mistakes, experience, and possibly even expertise and insight. To quote a recent post on Both Sides of the Table, one of my favourite VC blogs:

Good judgment comes from experience,

but experience comes from bad judgment

The finalists for this year’s Seedcamp were announced today. Congratulations and best of luck to everyone!

I wish I could have been there too.

Kamu World live & Everyplay hiring

Posted August 12, 2009 by jussilaakkonen
Categories: games

Tags: , , , ,

splash-game2

Last week at ASSEMBLY Summer 2009, Everyplay soft launched a limited feature-set, public beta of Kamu World, our first application on Facebook. More than anything our goal with this launch was to put out a small, but polished application to see what people liked or disliked about it. We intentionally avoided doing press releases or talking to blogs about it, because the application at its current state is just a sneak preview of what’s to come. But we definitely failed miserably on keeping it under the radar as we got covered on Arctic Startup and TechCrunch UK (+ several other blogs) ;-).

So far the response has been very positive – especially for the characters and the art style, which received a lot of love and attention from our art director. It’s great to see people responding well to Kamus!

Even so, I do relate to LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman’s slogan “If you are not embarrassed to launch, you are launching too late” ;-). There is a ton features currently under development and we aim to roll out those in the near future. So if Kamu World piqued your interest, do become a fan on Facebook and we’ll let you know as new features become available.

To get those exciting features done, Everyplay is hiring senior developers on server (Java) and client side (Flash/AS3). If you want to work on cool social games with a pretty kick ass team, do get in touch!

Casual Connect Seattle 2009 coverage

Posted July 22, 2009 by jussilaakkonen
Categories: event

Tags: , ,

I couldn’t make Social Games Summit 2009 and I’m totally bummed I missing out on Casual Connect Seattle 2009 too (it has an superb line-up of speakers in the social games track). So once again, I’m left observing the event from afar. Like I did for the Social Games Summit, I’m collecting misc tidbits and blog posting about social games from the event into this blog entry. I will update the entry as more stuff comes thru as the Casual Connect is still going on (until the 23rd of July).

Jessica Tams and the team behind the events do a fantastic job on also sharing the information post the event. All slides and audio recordings will be available free of charge (like they are here for the previous events). Jessica is absolutely right that the value of the Casual Games Association is measured by how much they can do for the industry as a whole and sharing information is key part on expanding the industry.

Misc tidbits from tweets (#casualconnect)

  • @gamersvu_abi Playfish/Zynga/Playdom say social games $1.5B industry in 3 years
  • @mikesego: “love is the most important metric” says @sebdeh from Playfish… best answer of the conference
  • @tadej Zynga: games services rather than products. Number of returning players (not play time) correlates with monetization.
  • @katelollar: There are more than 55 million unique [game] players on Facebook every month
  • @amyjokim: why have >1 currencies in a virtual economy? CONTROL. Too risky to have only 1 currency
  • @noahkagan @ what women want panel, #casualconnectwomen focused on collection, keeping active and socializing. 1 knew exact point count on king.com
  • @amyjokim offer your players LOTS of diff ways to spend money (and diff price pts)
  • @danielleleslie Q: How can game monetization models offer scalable engagement and attract branded dollars? A: Anu from Offerpal: Soon, fb app user will watch movie trailer, listen to music clip, etc. in return for virtual currency.
  • @NPDFrazier: Tom Prata – three pillars of successful games: 1) accessibility 2) sense of newness 3) consumer reaction
  • @bonder Trend 1 Virtual Worlds – YoVille, Pet Society
  • @bonder Trend 2 – Customization & Personalization – Farm Town, Sorority Life
  • @bonder Trend 3 – Collections & Wish Lists – Mafia Wars
  • @bonder Trend 4 – Simulations – Farm Town, Farmville, Barn Buddy, Restaurant City (Realtime sim)
  • @bonder Trend 5 – Narrative – Hammerfall, Bloodlines
  • @bonder Trend 6 – Interesting Missions – Street Racing, Mafia Wars, Mobsters 2, Hero World, Sorority Life (mini games)
  • @bonder Trend 7 – Gift Invites – Green Patch, Farm Town, Farmville, Mafia Wars, YoVille, Sorority Wars etc (it works!)
  • @bonder Trend 8 – Donations – Mouse Hunt
  • @bonder Trend 9 – Virtual Items – Mafia Wars, Street Racing, Vampire Wars, Pet Society – lots of opps to innovate here &gift invites
  • @bonder Trend 10 – Friends – Crazy Planets, Mafia Wars
  • @bonder Trend 11 – Social Games and iPhone – Word Fu (Twitter, email, FB Connect), Drop 7
  • @bonder Trend 12 – Using Social Net Data – Photo Grab
  • @hirson tips for fb game success – pt 1 1. Make it fun 2.make it social 3. Think Service, not product 4. Measure everything
  • @hirson tips for fb games success pt 2 – 5. Design for sharing 6. Build your footprint 7. Tailor monetization mix. 8. No spam.
  • @hirson last tips for fb games. 9 use fb resources (verified game and dev garage) and 10. Be a good citizen.
  • @mikesego Over 9.7 million users played a farm sim game (Farmville, Farm Town, Barn Buddy) yesterday on Facebook
  • @mikesego At Gareth’s talk – More people play games on Facebook than any other site on the web. True.
  • @jewlish Wii Mii’s came from Japanese wooden Kokeshi dolls.
  • @NicoleLazzaro Instead of modeling breeds Nintendogs modeled the most important relationship: btwn the owner and dog.
  • @NicoleLazzaro Nintendo keynote: In 2.5 yrs console and handheld market increased by 30 million players.
  • @jmwhite2: 300 new games released per day on the iPhone – 20% of all apps are games – dean takahashi

From 2009-07-22

  • @albertsupdates: “3 min user experiences are too long, 90 seconds (engagement cycles) is more optimal (on iphone)”
  • @albertsupdates Episodic content the future of iPhone games — are there parallels on Facebook?
  • @Jeff Shervin’s stats: Saturday peak days for installs, 25K to $40K daily installs for top paid games (= $250K/day for a $10 game)
  • @GameAddict Interesting numbers about ipod touch making up 30% – 50% of game sales from the panel sales
  • @katelollar 25% of all iPhone games are updated each month
  • @Jeff Bart shares a couple of updated stats on Tapulous: 15M users after a year, half a billion Tap Tap Revenge games played
  • @Jeff AppStore: 68,000 apps, 1.5 billion downloads, 20% of apps = games. Bart points out that apps’ installed base is typically 40/50% iPod Touch
  • @GameAddict Dave Roberts of Popcap: “13% of the market is paying for 65% of the games sales.” 13% = 14 – 24 y.o. Males
  • @gamesdotcom 13% of the population (14-34 men) drives the retail game business. Casual games are after the other 87%
  • brodiegames Day 2 #casualconnect. Enjoyed Arthur’s (@LastDayOfWork) talk. Takeaway: brand building around innovation can win vs high output/low quality.
  • @GameAddict 300 game submissions for mochi coins since yesterday’s announcement by Mochi Media.
  • @johnhcook: Is advertising dead as a business model for games? “No it just sucks right now,” says RealNetworks’ Dan Prigg
  • @johnhcook MSFT’s Hegenderfer at#casualconnect: No Zune phone coming.
  • albertsupdates FB Game Templates Poke/WallApps > MobGames > FarmeGames — What is the next template? Are template going to keep working?
  • johnhcook Hegenderfer of MSFT’s Windows Mobile on app stores: “Anyone who thinks Apple is going to run this thing is sadly mistaken.”
  • albertsupdates “v1.0 of marketplace launching nxt week”-steve/group manager, windows mobile| does anyone care? or is it a greenfield?
  • @lisaopolion Trends in casual online game – Thibaut from Gametap, “casual could become the #1 game genre within 6 mos”
  • gamesdotcom Metaboli.com is learning what casual game portals always knew. The audience plays a HELL of a lot! Casual most played
  • @albertsupdates: “Apple iTunes/Appstore is the new carrier deck” -still sucks w/o strong alternative (social) distribution
  • Kontagent Mindjolt is #7 app: aggregation of games w/ a social wrapper.Whos next to ship something similar from casual game pubs?
  • albertsupdates Thought: 5 stages of game distribution/evolution: box>downloads>flash>social>social/mobile; Can all survive/prosper?
  • @GameAddict: Greg Ballard , CEO Glu Mobile: “there are too many games in the App store and may follow the Atari disaster.

From 2009-07-23

  • @albertsupdates Focus on 2 Numbers – “Avg. Revenue Per User,” and “Avg. Revenue Per PAYING User
  • @RealTweeter Is wellness gaming the next big casual games trend
  • @dwlt NPD: “33% upgrade from free to paid games on iPhone”
  • @georgebray NPD: Gamers spend avg $7 on iPhone games in last 3 months
  • @Kontagent: IMO: 3 metrics: 1. ARPU, 2. Churn & also 3. (v)CAC: (viral) Customer Acqusition Costs
  • @Kontagent 2 years it took Zynga to get to ~$100M+ from $0; How many years does it take traditional co’s to build a MMO?
  • albertsupdates EngagedConf is now going to be hosted next to toyfair – Why? Because VirtualWorlds+BrandedToys = BigTime; Webkins=#1 toy
  • ElaineChase Casual mmos as loss leaders when used as marketing for a bigger property = tough market place for making them a business
  • albertsupdates “MTV has been the most prolific publisher of casual MMOs of anyone in the industry” – Ralph Koster
  • dwlt Koster – Casual & VWs should learn from AAA industry and avoid becoming too enamored with tech
  • georgebray NPD: 25% of online game players use a console. 59% of gamers use a console, 39% on PC and 35% use game websites
  • GameAddict NPD: The most notable changes are increase in women console gamers and decrease amount willing to pay for microtransactions
  • jmwhite2 NPD session – more people playing online educational games than online shooters. (26 pc vs 23 pc).
  • GameAddict NPD: Card/puzzle/arcade/word games are dominating the casual space with 56% of the market for online gaming.
  • GameAddict NPD: $701 mill in Retail PC, $740 mill in subscriptions, and $425 mill in PC Digitial dl’s in 2008.
  • GameAddict NPD Video games sector is the ony category of entertainment to grow in 08′, 33% of entertainment dollars towards gaming
  • GameAddict NPD: Kids lesiure time. Video Gaming and computer use have increased but only by 1 or 2 percent in 2 years
  • @GameAddict 90% of the revenue comes from virtual goods at QQ
  • GameAddict 6 million users on the casual side of QQ. (me: I totally wish more devs looked at asia for advice and tips. They’re on fire.)
  • @albertsupdates Game industry has always been highly fragmented, any market leader (i.e EA) has less than 20% marketshare
  • albertsupdates Game Publishers Focused on “Launch” and “Pushing Users Over $50 Barrier” vs. Social: Virality opt.&commnity building
  • ElaineChase “When NEuropean business does’t know if they can do something they say “no, we can’t” US defaults to “sure, we can do that”
  • albertsupdates Mobile Games 1.0 = BizDev Competitive Advantage; Mobile 2.0 = Content; Mobile Games 3.0 = Social Distribution IMO
  • chriscummings01 Think about this: Tencent in China has 6M simultaneous players at peak; in Q1’09 did $360M gross rev (90% from virtual goods)
  • ElaineChase Swoopo has a ridiculously brillant & evil buisness model based on the premise that humans as a group act stupidly
  • getgambit The ideal competitive model = users who win want to keep playing, and users who lose want to keep playing (until they win)
  • MargaretWallace Nuff said: (Tim) Chang: VC’s are devil-avoid us at all cost. Make it so they call you and want to invest in you.
  • lisaopolion Tim Chang “Content is king, but distribution will be God”
  • GameAddict Chang: Casual 3.0 will be 3d, streaming gaming, cloud gaming (same game on different devices), virtual currency exchange.
  • GameAddict Chang is using the analogy of dance clubs as game business models. Velvet ropped areas easy to see and people pay to get in
  • chriscummings01 “Pitching a VC today? No faster track to the recycle bin than anchoring your business model to advertising.” – Tim Chang
  • @chriscummings01 “From a VC perspective, survival is the new growth.” – Tim Chang, Norwest

Blog coverage

From 2009-07-22

From 2009-07-23 and later

Why HeyZap Coins and Mochi Coins fall short

Posted July 21, 2009 by jussilaakkonen
Categories: business, games

Tags: , , ,

Recently both HeyZap and Mochi Media launched virtual goods platforms for Flash games. In short they allow players to purchase game items with hard currency. Want to kill zombies more effectively? Buy this $0,05/600 Mochi coins double-barrel shotgun! With virtual goods being the “new advertising” as far as internet business models go, why does this effort fall short? Jussi, we thought you loved virtual goods!

Oh yes, I still love virtual goods. There is nothing wrong with the basic premise of the service offered by HeyZap and Mochi Media, but plenty of issues with trying to monetize primarily single player Flash game experiences. It’s the classic “If a tree falls in the forest, and nobody is there to see it, does it really fall” problem. I can buy a better shotgun, but without other players, my friends and my rivals , what is the point? Why would I bling out my virtual house if my friend’s can visit? Is there anybody to listen when I boast about my exploits? Is there anybody to best? Anybody to share this experience with?

Due to the nature of the games they serve HeyZap and Mochi Media are currently limited to effectively selling you “cheat codes“. It’s a hollow experience without the social context offered by persistent multiplayer games (e.g. MMOs or social games), and I don’t expect this to save Flash games developers. In HeyZap’s and Mochi Media’s shoes I’d be investing heavily into providing the tools to let Flash developers create these persistent multiplayer experiences (Nonoba is doing it). However, as a Flash developer I wouldn’t wait – I’d jump ship to social games this instant (massive & free distribution, social context, paying customers = the win).

Further reading

Coverage of Social Gaming Summit 2009

Posted June 24, 2009 by jussilaakkonen
Categories: event, games

Tags: , , , , ,

sgs2009

I’m catching up on the Social Gaming Summit 2009 on the net, and here’s my bounty of news, twitter tidbits and links to further coverage.

Presentations

Blog coverage

Misc tidbits from #sgs09 backlog

These are misc tidbits from the backlog that stuck out.

  • Social Gaming ARPU’s: top games $1-2/month, good FB $0.30-0.40, good MS $0.60-.070
  • Conversions to paying users for social games 0.5% to 1.5% much lower than traditional MMOG’
  • Greg Tseng/Tagged: The most important social network conversion rate is # of monthly users that become daily users look closely at conversion from monthly active to daily active — and see 50% as a gold standard.
  • Jia Shen/RockYou – 5-7% of daily returning users is good (discounting promos), Shukla – RPGs can see 40%
  • Panel on retention/acq: use FB and provide free virtual goods at a staggered pace to bring user pack to app/game
  • Jia Shen/RockYou: Vanity URLs help with branding and discoverability in Facebook. Finding apps is still hard
  • Simplest thing for retention is to give incentives or alerts at a specific amount of time. Mafia Wars’ alert says New Jobs available
  • jnusser/vindicia: in RMT, friendly fraud 100x real, malicious fraud
  • Women, 34 to 50 in the US is the best audience you can get for monetization
  • Jia Shen/RockYou: FB retention is easier. Nobody uninstalls apps, devs can always try to reingage. MS has signif churn on apps
  • Jia Shen/RockYou: News feed momentum is important metric for distribution that is overlooked now. The reciprocation must happen quickly
  • Jia Shen/RockYou – the new FBook redesign is creating the same engagement growth as FB had during prev peak… but less spammy
  • Super Rewards: Free-mium social game monetization rates ~5% of users playing on any given day.
  • Zong: Fraud chargeback rates often in 5% range. Developers usually very happy with 1-1.5. Paypal: greater than 0.5% a concern
  • Virtual goods business in China is worth $4.5-$5Bn this year. Many games have over 1 million concurrent users
  • Playfish:5 weeks ago, we launched RestaurantCity with no cross promotion & grew to 5M users.
  • MySpace interesting stats: 70MM monthly in the US, 30MM are active app users
  • Playfish sold 20 million christmas trees and ornaments mirroring social behavior in real world
  • Zynga invested $2mil in guild of heroes. Seems kind of high!
  • on FB, there are 100 games with 100,000 players 30 games by 1 million, 3 games with 10,000,000 games
  • Zynga: Building social capital can go beyond your real friends” – Pincus; but 70% of the time you log into Poker, a ‘real’ friend is there
  • Playdom sold $100K worth of virtual pink Volkswagon’s on Sorority Life in 2 days
  • Keys to a successful social game by Mark Pincus at Zynga: 1) real friends, 2) self expression, 3) stored value
  • Zynga (Pincus) games have to give you 1) feeling of playing with friends, 2) social outlet, expression 3) invest in game
  • 3rd secret to Pincus – buy items (i am paraphrasing). Result is that players has social capital. Pincus is master of buzz words
  • 2nd secret: Pincus from Zynga – social games must be playground for your personality. Express yourself (channeling Madonna)
  • 1st secrets:  Pincus:  Games must appeal to your friends
  • A pillar of social game is to invest in game over time and give players a sense of value. This is why virtual goods are valued.
  • Design games as objects of social interaction, you get the benefit as a user of inviting your friends into the game
  • game themes (pets, farms, restaurants) in top 10 apps – starting to mirror the over 35 crowd (similar to casual games)

Read the full backlog via Twitter search

Lean startup mindmaps

Posted June 11, 2009 by jussilaakkonen
Categories: Uncategorized

Tags: , , ,

I’m a big believer in the customer development and lean startup concepts championed by Steve Blank and Eric Ries. The concepts have definitely been the most valuable concepts I’ve learned while running Everyplay as they provide a much needed framework around the activities any startup faces, articulate the need to get to product/market fit thru making validated learning about customers the unit of progress and provide practical processes that you can apply immediately (e.g. the Five why’s approach).

Steve and Eric have recently given presentations and interviews on these concepts. As mindmaps are my preferred way of brainstorming, making notes and communicating complex ideas, I tried to capture the gist as well as the detail of these presentations in the mindmaps linked to below. Hope you find them useful!

Startup2Startup

Steve and Eric recently gave a a joint presentation at Startup2Startup

Picture 1

Lean startup on O’Reilly

Eric presented the lean startup concept on O’Reilly’s webcast.

Mixergy interview with Eric Ries

Mixergy is a great source of entrepreneurial insights with Andrew Warner interviewing serial entrepreneurs, tech guys, marketers and bizdev folks.

mixergy

P.S. Here’s a link to Eric Ries’ latest Lean Startup presentation given at Tokyo (Geeks on a Plane).

Speaking at Nordic Game 19th – 20th May

Posted May 15, 2009 by jussilaakkonen
Categories: event, presentations

Tags: , , , ,

nordic-game09

Nordic Game is the premier nordic game developer’s conference, now on its fourth year. It has been going from strength to strength and last year was an exceptionally good year with great presentations, excellent networking and a nice, tight-knit feeling to the whole event.

Last year I had a chance to participate at a panel on emerging trends, and I was very delighted to be invited back  to speak again this year. My presentation on How to start a game a company at Casual Connect Europe 2009 got tremendous feedback, and I’m happy to presenting an updated version of it at Nordic Game on Wednesday 20th of May at 14:45.

I’m also participating in the “Art of the Deal” panel on Tuesday 19th at 13-15 o’clock . This is about pitching game concept to game publishers, but I hope to bring into the discussion what I’ve learned and experienced from pitching to VCs.

If you are at the show, come and say hi!


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