Posted tagged ‘business’

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

September 10, 2009

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.

Why HeyZap Coins and Mochi Coins fall short

July 21, 2009

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

June 24, 2009

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

Speaking at Nordic Game 19th – 20th May

May 15, 2009

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!

Thoughts after Mini-Seedcamp

May 5, 2009

seedcamp

I spent today mentoring fellow entrepreneurs at Mini-Seedcamp at Helsingborg. Going in I felt that most value I could add would come from sharing what we have learned on the road of getting Everyplay off the ground. It turned out that while that was valuable as a background for the day, most of the time was spent in brainstorming ideas for growth, monetization and financing together with the other mentors and the entrepreneurs themselves.

After each one of the twenty startups had given their five minute pitch in the beginning of the day, we started in-depth sessions with two startups at a time. It was great working with passionate entrepreneurs and experienced fellow mentors to dig thru the startup’s assumptions and try to nail down how they could get more customers, create more revenue, scale faster and finance all of that.

There were a couple of startups that had big ideas ranging from really creative and cutting edge uses of peer to peer technology (Peerialism) to transforming paper receipts into electronic ones on any point of sale terminal (Kvittar). On the other end of the spectrum it was great to see real operational and growing business like Red Apple Apartments, who are adding a lot of value to the apartment rental business and are struggling to manage the fast growth (what a happy problem! ;-)).

The high points of the mentoring sessions definitely were those couple breakthroughs where the entrepreneur and the mentors would jointly come up with a new twist to the startup’s take on the market and you could literally see the entrepreneur’s eyes light up in a heureka moment. One of those moments took place in the mentoring session with 1Calendar, who simplify the hassle that juggling university course schedules is. After thinking thru the market and how they could scale faster, we came up with a pretty nifty crowdsourcing twist for getting more universities rapidly into the system. I can definitely see 1Calendar running with that idea and scaling a lot faster than they could have done before.

Most of the startups were really early and one shared criticism between every mentor I spoke with was the challenges in articulating what they really were doing. Way too many dressed up their perfectly good business idea into a Dilbert mission generator-esque mumbojumbo that you’d need 10 gigawatt lasers to pierce thru. It was also obvious that many of the startups need more practice on pitching and presenting as the morning presentations were somewhat lackluster except for a five-six standouts. It’s easy to critize, but I’d hope that every single startup pitching would video record themselves pitching, analyze the recording and repeat at least 15 times before appearing in front of a demanding audience like the one at Seedcamp.

One thing I felt that could have been added to the mentoring sessions is the notion of methodologies or approaches that a startup could use to structure their business development activities. I’ve become a huge believer in Customer Development, and I can’t help thinking that every startup founder needs something similar to help guide them.

Personally I’m totally stoked after working the day with fellow entrepreneurs at the Mini-Seedcamp. The passion and energy totally swept me along. Each startup had their own unique approach and I could learn something from every single one of them.

Best of luck to all of the Mini-Seedcampers – follow your passion and execute relentlessly!

Mentoring at Mini-Seedcamp at Helsingborg on 5th of May

April 21, 2009

seedcamp

Seedcamp is a catalyst for European startups. The main event is a week long bootcamp for handful of pre-qualified European startups in London. Fellow Finnish start-up Scred was selected to participate last fall. I chatted with Kristoffer from Scred after the event and he was very impressed about the learnings they were able to take away from the event.

So I was definitely excited when I got invited to act as a mentor at one of the Mini-Seedcamps being held across Europe. Karri and the crew at the ever-so-fantastic Arctic Startup blog recommended me to the Swedish organizers of the Helsingborg event held on 5th of May and I jumped at the chance to participate.

The Mini-Seedcamp mentors are VCs and serial entrepreneurs including Daniel Blomquist from Creandum, Hjalmar Winbladh from Rebtel and Thomas Weilby Knudsen from Northcap Partners.  And yours truly. It’s an interesting situation to be a mentor when we are down in the trenches at Everyplay (with nothing public to show yet). I can’t offer recent “here’s how I’ve succeeded” type of lessons. Instead I can offer “here ‘s what I think works” and “this is how we are doing it”. There are definitely war stories and lessons learned in how Everyplay got off the ground, the 17+ years spent as entrepreneur in running ASSEMBLY (6000+ participants every year, over 200 person volunteer workforce) and the parallels between pitching video games to game publishers and pitching startups to VCs.

I expect to learn at least as much from being a mentor as the startups can learn from the successes and follies I’ve encountered on my road to Mini-Seedcamp at Helsingborg.

Top VCs on investing in games (Gamesbeat 2009)

March 24, 2009

Gamesbeat

I’m today at the Gamesbeat 2009 event hosted by Venturebeat. The day opened with the best VC panel on games that I’ve ever witnessed. Every VC on the panel had invested in games,  had their finger on the pulse of the market and had good insights to share. The pace of the session was blazing fast and it covered everything from what they are investing in to how social games is an user acquisition tactic instead of full-blown category of games.

I tried to record everything in a mindmap and I was typing away at breakneck speeds , so the mindmap may contain mis-quotes and may be somewhat hard to decipher at times. Jetlag doesn’t help either ;-).

Download the mindmap as a PDF.


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