Pitching

One thing that's interesting - we both just listened to this: This American Life, "It's Not the Product, It's the Person"

It's timely, because we're in the process of pitching to folks and trying to get people involved. Pitching is a tricky thing, because it's really easy to fall into one of two traps:

  1. The person I'm pitching to wants to know everything
  2. The person I'm pitching to already knows what I know

This is essentially the problem everyone has with every presentation ever, and a pitch is just a presentation. But in this case, it's a presentation about you, which means that navigating the balance between the two problems is a weird ego check - you have to "sell" yourself, and your skills, but you also don't want to come off like a huge jerk. I'll be honest - I don't know how to balance that properly. I err much too much on the side of (1), and as a result, my presentations aren't as efficient as they might be. I also have a very hard time "selling" myself because I assume (2), and that I don't need to toot my own horn. So I manage to fall into both traps simultaneously, which is quite a feat.

That said, since part of what we're trying to do is walk through this whole process & talk about it, might as well start... with the start.

Let's see - some of the main points to address are these:

  1. What problem are you trying to solve
  2. What is your unfair advantage
  3. What is your exit

What is the problem we're trying to solve? It's a little weird, because what problems do all games solve? They're all trying to be fun, right? But in our case, we're trying to do something very specific - we're trying to make a game for people who like games but have no time to play them. Specifically, as (relatively) new parents, we've found our habits have changed a lot since before we have kids, and there are few games that are genuinely satisfying and social that you don't need to carve out significant amounts of time to play. We're looking to make the most efficient possible social multiplayer game. Highest fun per time is our goal.

 


As an aside, one key is that we're still making a game - not a time-waster. This means it will still follow this definition:

A game is when a user is presented with a compelling choice that allows him or her to make an informed decision that has consequence.


 

What is our unfair advantage? We know how to move fast with a small team. This is what we spent the last five years really working on. More than our ability to have great ideas from the start, we know how to have lots of ideas and then find out which ones are great. We have, with a team of five people, beaten teams of 65 people in a ridiculously competitive market. We've built games of ridiculous scope with incredibly small teams because we know how to move fast. That's not a philosophical decision. It's not luck. It's infrastructure and design. It's about designing and building our games from the ground up to focus on rapid iteration. And it's something almost no one else knows how to do properly.

What is our exit? This is an interesting question, because the simple fact is that we are not planning our business around an exit. Which is not necessarily the most popular answer with investors. But I think it's a reasonable one, and one that should still be attractive to an investor. Because here's the thing - our goal is to make a game that people will love. In the current mobile market, you are either going to have a massive success or you'll keep iterating, because there is a very, very small niche where you'll create a sustainable-but-not-huge game. If you can create a sustainable game, then you are on the cusp of creating a HUGE hit. If you cannot create a sustainable game with the concept you're working on, you pivot & try again.

The market essentially dictates that you'll either hit it out of the park or keep trying. So what's your plan for an exit? Nothing I can say right now will be "not bullshit". I can't predict that we'll be a half-billion dollar business by X date. No financial mockup I can show you will be honest & direct you to a 5-year plan. The best we can do is look about 3 months in advance, because right now, that's about how fast the market is evolving. Look beyond that, and you're starting to make one of the biggest mistakes you can, because then you're operating on a "plan" and not on what is right in front of you.

What I can say is that we made a massive hit before, we know how to adapt, to respond, and to create faster than anyone else. We understand how to make something fun that no one else has made before, and we're doing it because we love it. We're not doing it for the money. Which means we'll never quit. If we succeed, we'll get to a point where the finances will dictate an exit on their own where it'd be stupid not to sell because everyone would walk away ecstatic with how things turned out.

The tl;dr version is that we know that the best path to a monster hit is understanding how to iterate as quickly as possible toward success, and we have a history of doing exactly that. Right now, the economics of a monster hit are bananas - investors would make their money back 100x - because creating a monster hit does not require an enormous team. You cannot fight the established successes by going toe-to-toe with them, the marketing costs are much too high. (...and a LOT of investors in games have & will continue to lose their shirts by doing this. See every single MMO that tried to fight WOW on their turf, the zillions of Match-3s that have failed trying to fight Candy Crush, or even the hundreds and hundreds of Casino apps that died trying to fight Zynga Poker on their terms.) But there is still room for evolving gameplay on mobile, and you will only find the next big hit by doing something that hasn't been done yet. You can only do that by not chasing the obvious money - by having experience, talent, insight and vision, and by understanding how to take risks properly. That's our expertise. That's what we live and breathe in our work, and that's why this is worth doing.


 

...and what I've just done is provide a very, very clear example of why I have so many problems with the "elevator" (<2 minute) pitch. :)