2015 is right in our doorstep, and it’s time for some new year’s resolution. I thought it will be a fun exercise to look at 2014 and reflect rather than just do a Happy Holidays post. I’m pretty sure there are some lessons to be learned from our experience so in the spirit of being open like we have been since day 1 I’ll share some of the more interesting events.
Killing the Storefront right after our seed round
January 15th was the official closing date of our seed round. It was a $1M round with over 15 participants. Quite a big vote of confidence for our small company. Confidence? How so? Funding and confidence are often mixed by founders. In reality, getting an investment should not make you more confident as investors will never know your company better than you. Quickly after the money was in the bank, we already knew that the company’s path is not the right one. The Storefront product was something we really believed could help game studios but the reality was that despite its sharp design and intuitive UX, developers just refused to use it. It was a tough decision to make but we had to kill it.
Discovering how popular the framework has become
Since we killed our commercial product we could focus a bit more on the open source framework. One of the questions we always tried to ask ourselves is how big it really is? It was only in May this year when we finally had the answer. We went to a meeting with a potential partner and while we started mumbling something about our estimates regarding the popularity of SOOMLA, he said: “I just got this new cool tool that tracks SDKs, want to try it?”. He was referring to MixRank and soon enough we realized that SOOMLA is about 10 times what we thought it was. We were thrilled with this new information.
The road to GROW – the first unilytics platform
So being the market leader and having a huge community of developers around the open framework is one thing but we knew that we need to generate clearer value on the business side of the game. With Unity and many other providers moving in and providing different services to developers around cloud, monetization, advertising and analytics we knew that we needed something that will be very unique if we wanted to capture developers’ imagination. The idea of disrupting the analytics space with a community based approach first entered our minds around April and while still evaluating other ideas like game server and anti-fraud solutions we started validating the idea by telling developers about it. The responses were extremely positive but we knew that for this product to have value to anyone we needed a critical mass. After all, if you are benchmarking your game – there better be other games to compare it to. To check if we can overcome this problem we tried to sign up game studios in advance. In 2 months we were able to sign about 80 games adding up to 14M end user installs and after 6 months we had over 60M end user installs. We knew we are on to something good and we worked to develop it as quickly as we can. At the end of October the beta version was live and in the last few days we are seeing over 15K DAU and will quickly reach the needed critical mass.
The lesson to be learned
Analyzing this sequence of events, it took us way too long to kill the Storefront product. We didn’t want to kill our beloved product so that’s for sure part of the reason. There was another problem, however, we didn’t have a good alternative. It was only after we knew the true size of the open source community when we realized there are new options out there. Looking back at the last 2 years of the company, I believe we could have done more to better assess it. On the flip side, there are a few choices that made a huge difference for us. First of all, choosing inbound marketing and open source as a distribution strategy paid off big time. Second, keeping the burn rate low was very tough at times, but this is what allowed us to pivot when needed. And lastly, the combination of a great team and a fast growing billion dollar market is what generates pivot opportunities so that choice already proved itself time and again.
So now that we are fully pivoted to our new position, 2015 is going to be really awesome. This is the year where SOOMLA breaks through! In that joyful spirit, we’d like to wish the entire gaming community, and especially developers of the SOOMLA community, a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. We wouldn’t be this far down the road without you.