Recently we had the pleasure of interviewing PlayMob Founder Jude Ower. During the interview Jude introduces us to her company, shares advice about the startup process and talks about what it’s like to be part of an accelerator program. PlayMob recently raised £500,000 and also completed the Springboard program, a startup accelerator working out Cambridge.
PlayMob help charities to fundraise through gaming. PlayMob have created a platform to allow charities to connect with in-game objects. This allows giving to be daily, frequent and a simple and fun way to engage those who may not normally give.
I have been in the games industry for 11 years now and originally set up the business to develop games for training, education and awareness. The business was a service business so it was growing gradually. One day a charity got in touch, then we found ourselves speaking to quite a few charities all looking to have their own game to raise awareness and funding. We built our own prototype of a social game linked to reforestation, which included all micro-payments going towards planting trees for real. That is when the real moment kicked in when I thought, if we take the back end of this game and create a middleware to allow all game developers to quickly connect to a good cause, surely that would make more impact with no cost to the charity? We also found great data which showed that charitable campaigns increase engagement and conversions in games so the whole model is a win-win scenario, there is no reason for a game developer or a charity, not to do this!
What were some of the challenges that you faced starting a company?
I went from being a consultant, to having the service business to pivoting into a product company. I did it gradually but each step came with it’s own challenges. The biggest one is learning to manage people and getting everyone to do their best even when the going gets tough. There is only so much you can read about or talk to peers about, the rest is cold hard learning while doing. Mistakes will be made, but learning from these is crucial. Understanding what you are good at and not good at was another. At first you feel you have to be good at everything and know everything. Learning to back down and focus on the elements you can do and do well is crucial. It is difficult learning and admitting when you are not good at something then having the patience and trust for someone else to do it. But once you learn to give territory, things can become smoother.
You were part of the SpringBoard accelerator program, what difference do you feel being part of an accelerator made to your company?
For us it helped us to focus on what was really important to build and scale the business. As well as being a company which was going through change form product to service, we also have a very complicated product to build. The concept is very simple, but getting everything to a point of working and moving towards an automated product was complicated. Springboard helped us get mentoring from over 100 people in 4 weeks which we then took the consistant themes and focussed on those. It also helped us to pitch. I was awful at pitching, and after doing Springboard I went from the worst, to winning the Best Pitch at the 2011 Entrepreneurs Festival (against 300 other companies!).
What advice would you give to an entrepreneur looking to get their company into an accelerator program?
Have focus and know what you want to do the accelerator for and what you want to get out of it. Going in with this in mind it will be hugely helpful. Speak to those running the accelerator and understand the process in detail and who will be assessing the companies to select who will take part. And try and speak to companies who have been through the process. Be serious about the business, and recognise that there will be a huge amount of hurdles and having a strong team to deal with those is essential.
What advice would you give to people looking to start a company?
Just do it. It is as simple as that. If you have an idea, and you can’t stop thinking about it you have to do whatever it takes to try it and try to make it work. I would also say it is hard trying to do it on your own. It can be a lonely journey and for a few years I tried that, but I was always keen to have a 2nd in command, a co-founder. I met Caroline Howes at the end of 2009 and she joined the team in 2011 (although we had been working together for about a year before that). When you find someone who shares your vision and your passion for the business it can be a real turning point. I love this TED video about starting a movement and being a ‘lone nut‘. This always reminds me of the co-founder scenario and I would definitely say to people looking to start up to always be on the look out for your no.2 and choose them well.
What advice would you give to entrepreneurs thinking about creating a business plan?
Have focus! And keep it short. The business plan is the vision and outline of the opportunity, so like playing a game of chess, understand your competition and their movements and show that you know your industry inside out and that you and your team are THE people to make this idea work.
A massive thank you to Jude for taking the time out of her busy schedule to put down some awesome answers to our questions. We look forward to catching back up with PlayMob early next year to see how things have progressed. In the mean time check out their site. You can also follow PlayMob on twitter!