Interview with Dave Bisceglia, Co-founder & CEO of The Tap Lab – a TechStars Company

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We recently caught up with The Tap Lab’s Co-founder & CEO Dave Bisceglia for a quick interview. He shares Tap Lab’s journey, gaming industry challenges, outlook, and important mistakes. This is an especially good post for university students who are deferring their startup plans until graduation. Also, this is our first interview with a TechStars company!

*Be sure to check out and vote up Dave’s 2 SXSW panels this yearParsing Reality and Presentation on Geo Social Games.

Tell us what your company is all about.

The Tap Lab is a Geo Social Gaming Company. We make reality driven games that pull in real world data to create more meaningful and relevant gaming experiences for our players.

How did you come up with the idea for your company?

My Co-Founder, Ralph Shao, and I started The Tap Lab right out of college (Boston University). We started the company because we saw a huge gap in the market. Back then, there were all of these gamified social utilities and local deal finders like Foursquare and ShopKick on the market. But, there were no real games out there that thrived in reality. We saw the smartphone as a new platform with a ton of amazing capabilities that game developers seemed to be overlooking. As avid gamers, we knew what we had to do.

Can you tell us if / how you gained consumer insight before launching?

We learned that we were on to something when we launched a prototype of our concept at Boston University. The game was called Duality and with it we turned the entire campus into a game of risk. We had 100 students playing the game and the campus transformed into a war-zone over night. The students loved the game and our engagement numbers we’re very encouraging. With that, we quit our part-time jobs and have been doing this 24/7 ever since.

What metrics or numbers were most important in validating the demand? How did you get this data?

In the very beginning, we were primarily focused on engagement metrics. How often a player opened the game and how long they played for (session frequency and session length). In our first game, TapCity, our active users played more than 25mins a day which is up there with some of the top performing games on the App Store. We tracked the data using Localytics. A top-tier analytics provider based here in Cambridge, MA.

What were some of the challenges that you faced starting a company? Was there anything specifically challenging about the gaming industry?

The gaming industry is classically defined as a hits driven business. We struggled with this early on when we had just one game in development. Folks would ask, “Are you creating an app or a company?” Since then we’ve created our own game engine that powers these reality driven games and we have multiple games in the pipeline. We are now a full-fledged gaming company. The lesson here is that you must be able to articulate what you will become before you get there.

“Where” do you guys hope to be in the next year with your company?

We are setting out to be the leader in Geo Social Games. Also, we would like to see Geo Games as a sub-category in the Apple App Store by then and we hope to influence that greatly. We’ve got a new game coming out soon and we’re actively hiring iOS and Rails developers. Building the team is a core priority of mine at this juncture.

What advice would you like to give to an entrepreneur thinking about writing their first business plan?

It’s important to articulate your business clearly and comprehensively. With that said, I firmly believe that a business plan should be just that. Do not spend weeks or months crafting a work of literary excellence. That’s a waste of time. Use the business planning process to articulate what your going to build, how it works, and why it will work. Once you have that, start building. Also, your business plan will be a living/breathing document that is in a constant state for flux. If it isn’t, you’re doing something wrong. In start-up land you will learn new things everyday and you will have to adapt your business accordingly.

What important mistakes have you made and learned from?

One of the biggest mistakes we made was not starting our company while we were in college at Boston University. We had the idea and all of the resources to start building. In fact, it was the perfect environment to start a company. But, we waited until after graduation to begin. Why? Because we were scared. We wanted to focus on our GPAs and our collegiate social lives. Lesson: That’s stupid. Don’t do that. Start now!
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A massive thank you to Dave for spitting some startup wisdom. We look forward to catching back up with The Tap Lab early next year to see how things have progressed. In the mean time, check out their site. You can also follow them on twitter!