A Q&A with Red Hot Labs co-founder and CEO Amitt Mahajan. The San Francisco–based company was founded in 2012 and just closed a $1.5 million Seed funding round at the end of February. Investors include Andreessen Horowitz, Greylock Partners, SV Angel, General Catalyst Partners and Japan’s IT-Farm. The Red Hot Labs founders previously founded MyMiniLife, which created Farmville and was acquired by Zynga late 2009.
SUB: Please describe Red Hot Labs and your value proposition.
Mahajan: Red Hot Labs is a mobile games and technology company that is focused on building great social experiences on the various mobile platforms that exist. We believe that great product design paired with powerful technology built on top of a disruptive platform enables rapid growth in the marketplace.
SUB: Who are your target markets and users?
Mahajan: We’re targeting mobile game players. The exact demographics change from one game to another.
SUB: Who do you consider to be your competition?
Mahajan: Other mobile gaming companies, though I believe the space is so big and growing so fast that there is room for a lot of players and, more importantly, a lot of collaboration.
SUB: What differentiates Red Hot Labs from the competition?
Mahajan: A product is a result of the team. I think we have world-class individuals in every role so far and our unique rapid-development plus disciplined product management approach is something that has worked well in the past and we are confident will work in the future.
SUB: When was the company founded and what were the first steps you took in establishing it?
Mahajan: The company was founded in 2012. Joel [co-founder Joel Poloney] and I had started a company before and we knew we wanted to do something again. We spent the first few months tossing around various ideas and doing a technology ‘refresh’ where we would try out lots of different new languages and libraries till we found something we liked to use and were passionate about.
SUB: What was the inspiration behind the idea for Red Hot Labs? Was there an ‘aha’ moment, or was the idea more gradual in developing?
Mahajan: We hit the ‘aha’ moment the second we started to develop mobile apps and realized that the market was similar to the one for social games in 2009, namely platforms with a lot of reach but with immature development tools and infrastructure.
SUB: How did you come up with the name? What is the story behind it?
Mahajan: Both Joel and I are big fans of spicy food. We were trying to think up a name for the company and we had a bunch of hot sauces on the kitchen table we were working at. It seemed like a no-brainer at the time to call it Red Hot Labs. More importantly, we wanted to get to the task of building products so we moved quickly on naming.
SUB: What have the most significant obstacles been so far to building the company?
Mahajan: A key one has been learning a new set of platforms and rules to abide by when building our software. Mobile is very different from the flash/web world we’re used to. In fact, it’s more similar to my time developing C++ game engines using OpenGL during college than it was to any of the development I was doing at Zynga.
SUB: You just raised $1.5 million in Seed funding. What are your plans for the funds?
Mahajan: We want to hire great folks that are passionate about learning how to conquer mobile development.
SUB: Why was this a particularly good time to raise outside funding?
Mahajan: Joel and I had started a company before and we had some idea on when we wanted to raise funding. At Red Hot Labs, we were able to perform some tests to prove out our business and product ideas, so it made sense to raise some funding to accelerate our efforts and scale the company.
SUB: How does the company generate revenue or plan to generate revenue?
Mahajan: There are several revenue streams we are thinking of, one of which will be selling virtual currency and items in the games. Eventually, we may productize some of the tools we’re developing to build mobile apps quickly.
SUB: What are your goals for Red Hot Labs over the next year or so?
Mahajan: To build the best games possible as quickly as possible. We already have one on the market: Bingo, available for iOS and Android devices.
Red Hot Labs – www.redhotlabs.com