A Q&A with Mob Science CEO Michael Witz. The Carlsbad, California–based company was founded in 2008 and has just completed a $1 million Seed funding round. Investors include Joyent executives David Young, Brian Brown and Jason Hoffman, GameSpy/IGN founder Mark Surfas, and other Angels.
SUB: Please describe what Mob Science is, and the value proposition you bring to social gaming.
Witz: Mob Science has been rebuilt from the ground up to be a second generation social gaming company. Our focus is on creating deeper and richer gaming experiences that we believe will appeal to the mid-core audience—gamers who want a little more challenge and excitement then FarmVille, but still appreciate easy on-ramps to gameplay and short game sessions.
We believe that the Zynga Platform is going to be the largest and most lucrative environment in which to build these games and we have realigned our company’s efforts around this strategy.
SUB: Who are your target users?
Witz: Our target users are an emerging market segment we call mid-core players. We want to be the next step for “Ville” gamers. These mid-core players are both male and female, young and old.
SUB: Who do you consider to be your competition?
Witz: In one sense, I guess you could say that any other social game developer is our competitor, because at the end of the day we’re all competing for the attention and mindshare of the same users. But I’ve found that there’s more cooperation within the industry than competition. It’s a fairly tightknit group, especially among those developers who have been at it since practically the beginning like we have, and we share a certain camaraderie. We might not share the entire recipe for our secret sauce, but we’re all more than willing to offer a few tips and tricks that have benefited us—that way we kind of lift up the entire industry. I’d also say that the real competition is ourselves. Our success is going to be entirely dependent upon how well we execute against the bar we have set for ourselves.
SUB: What differentiates Mob Science from the competition?
Witz: We are definitely at an advantage over any new game developers who haven’t been doing it as long as we have because we’re able to take our learnings from the last several years and apply them to the games we’re building now. We also have a really great design and production team that delivers world-class games. I’m really proud of the graphics and the whole user experience behind our latest game, which will be released shortly.
SUB: When was the company founded and what were the first steps you took in establishing it?
Witz: The company was founded in 2008, shortly after Facebook first opened up its platform to third-party app developers. Our first game was “Sea Garden,” which played off a popular genre at the time, pet games. We were just learning as we went at that point, about what kinds of games people liked, what features they used most, how to make games go viral, how to get users to stay engaged—that kind of thing. I brought in a great team who would take these learnings and be able to produce more and more games, each one better than the last.
SUB: What was the inspiration behind the idea for Mob Science? Was there an “aha” moment, or was the idea more gradual in developing?
Witz: My original inspiration for developing a social game was in 2007 when MySpace had taken off. I wanted to build a game on top of MySpace and was having trouble figuring out how to get all the user data we would need. When Facebook announced their API, I had that “aha” moment and jumped on that platform. In 2012, when Zynga announced their platform, I had that same “aha” moment. This time, I’m going to execute a lot better than I did last time.
SUB: What have the most significant obstacles been so far to building the company?
Witz: Most people do not realize how hard it is to build a successful game on Facebook. Zynga’s latest “Ville” games are supported by huge teams of extremely talented and ambitious people, so we are like a little skinny guy trying to play in a league of heavyweights. Hopefully, we will capture some of that “Linsanity” magic and show that the small, scrappy underdog can still find a way to win.
SUB: You just raised $1 million in Seed funding. What are your plans for the funds?
Witz: We’re going to use the funds to accelerate our product development and to hire more great talent, including game designers, product managers, engineers and other important positions.
SUB: Do you plan to raise more outside funding in the near future?
Witz: We don’t have any such plans at this point, because we have enough for now to meet our short-term goals, but you never know what the future might bring.
SUB: What are your goals for Mob Science over the next year or so?
Witz: Our immediate goal is to build a great game. We are entirely focused on that outcome, because business value in gaming is driven by having a hit. Longer term, we talk about becoming the “Zynga” of the Zynga Platform, meaning that we want to become the dominant third-party developer on the Zynga Platform just like Zynga dominates the Facebook platform. We feel there is a major opportunity to build a big business anytime a new gaming platform emerges, and we like Zynga’s chances.
Mob Science – www.mobscience.com