A Q&A with PlayMob founder and CEO Jude Ower. The London–based company was founded in 2007.
SUB: Please describe what PlayMob is, and the value proposition you bring to charitable giving/fundraising, social media and gaming.
Ower: Revolutionizing giving through gaming, PlayMob enables digital content providers to monetize their products through in-game “charity sponsored” micro-payments.
Over seven billion hours per week are spent playing games. Imagine if 1p from every hour of game play could be donated to good causes around the world. This is where PlayMob comes in. We have developed a core technology, GiverBoard, which enables charities to fundraise online through games, and simultaneously provides developers with an innovative product for monetizing their games, increasing player engagement, and a new route for game discovery.
SUB: What are your target markets?
Ower: Game developers are our initial customer. We are focusing on social games and MMOs as these are quick and effective to set up, manage and build traction. Our platform is built to work with any type of game, so once we have built enough traction on our initial markets we will then move onto mobile and console.
In terms of geography, Europe and the U.S. initially, being two of the largest areas for gaming and giving combined. But we see our platform being a global space.
SUB: Who do you consider to be your competition?
Ower: Plamity, Games that Give (acquired by Virtue), Social Bon, Social Vibe, Kiip, Sojo Studios, and Gramble World.
SUB: What differentiates PlayMob from the competition?
Ower: We work with games which are existing in the market already with an audience—and with game developers across platforms. Our platform is essentially a discovery platform, allowing game players to discover games in a whole new way, via causes they have interacted with and supported. Our platform can be used as an advertising platform with brands and brands combining CSR activity or just purely with charities to raise awareness and fundraise for their campaigns.
SUB: When was the company founded and what were the first steps you took in establishing it?
Ower: The company was founded in 2007. We were creating games for learning and training when charities started to contact us looking for us to work with them to make games which taught about the cause and raised funds too. With budget constraints in mind, we felt that creating individual games for charities would be a long road to achieving their goals so we decided to look into a way to get a message out there via existing games and raise funds too. After speaking to a number of developers we were inspired to create a simple-to-use platform which allowed them to easily connect to a charity to fundraise—or a brand for advertising and/or CSR. So in a nutshell we are using existing games to reach out to an audience with a message.
SUB: What was the inspiration behind the idea for PlayMob? Was there an “aha” moment, or was the idea more gradual in developing?
Ower: The moment came at SXSW in 2010 after having spent some time looking at charity game concepts. Then Zynga did their Haiti campaign and raised $1.5 million in five days. The interesting thing about this campaign was 80 percent of players who bought the charity item in Farmville had been non-paying customers. This is really interesting and exciting for game developers, and we realized that not all have the capacity to go out and find a cause to work with and set up a campaign, so by PlayMob creating the tools for them to do so, we solve this problem. So the ‘aha’ moment was seeing the impact Zynga had, looking at other examples of social games fundraising and Call of Duty raising funds for War Child and seeing that there was an opportunity to do something exciting in this space.
SUB: What have the most significant obstacles been so far to building the company?
Ower: We don’t just have a double network, we have a triple network—game devs, charities and brands, and the game player at a reach—so it was figuring out how to focus and narrow on the key elements first. We decided game developers are the main focus as without the game developer, the model wouldn’t work. We spent a lot of time talking to game developers to figure out how we can make something really quick, simple and useful for them. Other obstacles we have found are hiring Ruby on Rails developers—they are in demand.
SUB: You recently raised £500K in Angel funding. What are your plans for the funds?
Ower: Hunt down Ruby on Rails developers. We are looking for developers and also campaign managers. With the funds we will get the platform into full automation and have a wide network of developers, charities and brands using it. We also want to set up an office in the U.S.—NYC or San Fran—initially a small presence such as a sales person and a campaign manager to be sourcing and working with game developers in the U.S., as we see this as our biggest market—and our first customer, Per Blue, is U.S. based. By the end of the summer, we see our eight person team being around 14-to-16 people, and by the summer we will know whether we will go for a Series A round or not.
SUB: What are your goals for PlayMob over the next year or so?
Ower: Automate the platform, grow the team to support it, take it global and work with an awesome group of developers, charities and brands to make a real world impact which benefits all. We have an exciting line-up of campaigns about to take place—for example, one with Habbo Hotel and planting a real forest. I can’t say too much now but watch this space and all will be revealed.
PlayMob – www.playmob.com