Matthew: Hi, this is Matthew Wise of FounderLY.com, where we empower entrepreneurs to have a voice and share their story with the world, enabling others to learn more about building products and starting companies. So we’re really excited today because we have Jared Kim who is the founder and CEO of WeGame with us.
WeGame is a website that provides the tools for gamers to share their screencasts of their favorite in-game moments. WeGame enables you to just freely browse, search and comment on the videos with the focus on game screencasts. So that said Jared, we’d love for you to give our audience a brief bio.
Jared: Yeah. My name is Jared Kim and as you mentioned, the founder and CEO of WeGame. I started WeGame about four years ago, dropping out of UC Berkley about three months in and since then we’ve grown amazingly well.
Matthew: And how old are you?
Jared: I’m 23 now.
Matthew: And have you always been a gamer?
Jared: Yeah. I think one of the defining moments in my life was when I was around 10 or 11 and I would stay up all night playing video games and my mom just got tired of it and she said, play it all you want, but you’ll never make money with video games. That’s when I started to think, maybe there is a way.
Matthew: Excellent. What is WeGame? What makes it unique and why are you so passionate about it?
Jared: I think what you sort of went through is what we initially started off as, which allowing people to capture videos and share what they’re doing in games. The greater vision around that is we’ve expanded way beyond that now. It’s been about three years since we’ve launched and we really see ourselves as part of it a social network for gamers, but we have a digital distribution platform built on top of it, so we essentially have built an iTunes for games with a social networking hook already built into it, as opposed to iTunes where they’ve built a commerce platform and then they try to put a social network on top of it.
Matthew: So you had social baked in from day one?
Matthew: Excellent. And so is it for any gamer or a specific type of gamer? Who’s it for?
Jared: Right now it’s mainly for the PC gamer or sort of the hardcore gamer who plays World of Warcraft Call of Duty on your PC. Over the next year you’ll see us rapidly expanding to just capture what we just call the core gamer or someone who’s playing on their Xbox and PS3, on their iPhone or their Android phone or on their PC, whether it be World of Warcraft or something like the CityVille.
Matthew: Excellent. And so given your domain expertise, what are some of the technology and market trends that currently exist and where do you see things developing in the future for your space?
Jared: I think one of the key trends that has been happening, but really reached the tipping point last year was digital distribution finally overtook retail distribution when it came to game delivery. In 2009, it was 46% digital and the rest being retail and then last year it finally hit I think 54% digital and the rest being retail.
It’s becoming a trend where part of it is people want to acquire content digitally and not physically anymore, especially when it comes to games because you don’t want to wait in front of GameStop all night for the midnight release.
The other thing is also just sort of social commerce where it transitioned from e-commerce where there’s a traditional web where you’d go to Amazon and buy something and that would be it and there was really no social context around that, and then over the last couple of years you’ve seen trends like Groupon where there has been social buying, group buying where it’s gathered many people together to get a huge discount on something.
I think the next trend is pure social commerce where you’re leveraging social context around what your friends are buying or in our case, what are they playing or what games have they bought and leveraging that data to make a very interesting recommendation of what you buy next and in our case, games.
Matthew: Excellent. We covered your background and the overview of WeGame. Can you tell us what inspired you to start WeGame? Was there an a-ha moment or did you do a bunch of market research that led to the opportunity? What’s the story behind it?
Jared: This is actually my third company. I started my first company when I was 16 and grew that to 70 employees in 11 months and now it’s kind of a roller coaster, so pretty early on I knew I was starting companies, so by the time I got to college I already did two companies at that point and it was pretty clear that this was sort of just a rest stop and not really a destination.
So pretty quickly I spent the time in college where you essentially have free food and free room and board and really started thinking of a lot of ideas and playing around with a lot of things, but it got to a point where I realized the college environment was not allowing me to really seriously dive into a specific project uninterrupted and that’s why I chose to drop out and start my company.
I left Berkeley with the intent of starting a company, with an intent of starting a gaming company, but it wasn’t many months, about 4-5 months later that I actually figured out exactly what I was going to build.
Matthew: Since you’re the sole founder of WeGame, how do you manage that and what kind of challenges have you had to overcome to be successful?
Jared: I think definitely being a sole founder is a lot more difficult than having a co-founder. Fortunately enough, in my case I’m very involved in the business side of things, but I’m also technical, so the first version of the site and the service I essentially built, but I was also capable of going out and raising money and pitching investors, etc.
So I was fortunate where I was able to cover both bases, but I think over time what we realize is the company becomes bigger just the Jared Kim show and actually becomes a company and WeGame. You yourself do not actually do anything, you just empower other people to get their job done.
Part of it is having a co-founder would be helpful, but at the end of the day whether it be a co-founder or a team, the goal is just basically surrounding yourself with the smartest and most intelligent people that you can find and create a culture and an environment where they can excel.
Matthew: Excellent. So from idea to product launch, how long did it take and when did you actually launch?
Jared: So I settled on the idea in June of 2008 and I built an initial prototype and this was ugly, but it worked. It proved the point in August. So it took about two months to build the initial prototype, but nothing near something that I could actually release.
I took that prototype in August of 2008, raised the seat around and from basically end of August to December, so that would be four months, we actually built a team and turned that into a real product that we could launch. So about six months start to finish from a prototype to something that was actually feasible.
Matthew: And are there any unique metrics or social proof about WeGame that you’d like to share with our audience?
Jared: Yeah. We have millions of pieces of content, ranging from videos and screenshots and achievements that have been shared and posted to WeGame and from WeGame spread to our user’s Facebook and Twitter. We have over 1.8 million users and that’s growing extremely well. It’s about high engagement, 50% are logging in a monthly basis, but we’re hoping to take that number to something where it’s 50% logging in on a daily basis.
Matthew: That’s very impressive. We know founders face unique challenges when they decide to launch a company. What was the hardest part about launching WeGame and how did you overcome this obstacle?
Jared: Honestly, when it came to launching the company there was nothing really hard about that decision, because I had nothing else really. I think it’s very true when founders say I started a company because I’m actually not qualified to do anything else. I could not go and get a job at Google to be an engineer. I’m not that great of an engineer.
I couldn’t go and be a business development associate. I’d probably fail at being an intern for most companies, but the one skill that I do have is basically inspiring people and having a vision and basically making that vision spread among people that are with me and sort of guide people around that vision and motivate them to do great things. There are very few professions in this world where you can actually make a living doing that.
Matthew: Since you’ve been in operation what have you learned about your business and your users that you didn’t realize before you launched?
Jared: I think that’s a tough question because there’s so many things that you learn when it comes from operations, but you’d be surprised how resistant to change they are because as a company when you start off, month one, month two, month three and then all of a sudden you go to year one, year two, year three, the service needs to fundamentally change and evolve.
So you go from your initial starting feature set to your grand vision and that needs to evolve. Facebook what it was 4-5 years is nothing what it is today and I think Facebook is a great example. You can sort of learn from that, where users get really accustomed to what they had were initially using and you need to be very delicate about moving forward and adjusting it.
A lot of times users know what they like and what they don’t like, but they don’t know what they want. It’s the job of the company to really figure it out. And I’m not saying ignore the user, but you have to understand this is what the user’s mindset is and this is our vision and our business goal. What can we do that will basically have those two aligned and proceed along that path? Sometimes you have to break some eggs to make an omelet.