Matthew: What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned since launching WeGame?
Jared: The most important lesson, I would say, is it’s all about the people, surrounding yourself. Regardless of what business you’re in and what you’re doing or what kind of company you’re trying to build, if you can just hire the best people, and I’m not saying, don’t hire the best assholes. The best people who are intelligent, hard-working, motivated, and are really good at what they do.
One thing I like to judge people: Are they better at what they do? Can I do it any better? If I can’t, then I should probably hire them to do it. Once you have them on board, basically provide them with the culture and environment where they can go and do that job.
I think what you learn as a founder very quickly is that you start out doing everything, but you can’t end up doing everything. Then you reach a point where you’re only doing 10%, 20% of what a full-time person can do, or someone else who’s better than you can do. Really, it’s all about the people. Be very, very picky when it comes to that. It’s completely true when they say one rotten apple will spoil the whole barrel. So be very careful about that.
Matthew: Has there been a specific mentor or individual who has played a positive impact in your professional development?
Jared: I think there’s a large group that have done that. I could name every single one of my investors, all the way from Tony Conrad, who’s on our board, to all of our angel investors like [Naval], [Idan Cenk], [Jeff Clapeae], and [Ariel Poler]. Also, I think a lot of fellow entrepreneurs just going through the same thing. Just people who are more experienced than me.
I have a great advisory board, and I highly recommend for anyone that is going out to start a company, find people, find a very strong advisory board very early on, because they can help guide you through the entire life cycle of the company. When I went out and I started my company, once I knew I was going to start an internet company doing gaming stuff, before I even had an idea what I was going to do, I went out and I got two advisers.
One guy was Matt Mullenweg, who is a close friend of mine, but he’s also the founder of Automatic and WordPress, the biggest blogging platform in the world. I think it powers like 10% of the internet. He was someone that, not only did he have great business experience, but he also went through very similar experiences with me, because he started WordPress when he was 19.
I was leaving college at the time, 19, going to start up a company, so I wanted to get his feedback during that process. Also, I got some domain expertise. I was going to start a gaming company. I brought in a guy named Dennis Fong who was the founder of a company back in the day called gamers.com, and more recently, X-Fire, which Viacom bought for 110 million. He was also the world champion of Doom, Quake, and Starcraft for three years in a row at the same time.
So surround yourself with people who have done it, are doing really well. A lot of times when you run a company, as a new founder, you don’t know where the landmines are until you run over them. Hopefully, when you surround yourself with people who are more experienced than you, that have gone through this, you won’t have to run over them. They can actually point out where they are, and even sometimes you still have to run over them, but at least you’re prepared for it, and it doesn’t come to you as a surprise.
Matthew: What would you like to share with our audience about launching a startup? What bit of advice do you think would be helpful to them?
Jared: First of all, I think the number one thing I’ve seen a lot of people, when I meet people that are like, “Oh! I want to start a company one day,” or “I have some ideas, I’ll get to it someday.” But there are all these if and whens. Those will never go away. You’re always going to have new, “I can’t start a company until I finish this,” or “I want to go to get my MBA first,” or ‘I’m too busy with my full-time job.” These things will always be there. If you have something that you really want to do, just do it.
Specifically, on that note, for younger entrepreneurs, you have a huge advantage in just going out and doing it early. In my case, if everything went south, I could have just went back to college. I don’t have all these other responsibilities, where I don’t have to feed a family. I don’t have dependents, so I have a lot of flexibility in terms of time commitment and how risky I can, how many risks I can take. Definitely, I think if you’re young and if you have an idea, just go do it.
Also, a huge thing about young entrepreneurs is the fact that you have an unfair advantage when it comes to gaining access to influential people, because they want to help you. In Silicon Valley, it’s very unique, and I learned this very quickly, that a lot of people, when they see young people trying to do amazing things, they want to help you, they truly do. Take advantage of that, because as you get older, you’ll have less and less of those opportunities.
Also go into it with a mindset where this is not going to be an eighteen-month thing. Sure, you read about that all the time, where someone goes on Y Combinator, graduates and then they get acquired by Google for $10 million, $15 million. Sure, that happens from time to time, but you should expect to be doing this for the next four or five years of your life, at least.
Sort of a follow-on to that is when you have an idea, make sure you’re doing something that is really big. You don’t want to be selling product, you want to be selling dreams. When you go out, no matter what you do, whether you’re trying to build a $1 million company, or a $10 million company, or a $10 billion company, it’s always going to be hard. It’s always going to require 110% of your energy.
So you might as well go and spend that energy and time building a $10 billion company, because if you fail on a $10 billion company, that means you might end up with a $100 million company. An idea that could potentially be $10 billion, if you end up not fulfilling all that, you’ll have a $100 million company. But if you go and try to start an idea that the max potential of what it can do is 5 million, 10 million, if you mess up on that, there’s very little flexibility.
Matthew: Excellent. What are the next steps for WeGame?
Jared: I think we’ve actually, I’ve been doing this for four years now, but I think we’ve just begun. I think we’re entering an interesting paradigm shift, where a number of factors, including how digital is shifting and how commerce is shifting, I think that’s just the beginning. I think over the next five years, you’re going to see a lot of change in the way people use technology to influence their purchase decisions, and in our particular case it’s gaming.
Also, how they use technology to keep in touch, communicate with each other. We already see that with Facebook and all that, but I think the way people do it amongst gamers will change significantly. I think the road ahead of us is much longer than the road behind us. I think WeGame will probably, hopefully this is the plan, but we will be a very common name thrown around amongst gamers for the next couple of years.
Matthew: A lot of people admire entrepreneurs because they appear to make starting companies look easy. We know building a company is challenging. We want to dispel some of those myths. What skill or talent comes easy to you, and what’s been a challenge, and how have you managed that?
Jared: One thing I can say is starting is easy. Finishing is hard. It’s easy for a lot of people to start a company. Given the way that the angel investing environment is right now, it’s really easy to start a company and get funded. You see it every day, people are getting funded for, I mean, can you do 50K, whatever. I think one of the biggest challenges, though, I remember when I closed my seed round, and I was really excited. I had one of my advisers, I said, “I just closed a half a million bucks this season.” I felt awesome. He said, “Now it’s just the beginning.”
That was just really, really true. I think especially in the environment it is today, it’s extremely hard to find the top-notch people that I was sort of mentioning before, and competing, because it’s all about the people, competing against much larger companies to acquire that talent is an ongoing challenge.
Also just navigating, particularly in the environment where it is today, a lot of people get excited about, “I’ve just come up with an idea,” throw it out there and raise money, good to go. But they’re not looking at the long-term ramifications of that. You need to really think about the vision and the scientific market and what the revenue model is going to be. Sure you can go out and raise 100, 250K today, that’s great, but are you going to be able to get your following round? It gets harder.
Matthew: Before we close, I would love for you to give our audience your vision for WeGame and how you hope it will change the world.
Jared: I think, to sum up the vision, I hope we become the launch pad for all gamers’ experience, and really become the dominant gaming platform. I think, given the way we’re thinking about the market and opportunity, hopefully in the next three to five years, we’re going to become one of the biggest gaming companies in the world and not make a single game along the way.
Matthew: Excellent. We’re rooting for your success at WeGame. Jared, it’s been a pleasure having you as a guest on FounderLY. For those in our audience who’d like to learn more and register for free to become a member of the WeGame community and participate, you can visit them at www.wegame.com. This is Matthew Wise at FounderLY. Thanks so much, Jared.