My name is Charles Hudson and I’m CEO and Co-Founder of Bionic Panda Games. I’m also a Venture Partner at SoftTech VC, an early-stage venture capital firm based in Palo Alto, CA.
All startups need a strategy and a reason for being. When we started in early 2010, the landscape for games was changing. We were in the beginning of a shift in game developers targeting the Facebook platform to those targeting the mobile platform. And, at the time, the majority of the energy in mobile games was around the iOS platform, and specifically the iPhone. We didn’t think the world needed yet another mobile social games company focused on the iOS platform We wanted to build games on mobile that would have a differentiated story and strategy.
In early 2010, Android was still in its early days as a platform. We thought there were a few good reasons to target Android. While the original devices weren’t very good, we thought the market would move on from the early devices to better hardware. Given the number of manufactureres building devices, we thought the number of users and usage of Android would continue to grow. Last, while monetization lagged what we were hearing about on iOS, we thought that continued improvement in the Google Play store would allow us to close that gap. One of the great things about deciding to focus on Android is that it gave us an identity. We were “the Android guys”. In a world in which everyone else was focused on iOS, we were focused on something different. In a world of many games companies, it made it easy to understand why we were coming to work every day. We were going to be the guys who cracked the code on Android and we’d be there when the market for Android finally matured.
At the end of the day, platform choices really do matter. Platform choices determine what technology stack you’re going to use. That has obvious implications for who you hire and what skill sets you want to bring on to your team. There are other more sublte things to keep in mind. Platform choices determine what you’ll learn about distribution. Building and distributing applications for Android is not the same as iOS – there are different marketing channels, different tactics and techniques that work, and different things to optimize. Last, platform choices greatly influence how you design what you build. Whether you’re choosing between Android and iOS, tablet or phone, Fcaebook or the web, the underlying platform you choose will have major repercussions around how you design your app and what features you can leverage.
After about a year of being focused 100% on Android, we took a quick step back to look at how the company was doing. We saw two really obvious things. One, we were not able to monetize our Android users as well as we needed to build the kind of company we ultimately aspired to build. Second, we had released some social features for our core game and we were hearing a growing chorus of requests to make that game available to iOS users. After a few conversations, it was clear we would have to do something different going forward. We decided not to abandon Android entirely but to begin working on iOS as well.Do we go multi-platform or abandon everything we’ve done?Do we have the right team to succeed on these other platforms?Can we, as a small company, execute this strategy?What would happen if we stay with our current strategy?How long will it take to learn how to design, develop, and distribute on this new platform?
Making the Call on a Platform Pivot
The Platform Pivot Charles Hudson @chudson
Defining a Strategy@chudson Lean Startup Conference 2012
Focusing on Android@chudson Lean Startup Conference 2012