8 Startup Things I learned from Austin Game Conference 2016

This year I was delighted to be asked to put together a panel for the 2016 Austin Game Conference.  It was a revival of an old conference that has been sorely missed in Austin.    My Panel, “Why your game company can’t get funded” was highly attended, and I think (hope) highly rated.  The slides are attached below.

However, one of the main reasons to participate in a conference isn’t to “preach” but to “learn”.  I learned a lot by going to this year’s #AGC16, here are 8 things I learned about startups.

1. Games need funding.  Not just game companies (which is what 3 of the 4 people on my panel talk about), but games themselves, small indy studios.  I’m so glad I had Mike Wilson of Gambitious on the panel to talk about how he supports indy games.  When I asked, almost the entire room was seeking funding for their game.  That’s like over 200 people!  Cool!  Gambitious can help!

2. Companies that help games are fundable.  There were several companies at AGC who were “supporting games”, and their business models are not hit-driven, since they make money when the game sells.  I had previously listed one such company here, but took it down due to their request to NOT say their pricing.  I’m disappointed at that, but have removed it to respect their wishes.  That said, I cannot recommend a company that is going to be obtuse about pricing… so I will not be recommending that company.

3. Companies around games, get acquired.  While at the show I stopped by the twitch booth, who was there?  Curse.  Apparently, Twitch bought Curse that week, really cool!

4. Big traction, even without great monetization, can lead to exits!  See the above point about Curse being bought by Twitch.  Twitch understands monetization, and Curse needed that help.  Smart buy Twitch, smart!

5. Huge ideas, get funding in a big way.  This was the first I was exposed to the company called MAGIC LEAP.  They are hiring in Austin, and I’m intrigued!  Some kind of stealth AR company, funded by Google, a $1B valuation.  Yep!  Big!

6. Great ideas need to be launched to become great.  I ran into an old friend, and they had to take a break from their startup.  As a result, their startup kinda stalled.  Fortunately, they are back at it, but it reminded me: unless and until you launch, you aren’t really doing it.  So DO IT!  Launch!

7. Not every company should do a conference.  There were a large number of booths with no point.  Not hiring, not fundraising, and frankly, looking a little bored.  If you are going to do a conference, have a reason!

8. A conference is a startup too! This one was a reboot of an old conference, but to me it really did feel like home.  All the old-school folks, and a lot of the new folks too, all making new connections and renewing old ties.  The venue was great, the A/V worked, and everything (especially the opening night party) was great.  The only part that was missed (for me) was water for the speakers… Chris promises me they’ll fix that next year!  All-in-all, a great start to a great conference, I hope it lasts for years to come!

Social Confusion, engineering explanation of social networks.

Recently, I attended a start-up meetup conference here in Austin Texas. It was a really useful conference, focused on learning and practical knowledge. As always Brett Hurt did a great job with the keynote. The one thing that became clear, almost as a theme for the day, is that most people don’t really understand social networking. Engineers in particular will quickly get lost in the quagmire, mainly because of lack of definition and lack of metrics. After hearing all the debate, I think I can explain at least part of the social confusion on new social media… in terms engineers might be able to make sense of.

First definitions:
Social Networks: Websites where users can communicate with other users. Includes Facebook, MySpace, Blogs, Forums, Twitter, LinkedIn, and almost any modern website with feedback tools.

Social Networking: the act of using Social Networks to some purpose, either personal or as a business.

Share of Voice: a metric (no standard units) that tries to measure how many people are talking about your company or product… especially on blogs and social networks.

Web 2.0: a useless term referring to “making a website capable of letting users talk to each other”… yes forums have been doing this since BBS, hence its silliness as a moniker.

Now what is all the hub-bub about? Three things simultaneously, that I will separate:

1. Social Networks (e.g. people who own the websites, and the vulture companies that surround them), are “possibly” making money because LOTS of people are using Social Networks today.

2. It may be profitable for Companies to “use” Social Networking to accomplish some goal(s). E.g. companies and individuals at companies should consider USING Social Networking, but only for some MEASURABLE GOAL… too many companies are using Social Networking with no goal other than to ‘advertise’. Hint: Google is probably better for ya’.

3. Companies need to beware and pay attention to Social Networks, because that is where much of the Share of Voice can be seen, and customers are talking about you there.

With this common language, you can see, its not really that BIG of a thing, unless you consider the fact that SO many people are using them.

So, get off your duff and listen up. Companies need to wise up and pay attention to social networks message for you and STOP trying to use them so much…its not working.

In other words, rather than focusing on only 1-aspect of social networks (how to ‘use’ them for increased sales/revenue directly, item #2 above), consider the other 2 aspects of social networks (1 and 3 above).. and pay attention to the conversation (example: a good community manager) and get a presence on these social networks for that purpose (1. participate). Trust me, people WANT to talk about you/your company, you just have to be there and be listening.

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