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!

Presenting at Austin GDC 2009, and why Engineers should be Experts.

Last week I had the honor of presenting at Austin Game Developers Conference (GDC) 2009. Out of hundreds of idea submissions many months ago, I was chose to present to game developers on the topic: Lag, The Barrier to Innovation. My presentation was recorded and the slides can be seen/downloaded here. I’ll post the audio as soon as its available. Not only was it great fun to present to AGDC 2009, it was extremely fruitful. Engineers take note: you should become known as ‘the guy who knows x’ (or some might say, ‘the expert in x’)… it can only help you. In fact, the axiom I tend to follow is: helping others helps yourself.

It wasn’t easy to be selected to speak. It took me 4 years of trying. I began submitting ideas to speak at Austin GDC in 2004 (for GDC 2005). At first I just submitted 1 presentation topic. What I learned though is that submitting more than one presentation topic (even if they were related), would allow the selection committee to pick the best, rather than decide ‘if’ I should present. Once that was known, my task was to get others (selection committee and generally others in the industry) to believe I was a.) an authority on a subject, and b.) a good speaker. So, starting in 2005, I began speaking at smaller conferences, whenever I could. Especially so if they were in my home town of Austin. I also took an active role in my field, developing white papers and commentary on the subject (in my case Lag). I eventually developed friendships with many in the industry and people knew me as an ‘exuberant’ speaker. While I’d still love to speak at GDC in San Francisco, I’m happy to have gotten to speak at Austin GDC in 2009. Thanks again to the Selection Committee for choosing me to present, it was a blast and an honor.

Here is why you should become a speaker as well:

1.) Its good to give back. If you have gained knowledge through study, research, development, and pain… giving back and helping others to NOT have as much pain, feels good, and is generally good for the community.

2.) Build your network! Without exception, whenever I speak, a line of very interested (and interesting) people form to have a quick chat and exchange business cards. If nothing else, you’ve got a few new LinkedIn contacts! Sometimes, as with all networking, great things will come in the future from these connections.

3.) Build your cachet. It does not hurt your personal reputation to be the guy who has spoken at XYZ conference. In fact it helps it. Even if your company has NOTHING to benefit from you speaking, do it anyways for your own career future.

There are more reasons of course, including pride, the fun to wear a ‘speaker’ badge, specific company goals, the cool speaker gifts (this year at GDC Austin 2009, we were given a nice glass with GDC Austin 2009 Speaker on it, and a REALLY cool ice-tray with space invaders on it!)…. the list goes on.

A few general thoughts from the show: it was much smaller than last year (THANK GOODNESS)… being smaller it felt less corporate, and more about the developers. It was JUST the right size. The presentations were all EXCELLENT (at least all that I saw)… even Tuesday’s Casual Games Summit was well done… awesome even. The Chotsky was weak. (nobody gave out anything cool I could see, got a T-Shirt and a pack of cards… but it’s not really the point of the show). I missed the free beer… not sure they did that or not, but they should do that every day. SODA POP SHOULD Be CHEAPER. That’s about it. My 2 key learnings were: Over 13,000 Servers to run WoW!!!! and a Viral Coefficient is a way to measure how viral something is:

Viral Coefficient
Vk = V1 x V2 x V3
(building successful apps)
V1 = % of users doing invite over a period.
V2 = Potency (how many invites per user)
V3 = % of people who try based on the invites.

V2 = most important acoording to Facebook…
I have a different view.