Monthly Archives: March 2012

5 Lessons From OMGPOP’s Huge ‘Draw Something’ Sale To Zynga


The obvious lesson from Zynga’s purchase of OMGPOP yesterday is that the games industry is still very much a hits-driven business. And when you’re the giant in the business and a small startup like OMGPOP has a smash hit, it’s easier to buy the hit than try to replicate it. That’s why Zynga was happy to part with up to $210 million, reportedly, for the New York-based studio.

But there’s more than meets the eye here. OMGPOP is a fascinating story in the life of a startup, with many lessons to learn here for entrepreneurs, developers, financiers, and dreamers.

1. App Store Overnight Success Is Real (And Unpredictable)

Draw Something’s meteoric rise to the top of the App Store charts is the sort you’d dream of. From its launch on Feb. 1, it started shooting up the charts, reaching no. 1 in about a month.

As OMGPOP CEO Dan Porter tweeted yesterday, “It took AOL 9 years to hit 1 million users. It took Facebook 9 months. It took Draw Something ~9 days.”

How did they do it? It wasn’t an original idea – drawing games have been around forever. Heck, the web version of “Draw Something” launched as “Draw My Thing” more than a year ago.

It just hit. “No one had any idea that this would take off, and no one knows why it did,” an OMGPOP investor told All Things D’s Peter Kafka.

And, by the way: When overnight success hits, brace for impact. Porter tells a good story of OMGPOP’s scaling challenge: “We had to move completely off of Amazon and host everything ourselves. As soon as we did that, our growth exploded again. Going from the 25th to the 1st most popular app was as much about performance as anything.”

2. You Can Fail 30 Times And Still Succeed

“Draw Something” wasn’t OMGPOP’s first game. Its website actually lists more than 30 game titles, from the 2007-vintage Tetris clone “Blockles” to 2008’s “Hamster Battle” (that one was pretty fun) to the “Jigsawce” puzzle game.

Similarly, “Angry Birds” was Rovio’s 52nd game. Today, four of the top 25 most popular paid iPhone apps are “Angry Birds” varieties.

In a hits-driven business like gaming, stamina is as important an asset as creativity. (And luck!) Be patient.

3. “Sell High”

It’s only been a day, and “Draw Something” has already been knocked off the no. 1 App Store spot by the new “Angry Birds Space” game. Who knows, the “Draw Something” craze could fade as quickly as it started.

So, sure, it’s possible that OMGPOP could have kept growing like “Angry Birds” parent Rovio and become a billion-dollar company someday. More likely, arguably, it could have raised a new round at a high valuation, lost momentum, and gone back to the drawing board.

After all these years of hustling and struggling, it’s no surprise that Porter and OMGPOP’s investors would have been thrilled to see a $200+ million exit. That is a lot of money with the power to change many peoples’ lives. Especially when the lights could have easily gone out by now. (Fortune’s Dan Primack has an interesting story of the company’s funding challenges: “The deal that saved OMGPOP.”)

Anyway, if you’re going to sell the company based on a hit, sell on the way up. Great timing for Dan Porter.

4. Startups Can Thrive Without Their Iconic Founders

In the New York tech community, OMGPOP was synonymous for years with its scenester founder, Charles Forman. (It was once a small scandal that Charles received so many demo slots at the monthly New York Tech Meetup.)

But Forman hasn’t been day-to-day at OMGPOP for a while: He’s been working on Picturelife, a photo sharing startup. Forman may have given OMGPOP its start, but Porter is the man now.

In most cases, it’s probably better for recruiting, public perception, and morale if the company’s founder is still an important employee. Digg remains a tough sell without Kevin Rose. (Rose, coincidentally, was one of the first OMGPOP investors.)

But it’s certainly possible to thrive without them.

5. Your First Idea Doesn’t Matter That Much

This is something you hear a lot, and it’s true: It’s not uncommon that the first idea you have for a company isn’t the one you see through. In the case of OMGPOP, gaming was actually the third idea.

“The beginning of the company itself was, in some sense, an accident,” Forman told Gawker in 2007. “I went alongside Dan Albritton to help him pitch his mobile business idea to Y Combinator as a favor to Dan. Within minutes of presenting, Paul Graham at Y Combinator told us that Dan’s idea wouldn’t work and that they weren’t interested. They were, however, interested in us, as people. Paul asked if we had any other ideas.”

That led to I’minlikewithyou, a sort-of auction-based dating site. And that eventually led to a pivot into social gaming, hiring Porter as CEO, and changing the company’s name to OMGPOP. And that was 3 years ago. It’s been a mostly tough slog since then.

Similarly, OMGPOP was all but married to Adobe’s Flash technology when it started to lose favor as Apple’s iOS platform took off. But even OMGPOP was able to shift off that platform and make its biggest hit – which ultimately sold the company – using a different technology platform. It’s important to be flexible.

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Forrest Gump

  • Forrest Gump: Will you marry me?
    [Jenny turns and looks at him]
    Forrest Gump: I’d make a good husband, Jenny.
    Jenny Curran: You would, Forrest.
    Forrest Gump: …But you won’t marry me.
    Jenny Curran: [sadly] … You don’t wanna marry me.
    Forrest Gump: Why don’t you love me, Jenny?
    [Jenny says nothing]
    Forrest Gump: I’m not a smart man… but I know what love is.
  • Forrest Gump: My momma always said, “Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”
  • Forrest Gump: You died on a Saturday morning. And I had you placed here under our tree. And I had that house of your father’s bulldozed to the ground. Momma always said dyin’ was a part of life. I sure wish it wasn’t. Little Forrest, he’s doing just fine. About to start school again soon. I make his breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day. I make sure he combs his hair and brushes his teeth every day. Teaching him how to play ping-pong. He’s really good. We fish a lot. And every night, we read a book. He’s so smart, Jenny. You’d be so proud of him. I am. He, uh, wrote a letter, and he says I can’t read it. I’m not supposed to, so I’ll just leave it here for you. Jenny, I don’t know if Momma was right or if, if it’s Lieutenant Dan. I don’t know if we each have a destiny, or if we’re all just floating around accidental-like on a breeze, but I, I think maybe it’s both. Maybe both is happening at the same time. I miss you, Jenny. If there’s anything you need, I won’t be far away.
Tagged

Lie to Me

  • “Sometimes we are meant to fall in love with someone we shouldn’t love or break up with someone we can’t break up with.” – Ki Joon
  • “She is sloppy, careless, and has many flaws here and there, but she is so honest and innocent like she‘s still a kid.” – Ki Joon
  • On the day I was supposed to meet your aunt, you were probably very angry that I didn’t keep my promise, right? I’m really very sorry. But I found what I’ve been looking for. It’s just like you said when you were here. Time has no end and leaves no sign. Space is infinite and leaves no mark. We met in one place and the two of us became one. And in that limitless space, I can meet you in mind and soul. What an unbelievable fate it was. What a beautiful miracle it was. I experienced that. And in the end, I’ve found my lost heart. Here at this museum where the past and the present constantly revolve around each other. Even though it took a long time, I now have the certainty that I can run to you. Thank you for waiting for me. And I love you.

Love and Marriage – Plato

What Is Love?

One day, Plato asked his teacher, “What is love? How can I find it?” His teacher answered, “There is a vast wheat field in front. Walk forward without turning back, and pick only one stalk. If you find the most magnificent stalk, then you have found love.”

Plato walked forward, and before long, he returned with empty hands, having picked nothing. His teacher asked, “Why did you not pick any stalk?” Plato answered, “Because I could only pick once, and yet I could not turn back. I did find the most magnificent stalk, but did not know if there were any better ones ahead, so I did not pick it. As I walked further, the stalks that I saw were not as good as the earlier one, so I did not pick any in the end.”

His teacher then said, “And that is love.”

What Is Marriage?

On another day, Plato asked his teacher, “What is marriage? How can I find it?” His teacher answered, “There is a thriving forest in front. Walk forward without turning back, and chop down only one tree. If you find the tallest tree, then you have found marriage.”

Plato walked forward, and before long, he returned with a tree. The tree was not thriving, and it was not tall either. It was only an ordinary tree. His teacher asked, “Why did you chop down such an ordinary tree?” Plato answered, “Because of my previous experience, I had walked through the field, but returned with empty hands. This time, I saw this tree, and I felt that it was not bad, so I chopped it down and brought it back. I did not want to miss the opportunity.”

His teacher then said, “And that is marriage.”

Work

  • The only easy day was yesterday. – Motto of the U.S. Navy SEALs

Life

  • The pursuit of happiness is the source of all unhappiness.
  • We’ll do foolish things, but do them with enthusiasm.
  • Never cross a river because it is 4 feet deep on average.
  • When you stop doing things for fun you might as well be dead. – Ernest Hemingway