Mark Jessup and Lane Daughtry worked as “cogs” in the Seattle gaming industry for years. Now, the two developers are stepping out on their own with TinkerHouse Games, a three-month-old mobile gaming startup.
“Digital distribution has made it easier than ever before to actualize the entrepreneurial urge,” notes Jessup, who previously worked at Wizards of the Coast. “If you know how to make a game and bring it to market — as many longtime veterans do — you don’t need to be a tiny cog in a big company to sell your wares anymore.”
At TinkerHouse, the entrepreneurial duo are planning to roll out a variety of mobile games. Their first title, Current, received critical acclaim. And now the developers have two more titles set to release later this month, a kid’s app and a pop culture app designed specifically for the guys at Penny Arcade. (We are looking forward to seeing that).
Here’s more from Jessup in our latest installment of Startup Spotlight.
Explain what you do so our moms can understand it: “We make mobile games for the iOS and Android platforms. Or to be really clear for our moms out there: You know those games you play on your phones? Well, your sons are making those now.”
Inspiration hit us when: “We realized everything we knew how to do and had been doing over the last 15 years for our respective corporate masters was exactly what was needed to go directly into business for ourselves in what is arguably the best deal in digital distribution.”
VC, Angel or Bootstrap: Bootstrap for now. That seems to be a pretty common refrain around Seattle these days, but that’s not always a bad thing. As many other Spotlighters have remarked before, bootstrapping forces you to figure out your monetization strategy immediately. So if you can do that and stand on your own two feet, it puts you in a much better position if and when you start looking for outside funding. (The stench of desperation is never a strong negotiating platform.)”
Our ‘secret sauce’ is: “Our sauce isn’t really a secret, but it has been crucial for us starting out: we have a strong professional network of friends and allies. We’re both guys who came from long stints in corporate America and have created diverse networks of talented, dependable people. If you have that going for you, you don’t need a big core team on staff and can remain remarkably agile in your scope and execution.”
The smartest move we’ve made so far: “Playing to our individual strengths and being honest about our limitations. In other words, we hired a project manager.”
The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: “The way we initially monetized our first game confused our customers. And believe it or not, that’s not a good thing. Key takeaway: keep it simple and don’t over think your offer.”
Would you rather have Gates, Jobs, Zuckerberg or Bezos in your corner: “Well, this is a really easy one: Gates, of course. It would drive Jobs crazy. The reverse psychology would totally play to our favor. They would be throwing feature status our way on every app.”
Our world domination strategy starts when: “We finally have enough money in the bank to fund our dream projects without fear of tanking the company.”
Rivals should fear us because: “Honestly, the only rivalries we have are on the shuffleboard table. And then you should fear us because Lane has pinpoint placement and I can bellow like a madman. Truth be told, there are so many other people in this marketplace, it’s better to just embrace the camaraderie of your shared plight.”
We are truly unique because: “We never fool ourselves into thinking that we’re truly unique. We know it’s a competitive industry that we’ve chosen to do business in. But we also believe we’re well-positioned to succeed because we have the experience and professional connections necessary to stand out when it matters.”
The biggest hurdle we’ve overcome is: “Taking The Big Leap. Stepping out of the airlock. Catapulting ourselves out of the compound. However you want to say: ‘We left the steady paycheck for a world of uncertainty and adventure,’ that has to be our biggest hurdle overcome to date.”
What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: “Don’t swing at every pitch. We did that early on and ended up completely over-extended in terms of commitments and potential business dealings. Know what you’re about and where you want to go and stay the course. If something is correctly aligned with your goals, it may require stretching but it won’t feel like breaking.”
Startup Spotlight is an occasional look at a Seattle area startup company. Have an interesting new venture you want spotlighted in GeekWire? Fill out the questions above, send a couple photos of the founder(s) and company logo to firstname.lastname@example.org. Past profiles can be found here.