There’s plenty of data in mobile technology and games, but the mobile games world struggles to translate it into insightful knowledge. Microsoft and Razorfish marketing vet Kevin Urie is hoping to change that.
Urie has just started a new role as the managing director of newly created Screenzilla Entertainment, GeekWire has learned. The game publisher was founded by Lance Priebe — the co-creator of popular video game “Club Penguin,” which sold to Disney for $700 million in 2007 — and sister company to Priebe’s game studio Hyper Hippo Games.
Urie, who joined Hyper Hippo as head of marketing in 2016, said much of the game industry struggles to effectively market and support games, despite a wealth of data.
“It really hasn’t changed much since book publishing,” Urie said. “This space is ripe for innovation. With the amount of data in mobile and in gaming — it’s just not being taken advantage of.”
The games industry is made up of studios, who develop the games, and publishers, who bring them to market and get them in front of users. Urie said Screenzilla wants to break the mold of traditional game publishing and take advantage of new technology that is being used elsewhere.
“In mobile gaming, the ad tech is just so far behind. Everything is done on a cost per install blind bid, so we want to create a database so we can understand consumers better and optimize the game and market to them better,” he said.
Urie also said the company is making a bet on Facebook Instant Games, a project still in beta. Facebook — and publishers like Screenzilla — are hoping to get the same kind of traction on native games in the U.S. that Asian markets have seen in apps like Whatsapp and Wechat.
“They’ve been trying to break into the gaming space for a while and we’re looking forward to working with them,” Urie said.
The company will officially launch later this year, but has already begun working on two games: “Tap Cats” — a mobile card battle game from Vancouver, B.C., based Kemojo Studios — and “Epic Snails”, a PC game billed as a next-gen tank game and developed by game maker RocketSnails.
Screenzilla currently has 10 employees and is based in Kelowna, B.C., a scenic town in the Cascade mountains four hours east of Vancouver, and north of Chelan, Wash. Priebe is from Kelowna and founded Club Penguin there — the town still has a Disney office and is also home to Hyper Hippo. Urie is based in Seattle.
— Microsoft’s Cortana voice assistant is under new management. Entrepreneur and Microsoft executive Javier Soltero has taken on a new role leading the division, according to his LinkedIn profile. The new role was first spotted by Axios, which reported that Soltero will report directly to Microsoft’s head of AI and research, Harry Shum.
Soltero joined Microsoft in 2014 when the company bought his startup Accompli. He went on to serve as the general manager of Outlook Mobile and later as a CVP in Outlook and Office.
He is now leading the team behind Cortana, Microsoft’s AI-powered voice assistant. The service has struggled to gain traction outside of Microsoft products like the Xbox because of competition from more ubiquitous voice assistants, namely Amazon’s Alexa, the Google Assistant and Apple’s Siri.
Soltero now has a chance to shake up the service and try to make it more appealing to consumers and developers.
Baird joins Outreach from digital health company Livongo Health, where she served as the company’s chief finance officer. Her previous roles include CFO and president of marketing company RadiumOne and CFO and head of operations at marketing company SAY Media. Baird will remain in the San Francisco area in her new role, according to her LinkedIn profile.
Zinne, based in Seattle, joins Outreach from customer engagement software provider Zendesk, where he was VP of customer experience. He has previously held VP positions at cloud treasury solutions company Kyriba, Oracle and customer solutions company RightNow Technologies.
“Like most startups, a major key to our success has been — and continues to be — finding the right people to join our team, challenge us and ultimately propel us forward,” Outreach CEO Manny Medina said in a press release. “These hires represent the best of the best in terms of experience, skill set and a deep understanding of what it takes to strategically grow. We are excited to welcome Anna and Mike to Outreach.”
Keszler boasts more than 30 years of experience in the finance and travel industry. She held multiple senior vice president roles at Sabre Travel Network and served as the president of business solutions company GetThere and later of travel giant Travelocity.
Rajian is currently the executive vice president of global travel and tourism tech company Amadeus. Rajian has also held several senior executive roles at Sabre Travel Networks.
“We are extremely fortunate to be adding Ellen and Rajiv, both widely regarded as thought leaders in the travel industry, to our Board of Directors,” Yapta President and CEO James Filsinger said in a press release. “Each of them brings an accomplished perspective, a wealth of knowledge, and the influence to open doors and minds.”