How the world communicates changed when gifs disrupted social media. Giphy was founded in 2013 by Alex Chung, who is also CEO. The idea first came about when Chung met up with a friend at a bar, and the conversation led to the discussing the limitations of language. Chung was a Philosophy major and he’s an artist. So, this kind of conversation was normal.
Chung is no stranger to building startups. Before Giphy, he started 12 other companies. After he and his friend agreed that a moving image was better than words, Chung began creating the popular site the world goes to for pulling gifs to express various emotions from excitement to annoyance. Today, the site gets over 150 million unique visitors. The company has also grown to 60 employees. Giphy recently raised $72 million in funding, which in total amounts to $150 million since the start and a valuation of $600 million.
With all the success in such a short amount of time, it’s surprising that Giphy is bringing in revenue. MillionaireMatch got the scoop on what Giphy plans to do.
“All of our funds are into accelerating the growth. We are in a pre-revenue growth phase. Ultimately we are going to make money. We have a revenue plan in place. We have been thinking about it since day one. One of the reasons is getting the license deals,” Chung explained. Giphy has been building relationships to gain those licenses to create gifs for all the major awards, such as the Oscars, VMAs, and the Emmys. If you’ve ever scrolled through social media while an award show was live, you will notice almost immediately gifs of some really captivating moments. That’s all due to Giphy. “We have deals with the Oscars, and most of the major events going on. We have an entire team of editors on the east and west coast that sit, and make these moments official for our partners. Everyday we have events that we are the curators of that event. We are helping all the partners that want gifs for those events,” Chung said. Eighty percent of gifts come from pop culture. “We do pretty much every movie that is out there,” Chung continued.
Giphy is not only a cool site to go to, but it also seems like a great place to work. Chung has incorporated a few things that make the culture at Giphy great. Chung keeps every new hire for at least a year, unless they decide to quit. The staff has a free lunch, and every Friday gets to enjoy some adult beverages at a local spot. He also had an interesting observation about being a CEO. “Being the CEO or founder, is one of the worst things you can do. It’s like...you just want to make things. My first job is to make sure that everyone that works with me is happy, and that they are doing things. You have so much responsibility. There’s parts of me that just want to make things all day. That’s the difference in being an artist and being in business,” Chung said.
We are sure there are some benefits to being CEO, but Chung did want to give advice to the entrepreneur on the grind. “I’ve probably spent a quarter of my life working alone, looking at a screen with a bunch of words in front of me. You can’t like going out doing things all the time, or you wouldn’t make anything. You have this dichotomy of people who like to be alone to create, and the need to go out to meet people and show them your work,” he said.
So, what’s next for Giphy? “In the next few years, you’ll see it become more mass popular,” said Chung. “The giph space is still small. Most of the world still doesn’t know what a gif is. There’s room enough for everyone to be part of the gif space. We always try to do our best to work with anyone in the gif space,” Chung said.
Well, if you are one of those people who have been living under a rock, go to www.giphy.com and find the gif that suits you!
The gaming industry claimed $91 billion of revenue in 2016. Kabam definitely helped that number. The mobile gaming company launched in 2006 and was founded by Kevin Chou, Michael Li, and Holly Liu. Kabam has created hit games such as Edge World, Dragons of Atlantis, Kingdoms of Camelot and Marvel Contest of Champions that brought in over $350 million. The company was making about $400 million in annual revenue before making an exit. Liu, who attended UCLA and University of California at Berkeley, started as the company’s designer. MillionaireMatch got the scoop on Liu’s journey of taking Kabam from no money to $400 million.
“We have some of the highest quality games right in your pocket,” said Liu. “Our largest game is Marvel Contest of Champions. That game has over 50 million installs, and it has been our fastest growing franchise. Within seven months, it grossed over $100 million dollars. That’s only in the western world,” she said. Kabam has four development studios across the world - Beijing, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Vancouver as well as over 800 employees. Recently, the Vancouver studio sold for $800 million to Netmarble. Though Kabam grew to success, it was a rocky road.
“One of the most important lessons we learned was go where the users are,” Liu said regarding growth. “I think ultimately you can’t impact the world if no one is using your product. That was another lesson I learned really quickly. I thought that once I launched a product, I didn’t even think about marketing,” Liu explained. “When a platform is kinda growing, you can do a lot of paid acquisition to get what your money is worth. As a platform is maturing, you have to look at other things like PR, organic growth, and guerilla marketing. Focusing just on revenue sometimes can be very shortsighted. We look at games as a service. We started to think what does it mean to be a service type business. We focus on our regulars,” Liu continued.
She learned even more once she relocated to Beijing to set up that office which has over 150 employees. “We learned very quickly that acquiring users [in China] looked very different from the western market. Android is very big, but Google is blocked. They have a ton of app stores. Partnerships and influencers are very important there,” she said. Kabam has partnered with Hollywood celebrities and brands like The Hunger Games to help grow the brand.
Liu says one of the important principals she follows is the 95% execution vs 5% idea rule. She believes in having a great idea and executing relentlessly including having a strong founding team and marketing strategy.
If she could offer advice to an entrepreneur looking to launch in the gaming industry, she advises against getting investors. “I think in this environment, I would caution against raising money. Particularly from venture capital because they expect a 10x return. I think that if you can bootstrap that would be wonderful. The gaming companies that do raise money they tend to operate games,” she said.
If you haven’t joined this gaming brand, get more information at www.kabam.com
Shared rides and carpooling are the way many people are choosing to commute. Waze, founded in 2007 by Ehud Shabtai, Amir Shinar, and Uri Levine, changed the way we use navigation by cutting down the time of daily travel. In major cities like Los Angeles and New York, traffic can be a major problem. Well, Waze just may have the solution with its new addition of carpooling services.
MillionaireMatch wanted to know how a commuters daily life could be improved by using this service. CEO of Waze, Noam Bardin, got a full look on how the service could make a commuter’s life a little bit better.
Waze was acquired in 2013 by Google, and now boasts about 80 million users. The app shares real time traffic updates like oncoming accidents, police hubs or even hazardous alerts. With such success, what could Waze’s carpooling add? “I want to service people going to their factory everyday to work, and saving money not having to drive everyday. I want to give them a way to work,” Bardin said speaking on the community of people he knows this will help. With the carpooling option, the driver gets to even make money. Bardin did say it would be a job option like driving for Lyft or Uber. “Our services are designed specifically so that it can not be your job. We are not paying more than 54 cents a mile. Which is the blended cost of driving a cost. So you are sharing the cost with the drivers. You aren’t creating a profit for the driver,” he explained. Drivers would have a limit of two drives a day that they could carpool and make money.
As a rider, there will also be benefits to taking the carpool. “What we see happening with carpoolers, it ends up being four or five people that more or less live next to you and work in the same area. You actually begin building this micro-community of people that you know,” Bardin said. Bardin believes this will become a way of the world with less and less people owning cars. “Most part of the world, especially in America where there is no public transportation, the cost of owning or renting a car is very, very significant. It’s a very expensive part of your disposable income. That’s the core demographic we want to go to. There aren’t too many times in life you can help someone out without there being much of a hassle. Waze allows people to help out other people. You can save the world without too much hassle, and make a little money while doing it,” Bardin said.
On being acquired by Google, we were curious as to the wonderful benefits of having them back Waze. “When we launched our product, it was terrible. It literally didn’t work. But we had no choice. That’s all we had. That was our product. We had to make it work,” he explained about before the acquisition. “We stumbled through making this thing work. I think that also the risk you see when you have a situation like Google is that you can take the time. You don’t have that external pressure. That external pressure is also very good,” he said. “That pressure about having to raise money, it’s a focusing function and it makes you roll out faster,” he continued.
Everyone may not agree with Bardin that the world will purchase less vehicles and option for carpooling, but we can all agree on one thing he said. “Traffic is everyone’s enemy,” he said. To learn more about Waze’s carpooling, visit www.waze.com.
Every woman has had the experience of missing phone calls, because her phone was tucked away in a pocket of her purse. What if you could get phone alerts without looking at your phone? What if it came in the form of jewelry? Well, Christina Mercando, CEO of Ringly, had the right thought when she created smart jewelry.
Most of us are familiar with the Apple Watch, but Ringly presents beautiful rings and bracelets that alert you just the same. MillionaireMatch got the scoop on why Mercando created a new lane in wearable technology.
“For me, I wanted to solve a problem I had in my own life. For women, we don’t keep our phones in our pockets. I wanted something to subtly let me know what was going on without having to pull out my phone and always check my phone. There weren’t a lot of options out there for women when it came to wearable tech. A lot of the devices felt a little gadgety, and made to be unisex. I believe the future of wearables isn’t going to be a one size fits all device,” Mercando said.
Ringly rings come in different colors to fit any woman’s personal style. “We believe that the intersection of fashion and tech is where the magic happens,” Mercando said. In 2014, wearable technology became the new trend. With Apple Watches and Google Glasses on the market, it seemed to be the right time to launch a smart jewelry line. Mercando sees Ringly as being a bit different. “We see it less as wearable technology, and more as fashionable technology. In order to create great products, you need both style and utility,” she said.
Mercando didn’t reach success alone. “Highway1 has been great in teaching us in how to take our prototypes to mass production,” she said. Highway1 is the premier hardware accelerator for startups. Mercando admitted she had no experience with hardware, before applying to Highway1. Once they were able to get their product out there, they hit another fork in the road that led them to create the bracelet.
“We started out as a notification device, but we got a lot of feedback from customers saying they now have to wear two devices, the fitness tracker and Ringly. They wanted it all in one. So, with with the bracelet launch we decided to put it all in one,” Mercando said. Now, customers can track their steps and fitness goals from one device.
Mercando is one of the few women who has created a startup that is venture backed. We wondered was it hard landing funding. “I think the challenge is more so that our product is focused on women. A lot of the VCs out there today, tend to be men. You have to do more explaining on the market, and what the product is why people would want to use it as opposed to pitching to women who get it,” she explained.
With funding, not only has the brand included the bracelets, but will soon be offering smart jewelry that acts very similar to Apple Pay. You can pay for items right from your ring or bracelet. Mercando is also considering creating pieces for men.
Currently, jewelry pieces range from $195-$260 and can be found at major upscale stores such as Bloomingdales and Shopbop. To get your smart jewelry or learn more about Ringly, check out www.ringly.com.
Mike Maples, Jr. is a managing partner at Floodgate, a venture capital firm that has invested in many tech companies that we love today. To name a few, Floodgate has invested in Twitter, Lyft, Taskrabbit, Weebly, Refinery29, and more. To date, their investments have reached over a market value of over $30 billion. Maples, who graduated from both Stanford University and Harvard Business School, co-founded Floodgate after starting Maples Investments.
MillionaireMatch was curious to know how Maples could identify a company worth investing in, and what disappointments he has experienced. We first wanted to know what was an investment he had no idea would take off the way it did. “Twitter. It just took off. There was that time that the person tweeted that they were in prison in Egypt. Then the time they went on to the Oprah show. People started to know about it. Never in my wildest dreams I would think that Twitter would be spread across my television all the time,” Maples said. No surprise here. We were also curious as to what companies he passed on that he regrets. His answer? Airbnb. “It’s the investment that mocks you if you pass,” he said. After a pitch meeting that included two cereal boxes to represent former president Barack Obama and Senator John McCain, Maples decided to pass. He admits seeing there was something there, but didn’t think it would become what we know it to be now.
Maples also has a tradition on companies he didn’t invest in. “When we pass on a deal that wounds up doing really well, I take the owner to dinner. Wildfire [Interactive] got bought by Google. I call up Victoria Ransom and said, “Hey, I’m taking you to lunch.” He told her he was an idiot to pass. Zynga was another company he decided to pass on. “I didn’t think Mark Pincus was a gaming guy,” he explained.
So what does Maples look for? “I’m not interested in companies that are just doing a startup, but companies that are doing something hyper exceptional,” he said. “I like authenticity. We invested in a company called ModCloth. Susan Cover has been thrifting since she was 13. We just like the entrepreneur who has authentic voice for what they are doing,” Maples continued. “Out of 10,000 companies that get started a year, only about 15 truly matter. The venture capitalist has to be one of the few people who has to routinely find a way into those 15 companies. If you find your way into those 15 companies, you will eventually make money. If you don’t, you just are one of the majority of losers who will not make money,” he said.
It’s clear that Maples loves his job, and he loves the companies that he has invested in. Maples is known for his coined phrase “Thunder Lizards.” “I always thought that the thunder lizard was a good metaphor for a disruptive startup. When people ask me what my job is, I say I hunt thunder lizards,” he explained. “I only want to work with people who have those thunder lizard ambitions,” said Maples.
Many VCs talk about the importance of genuinely liking the founders of the companies they invest in. Maples explained what he looks for, not just in the company itself, but qualities of the founders. “A visionary entrepreneur. Huge potential market. Fundamental advantage. Modest capital requirements to prove the idea. The visionary entrepreneur has to do with authenticity for the idea. I like people who are non-consensus and right. That’s the first thing I look for,” he said. If they hold those qualities, he can give them the guidance that they need. “Sometimes what founders need is for someone to say, you got this. It sucks right now, but you got this. I’ve seen it before. I’ve seen it worse than this. Your company is freaking awesome, and we are going to win,” he said.
Maples does warn about founders falling into the trap of looking at the competition. “The fundamental advantage is where I see a lot of startups trip up. Capitalism and competition aren’t synonyms. They’re opposites in my view. A real capitalist is someone who figures out ways to avoid competing,” Maples said. He continued, “Don’t be the best, be the only one. I call that the Jerry Garcia law of capitalism.”
For more information on Floodgate, check them out online at www.floodgate.com.