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USA 2014Video Coverage

Keith Katz is Ensuring Innovation | Casual Connect Video

August 26, 2014 — by Catherine Quinton

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“As an indie, I am a big believer that you are much better spending your limited funds in your testing phase while you are in soft launch as opposed to post global launch. The amount of money you’re going to be able to muster to spend on user acquisition post launch is not going to have a meaningful impact on your game’s performance, you’re much better getting everything tuned just right before you launch.”

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Keith Katz, Co-founder and Business Chief, Execution Labs

Keith Katz is the co-founder and business chief at Execution Labs, a company that exists to help game developers become entrepreneurs and realize creative independence. He oversees all aspects of business for Execution Labs and their game teams. He also has plenty of input into the games, something he finds great fun. He works to make sure all teams that go through the Execution Labs program are equipped to handle all the business functions of a small game studio. All the different experiences he has had during his career, including user acquisition, PR, business development, monetization, understanding player behavior, and running a startup, feed into the work he is doing today.

Leaving The Nest

Katz announces, with great pride, “Our first two spin-off studios are leaving the nest after releasing amazing games, raising follow-on funding, and beginning work on their next titles. It is incredibly gratifying to know I had a hand in enabling these new independent game studios.”

The greatest enjoyment Katz finds in the games industry comes from the people. Most of the people involved are very creative and passionate, which is not something he has found in other fields.

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The Double Stallion team is one of the first two game studios to spin out of Execution Labs and receive funding to make their next games.

The Distribution Challenge

A major challenge today, according to Katz, is distribution, as the industry shifts to digital delivery of games. On the app stores, he sees truly innovative games that could move the industry forward, but they are being suffocated by large publishers who can afford to spend money to stay in the top charts. He insists, “That’s not good for consumers or for the vast majority of game developers. I’m worried that Steam and other online PC platforms will fall into this pattern as well if we’re not careful.”

Give Your Teams a Chance

Execution Labs approaches the distribution problem from two related angles. First, they ensure their teams create innovative games that platform holders recognize as worth showcasing. Secondly, they maintain good relationships with their platform holders so their teams can get in front of them and have a chance to be featured. But Katz emphasizes, this is not a silver bullet, it just gives their teams a fighting chance. In his opinion, most indies don’t even have that.

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Shattered Planet by Kitfox games. KitFox Games is the second of the first game studios to come out of Execution Labs and receive funding for their next games.

Katz believes the next few years in the games industry will see more and more core gaming on tablets. He also thinks linking small devices to larger screens to get a console-like experience is coming soon. He says, “Often, our teams want to optimize for their tablet SKU, and we’re fine with this because we think core gamers will adopt this platform in greater and greater numbers over the coming months and years.” And he expects that there will be more premium titles on tablets as game developers realize free-to-play is not a fit for everyone and core gamers are willing to spend money for premium games on their tablets.

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Big Action Mega Fight, created by Double Stallion. Katz expects that there will be more premium titles on tablets.

For the first time, Katz is now playing more on tablet than on console or PC. He finds it so easy to pick up and play, and the games are getting better and better. For example, Hearthstone is so good, he can’t stop playing it, claiming it is fantastic and perfect on an iPad. And Civ is coming soon! But he doesn’t really see a need for a gaming-only box any longer, although he has owned consoles since his first Atari 2600. He hasn’t upgraded to the next gen systems yet; he is busy playing on his tablet and PC.

Katz never has enough time for all his hobbies, but he keeps collecting more. He loves to barbeque on his smoker and this year, he has been curing and smoking his own bacon. He also likes to brew beer. But he offsets these foodie hobbies with active ones: running, scuba diving, camping, hiking, and fishing. He describes himself as someone who is interested in a lot of things, and who could never be bored.

 

Video Coverage

Jeffrey Paine on Understanding Your Strengths | Casual Connect Video

May 22, 2013 — by Catherine Quinton

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Jeffrey Paine, founding partner of Golden Gate Ventures, an early stage technology incubator based in Singapore, tells us that the more they travel in a region, the more they understand why entrepreneurs do what they do. There are plenty of local problems to solve, and often a start-up company doesn’t want to solve huge global problems, but rather their smaller local problems that their communities are passionate about.

There are plenty of local problems to solve

Jeffrey works to help with these local issues with certain network practices that Singapore and Silicon Valley bring that can help start-ups get to market faster and become more efficient. Then it’s about putting that network together.

Challenges in Entrepreneurship

Jeffrey Paine
Jeffrey Paine

In the past three years, Jeffrey has trained approximately thirty entrepreneurs each year. Watching these companies grow, mature and raise money gives him great satisfaction. Working with someone who has an idea and wants to build a company, and then seeing it succeed is what he enjoys most. Of course, entrepreneurs have their own set of challenges. “They have to be good at everything, but that is impossible,” Jeffrey says. “No one can be good at everything, especially when you don’t have money or the people you need.” Jeffrey can show them what other companies are doing and introduce them to the networks in their own country. This is more likely to be of use than advice from a foreigner.

The most important advice Jeffrey has for an entrepreneur starting out is, “Know what you are good at. Analyze your strengths. As a start-up, you are at a disadvantage. In a competitive space there will be people who are better or faster or work harder than you. You need every advantage you can get to excel and stand out. The only way to do that is to really understand what you are good at, and not many people know what they are good or not good at.

Analyze your strengths. As a start-up, you are at a disadvantage.

Once you understand that, you can then determine what kind of company you want, what products you should build, which customers you should sell to, what industry you are passionate about, and what problems you must solve.” A lot of entrepreneurs start a company, finding it easy and cheap to start. But Jeffrey insists they should slow down and understand themselves first.

His second advice is to work hard on your idea initially. “Jumping into the start-up and doing customer development is a waste of time if your idea is not good in the first place. So you should spend more time on idea generation and improving ideas before you do anything else.”

Choosing Good People

For Jeffrey, the greatest challenge was learning to read people, which is essential to choosing a good person to hire, partner with, or co-found a company with. “You can do some things by yourself, but not everything by yourself,” he says. If you choose the wrong partner, there are going to be lots of problems.”

You can do some things by yourself, but not everything by yourself

With time, he has become more sensitive to recognizing whether a person will be the right fit. He goes 80 percent on gut feeling and 20 percent on reference checks. And he points out, “There are so many people in the world; why entertain, even for a moment, someone who just doesn’t fit? I’d rather do it on my own than with someone who is only 80 percent right.”

He believes the ecosystem has helped him in his career as well. He meets with a lot of people, making a large network with a lot of data collection. As a result, he has a sort of pattern recognition and can easily understand what will or will not work. This is a great help in selecting founders, teams and products.

Jeffrey enjoys the work he does at Golden Gate Ventures, which invests in early stage start-up companies in Southeast Asia. They focus on consumer internet mobile games infrastructure, such as payments and service for small to medium companies. As well as providing capital, they bring in other investors. With their strong ties to Silicon Valley, they can also help with launch in the US, and can facilitate discussions with the big internet companies in the Bay Area. Another important characteristic of Golden Gate is that they help as a firm, so they will all help a company, rather than assigning it to one partner. Generally, they help with product, user experience and marketing. They can also assist with foreign financing, exits and facilitating a sale if these are needed. Recruiting has also become a major component of what they do, as well as introductions to partners, customers and advisors to help you get to market faster.

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