Monday, September 24, 2012/
In just two years, the founder of Mention Mobile has partnered with an Emmy winner, secured funds from a billionaire and teamed up with a major games publisher.
Ryan Ozonian is president and chief executive of Mention Mobile, which develops social gaming apps. Ozonian founded the company with Emmy winner Kory Jones.
Jones has almost 15 years of experience in entertainment, revolutionising live sporting event graphics for FOX, CBS, ESPN and other television networks.
In addition to securing multiple investments from Mark Cuban, who owns Landmark Theatres and Magnolia Pictures, Mention Mobile recently teamed up with games publisher Chillingo.
Ozonian talks to StartupSmart about how he did it.
What prompted you to launch Mention Mobile? What niche did you identify?
I was working with a small company making Facebook games when mobile gaming was starting to catch fire. I knew that social games would move to mobile quickly.
I had a lot of great concepts for how mobile connectivity could make games even more social than they were on the web. I put my ideas on paper, left the company I was at and went for it.
How did you fund the business?
In the beginning, I used my own money and savings to fund the development of some small test games. I then met my partner, Kory Jones, who invested around $25,000 to help get the company off the ground.
I also secured a $10,000 private investment in exchange for a partial revenue share position in our first game Trivia Friends.
Building games is not cheap so we had to keep a close eye on the budget and build something simple yet innovative.
With our first game, Trivia Friends, we were able to stay within budget while still creating something unlike anything out there.
Since then, we have secured close to a million dollars in private funding for our upcoming titles.
How do you promote the business?
The mobile app space is a tough arena to gain exposure in, especially for smaller companies that do not have a significant amount of money to spend on marketing.
Because of that, we have formed strategic publishing partnerships with companies like EA’s Chillingo and CAA’s Moonshark to help launch some of our titles.
How many staff do you have?
We currently have seven employees.
What are your revenue projections for 2012/13?
We are not currently releasing our projections to the public. However, I can say that we are expecting our upcoming titles to do very well.
You’ve secured multiple investments from billionaire Mark Cuban. How did you do this?
I put together a very nice packet with all of my concepts in it, I proved that I could execute on a product that people liked, and I created a roadmap for how I would make this company successful.
Once I had those pieces in place, I went out to find funding.
Mark was one of the first people I pitched after reading one of his blog posts and watching a CNN segment where he openly gave out his email address to entrepreneurs looking for funding.
I pitched to him, he liked our direction and creativity, we negotiated, and that was that. While that may sound simple, it was not nearly as easy as it sounds.
The work put in prior to pitching to any investor is the most difficult and most important work you can do when trying to get a start-up off the ground.
How did you team up with Chillingo?
We spent the first few months of 2012 developing a very unique and innovative game called Word Derby.
We fell in love with the game once we had the prototype finished. It worked even better in action than it sounded on paper.
We knew we wanted mass exposure for this game so we began pitching it to the big publishers. After the pitching stage, we had a lot of interest and many offers but Chillingo was the best fit for this game in particular.
Their reputation for creating great quality games is impeccable. With a track record of games like Angry Birds, Cut The Rope and Feed Me Oil, it’s obvious that they know how to publish a successful game and it would have been difficult to walk away from their offer.
Since completing the deal we have worked closely with Chillingo to make Word Derby stand out and we are confident it will.
Is there anything you would have done differently?
Absolutely not. I’m proud of where we are, given the fact that it’s been less than a year since being funded by Mark.
We are in a good spot and expect great things in the coming months. There is still a lot of work to do, but we won’t settle until we’ve made our mark in this space.
What’s the biggest risk you face?
With Word Derby, we are launching a turn-based game with a special multiplayer component that we haven’t seen before in any asynchronous mobile game.
It’s always risky to do something completely new but we are confident it will pay off in a big way.
What advice would you give to other young entrepreneurs?
Focus on one thing at a time. I talk to a lot of aspiring entrepreneurs who have their hands in too many ideas or multiple start-ups at once.
That can often get distracting and I think focusing on one idea or one company, sticking with it and believing in it will often have a better result in the end.
By having the focus on one project, it should consume your every thought, and the second you don’t believe in what you are doing is the second it’s time to hang it up and move on.
It’s also important to talk to other entrepreneurs and get advice before you attempt to start sprinting. Reach out to multiple people you admire and take in their advice.
Most entrepreneurs like to help others trying to follow in their path so don’t be afraid to reach out and take someone to lunch. It may be the breakthrough you need to get your start-up going.
The best advice I ever got when first starting out was to take every meeting because you never know what might happen.
If I had never taken the lunch with Kory Jones, Mention Mobile may have never started.