I went to our facebook group which is followed by VCs and entrepreneurs and asked the question: who raised over 1M in the last couple of years. What I got back was one single question: what currency? (probably came from an engineer)
So I clarified broadly: £, €, $, CHF. Not Forints, Czech Crowns, Zloties, etc.
Then one guy said: I could list a few deals…but he didn’t… maybe he’s still counting. Not one single answer!
Then I went to Quora and listed the same question: absolutely no response (still)!
I posted this question on linkedin, too. Nothing…one guy recommended that I contact my local venture capital association but that doesn’t count – we have more consultants here than entrepreneurs, that’s clear…
… I sat down with Juraj Chrappa the other day in their office at Techsquare in Prague. He runs a game development startup called Lonely Sock. I think his story is highly relevant…and no: they were not inspired by early Red Hot Chilly Peppers shows.
Lonely Sock focuses on the mobile, social, freemium games category, going after so called casual gamers.
Juraj is a well rounded entrepreneur who has been focused on games since the beginning. He started out by launching a game protal in Slovakia, did an interesting gig at Ringier covering mobile content for multiple countries and he joined Electronic Arts where he stayed for 4 years. Last year he had the itch to start his own company, so he went ahead and quit without any future prospects, practically running on blind faith. All he knew was that he wanted to build a gaming company. He went about fundraising quite intuitively: he told his contacts that he’s launching a company focusing on social and mobile and he’s looking for funding. He got introduced to an angel investor who is an entrepreneur himself and within 3 months from quitting his job, the guy has committed $500K based pretty much on this pitch: social games on mobile are hot! It all happened really fast and it seems like fundraising was the easy part.
The company is launching their first game Coral City (you build a complete city at the bottom of the ocean) literally right now as I am writing this. It runs on Android and follows the fremium model (basic model is free but you pay for features that make the game more enjoyable).
When asked about the game plan for Coral City, Juraj summed it up eloquently: to make it to the top 10 in the Android app store. To show how ambitious this is: according to Juraj there are currently 400,000 apps there, 30% of these are games. Those in the “top 20 recommended apps” receive 200,000 downloads a day.
More games will follow still in 2012 but the strategy remains the same: mobile, social, free.
There is still money in the coffers and Lonely Sock is in hiring mood. They posted a big sign on their office window: We’re hiring! – in the other building facing their windows there are developers coding away for Disney Mobile.
Currently the team consists of 9 people and growing, attracting talent from other countries as well.
Takeaway: it seems there is good momentum in the game development industry in the Czech Republic. Also: it would be interesting to see the emergence of angellist or similar initiatives focused on the CEE leveraging cash from entrepreneurs to foster early stage deals. Maybe we can do something about that!
CEO: Juraj Chrappa
Stage: seed (angel:$500K)
Sector: mobile social games