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Chris Cardell

Interview with Alexander Piutti (GameGenetics)

GameGenetics is a distributor of online and mobile games.

I interviewed Alexander Piutti, GameGenetics founder to find out more. This is the two hundred and tenth in a series of DW startup interviews. Big thank you to Alexander!

How would you describe GameGenetics in under 50 words?

GameGenetics is the leading distributor of free-to-play online & mobile games. We offer full service user acquisition for 230 game developers of all sizes, marketing close to 700 games in more than 2,500 traffic channels across the globe plus exclusive media partnerships in 25 countries.

How difficult is it to employ the right kind of employees in the industry?

Motivated employees are the soul of any business, so I would have to say that it is extremely important to find the right people to help execute our ambitious agenda. Here in Berlin, competition is fierce, with many startups competing for the best talent, so finding good people is a challenge. We look far beyond the borders of Germany though, so far we have folks from twelve different nations working in our offices in Berlin and in San Francisco. So far, we have been lucky, since we were able to surround ourselves with great team members.

What gap in the market did you discover that persuaded you to launch GameGenetics in 2009?

We noticed that a lot of game developers are great at what they do, creating games, but tend to be overwhelmed by marketing the finished product. Often, they find it difficult to go around and try to find traffic channels or users for their games. What we call traffic channels on the other hand, websites with a lot of traffic such as news platforms or webmail provider, are sometimes unsure how to pick the right games for their audience. We function as the connection between the two, choosing the right games for the traffic channels and bringing the relevant audience to specific titles.

Tell us a bit about your background. What made you decide to start working on GameGenetics?

I have been in the online industry for fifteen years now. I was one of the first European ‘business builders’ for Overture, which was later sold to Yahoo! for $1.6 bn. Working there, feeling the energy and eventually being part of a successful exit was a great experience. I also witnessed the darker side of the industry, however, when the new economy bubble burst in 2000/2001. I was and still am convinced that there is massive potential in online- and mobile focused businesses, especially in the games industry.

How long did it take to put together the initial version of GameGenetics?

In the beginning, it took us approximately ten months to put together our consumer portal called POPMOG, a gaming website that we still use as one of our many traffic channels today. We began to run our first traffic partnerships parallel to the platform, and eventually we saw more potential in distributing games than focusing on the portal, so we switched our focus and efforts to becoming a marketplace for games, if you will.

What was technically the most challenging part of developing GameGenetics?

All of our technology is developed in-house, so designing and scaling a technical platform that is self-learning and able to handle billions of ad views per month has been a challenge. We are constantly working on it, adding new features and improving processes and maintaining a stable and secure performance, so technology remains a very important factor of our daily business.

In 2012 you received some Series A funding. How difficult was it to secure the funding?

It was not a piece of cake but seed money is easier to get than growth capital. It definitely helped that I was part of the industry and had a track record of successfully helping to scale businesses like Overture or Yahoo. We made a compelling case, and today our investors are actually very happy with us.

Who do you see as your target audience? How are you reaching them?

First of all, we are a strict B2B company, we do not deal directly with consumers.

Our target audience is actually two-fold: On the one hand, mobile and online game developers of all sizes in need of players. On the other hand, traffic channels (gaming websites, news sites, ad exchanges, basically anybody willing to put games in their traffic) looking for games tailored to their specific audience. We actively approach them, through existing contacts, at fairs, etc. From what I hear our reputation in the industry is quite solid, we have happy customers, so now some of our new business comes by word of mouth as well.

Do you have any features in the pipeline?

We are continually striving to improve our processes. With our strict focus on B2B, we are not concerning ourselves with developing consumer features, but the improvement of our business intelligence and data processing.

You have around 50 billion game ad views every month. How difficult has it been to generate that kind of exposure?

The beginning was hard. Nobody knew us, so it was quite difficult to convince some of the larger developers to trust us with their hit-games. As soon as we successfully delivered quality users and managed campaigns, that effect sort of turned around and is now working to our advantage: we are approached by new clients because they know that we are reliable and have the ability to deliver high quality users to them.

We actually deliver 65 billion ad views right now, our numbers are growing with the company. It still amazes me, however. If you break it down, we are showing more than 20,000 gaming ads per second across the globe – an incredible number even for us.

Has GameGenetics got the feedback and growth you expected since launching in 2009?

Honestly, we have not expected the kind of growth we have been experiencing over the last 2 years. As said, the beginning was a bumpy road – but thereafter we have been able to offer valuable services to our client base and the feedback remains very positive.

Have you had any failures and what did you learn from them?

Well, I guess the initial idea of creating a business model solely around a consumer platform could be considered a failure in hindsight. We realized that it was not possible for us to make money that way. Without POPMOG, we would not have started doing traffic partnerships, which led us to realize the huge potential they offered and to our transition to our current business model. So yes, POPMOG cost everybody involved some sleepless nights at the time, but it was also the first step to our current flourishing business. I guess what we learned was to be flexible, push through and adapt our business model according to market demands.

How do you differentiate yourselves from your competitors?

I always considered us to be a geeky (we’re German), tech driven company, with a strong service approach and I mean that in the most positive way! There is never a time when we are not working on ways to improve performance and implement new features. We are also priding ourselves in the great service we provide and will go to great lengths to make sure that our customers are satisfied. Our exclusive cooperations with Lenovo, MSN and Dell can testify to that, and make us quite proud.

What is your primary focus in terms of new developments at the moment?

The main focus is mobile gaming. It is no secret that even though it is still quite new, it already is a huge market, and it will continue to grow for a few more years before the market is saturated and we will see a shake-out. We are successfully transitioning the experience we have made with countless successful campaigns for online games to the mobile sector and are expanding massively in that sector. That means more people and technology entirely dedicated to mobile.

What advice would you offer to any soon to be startup founders out there?

Follow your dream and don’t be scared of failure. Everybody makes mistakes, you just have to make sure you learn and grow from them. Fear should certainly not prevent you from founding, and even if the first idea does not take off (and it probably won’t), the experience you make will help you realize the next one! Be confident ;-)

What are you most excited about at the moment?

Seeing the company grow and develop is definitely the most exciting thing for me at the moment. Watching the company grow from three people working from my living room to more than sixty people from twelve nations is amazing. Another exciting factor is the expansion from distributing online games to including mobile as well. There is so much potential in that field that it is definitely great to be part of this process. Last but not least, the recent opening and scaling of our San Francisco office is another huge milestone in the history of our young company.

Can you convince the reader to start using GameGenetics in under 50 words?

With thousands of new games being released every month, it is getting increasingly difficult for developers to get noticed and find players. GameGenetics solves that problem with a global network of all kinds of traffic channels across the globe. Plus, we think we’re actually nice guys to work with and we love the interaction with our clients!

Finished reading? Check out GameGenetics!

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