Between classes, part-time jobs, and social lives, college students Evan Thomas and Troy Pettie have been moonlighting to build a business they hope will bring millennials back into casinos. Will our investors be willing to take a gamble on Guru Games?
Today's investors are Jake Chapman, Howie Diamond, Phil Nadel and Jillian Manus.
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Troy Pettie: Isn’t this just kind of weird to be…That thing is really trippy. Is this spinning?
Troy: You want to run it a couple times.
Troy: Hello my name is Troy Pettie.
Evan Thomas: And I’m Evan Thomas.
Troy: And our company is Guru Games
Evan: Alright one more time.
Troy: Let’s go a couple more. I mean, we got time…
From Gimlet, this isThe Pitch. I’m Josh Muccio. This week two founders are pitching their casino game startup -- and they’re a little nervous. Will practice make perfect for these young entrepreneurs?
Troy: Hello my name is Troy Pettie
Troy: Hello my name is Troy Pettie
Troy: It’s gonna get better in a couple more. Watch it’s just exponentially going. And if it was able to make it on...Smiling helps honestly.
While Evan and Troy work on getting their pitch down pat in studio A, our investors are hanging in studio B having an entirely different conversation.
Jake Chapman: I think we managed to squeeze in a bunch of puns because he had a couple of puns, I had mine, and…
That’s Jake Chapman with Gelt VC, and he gets pretty into puns.
Jake: I tried to do the let’s diagnose the patient, but Howie interrupted me.
Howie Diamond: I have this cool bag. It’s a really cool company. I don’t if you guys have heard of Away.
Bragging about his bag is Howie Diamond who founded the VC firm, Ranch Ventures.
Howie: A built in lock and two charging ports
Phil: I have a Bluesmart bag.
Not to be outdone is Phil Nadel with Barbara Corcoran Venture Partners.
Phil Nadel: It has a usb port, and internal scale. SO you can tell if you get close to 50 pound threshold. you can track it with GPS.
Howie: Mine has a laundry bag
Before our investors get too carried away, here’s Jillian Manus, with Structure Capital, pulling us back to whatreallymatters.
Jillian Manus: I finished House of Cards! That blew my mind.
Back in studio A, Evan and Troy are finishing up their pitch practice.
Troy: It seems as though nobody can get the twentysomethings to thirty-year olds into their casinos. To solve this problem Evan and I founded Guru Games.
Evan: How was that? Just do that in front of the people and we’ll be fine.
...and now it’s time to join the investors in studio B.
[Hellos from investors and founders.]
At last--it’s showtime.
Troy: Hello, my name is Troy Pettie.
Evan: And I'm Evan Thomas.
Troy: Our company is Guru Games. So growing up in Las Vegas, Evan and I were constantly surrounded by casinos and their games. But as we got closer to turning 21, we realized that there weren't any games that either of us wanted to play. After some research we realized that this isn't just our problem. This is a problem plaguing the entire gaming industry. Nobody can find a way to attract the newest generation of gamers to gamble in their casinos playing their games. So to solve this problem, Evan and I founded Guru Games.
Evan: We're currently raising $600,000 to develop our team as well as cover the legal costs with running a for-real-money gambling studio. And that's our one minute pitch.
Jillian: Alright. Very good!
After all their practice -- when it came time to pitch, Troy ended up pulling out hisphoneandreadingfrom his script.
But -- with their one-minute pitch behind them -- it’s time for Evan and Troy to field somequestionsfrom our investors.
Jillian: So, tell us a bit about your background.
Evan: So we're both UNLV engineering students. UNLV is University of Nevada Las Vegas, if none of you guys are familiar. So I actually started my first semester of college at Air Force Academy. During that first semester I learned that the military wasn't where I wanted to put my resources towards. I really kind of fell in love with entrepreneurship and creating my own ideas. So I took that to UNLV. Me and Troy took a gaming innovation class. The person who ran that class, he was basically our personal mentor. He taught us everything we know about games. If you look in a casino right now, slot machines are just traditional spinning wheels, and you get a payout. There's no interaction. Millennials are turned off by it.
Jillian: Troy, we do want to hear about your background, too.
Evan: Yeah, go ahead and tell your background, Troy.
Troy: So, my background is pretty much the same, except that I didn't really get into the startup world until we took that class.
Howie: You're starting your own... So, you're going to partner with casinos? Or you're going to start your own casino?
Troy: So, exactly. We are partnering not so much with casinos. So I'll just give a quick background on how the gaming industry works. You have your casino operators who are like MGM, Caesars.
Evan explains that, due to regulations, casinos like MGM and Caesars can’t actually make their own games, so they rely on third party vendors. There are those that design the games and those that manufacture them. The manufacturers work directly with the casinos -- and what Guru Games aims to do is partner with one of these manufacturers.
Troy: What happens is we'll actually design the entire theme and the sound and basically all the graphics, the experience of the cabinet. And then they'll just manufacture it. So all the design, all the creative control of the game, falls underneath us, but they're just our distributor. They're our big partner that's going to get us actually into the casinos.
Howie: And your manufacturing partner.
Troy: Yes, exactly.
Howie: So manufacturing and distributing partner.
Jake: What does the revenue stream look like? How does the split work and how much money would you expect to...?
Evan: So the split, kind of... It changes from company to company. It all has to be negotiated.
Phil: But what's the range? Give us an idea.
Evan: Typical deals look like a 70-30 or a 60-40 split. Some can go as high as 80-20 and some can go as low as 50-50 in terms of...
50-50, 80-20, 70-30… the point is, there will be some kind of split between Guru Games and their manufacturing partner.
Jillian: So have you created the software already? Have you created the game?
Jillian: You've created the game.
Howie: So you guys are game developers?
Howie: Both of you?
Phil: Are you both still at UNLV?
Troy: We're only 20. We're only 20.
Evan: We're both still students there.
Troy: So yeah. Yeah.
Jake: So you can't even play your game?
Howie: This is illegal. Are we engaging in illegal activity right now?
Jake: We're contributing to delinquency of a minor.
At 20, Jake and Troy are certainly a little younger than the founders our investors are used to meeting. But they sound like they know their stuff. Now it’s time to find out if the game can hold up to scrutiny.
Troy: So. How many of you guys have played slot machines?
Jillian: All of us.
Troy: All of you guys. Okay.
Howie: I'm really good at them.
Phil: And Howie's really good at them.
Howie: I'm a good slot player.
Troy: You're a good slot player?
Jillian: Are you?
Jake: I mean, that's what Howie's job is, basically, right? You just randomly pick and just see what happens.
Howie: What? My investment thesis?
Howie: Yeah, of course.
Troy: So, you've all played slots. So you all have gotten some near misses, to where you wish you could just kind of flip it and get it to actually line up on the line, you know, and get paid for it.
Troy: Too many times you get two sevens and then you miss it by like a millimeter. We made a game, right, that... Sorry. We made a game that is completely math verified, but allows you to completely control how you make your lines. So let me give you an example…
Troy says the game is like a regular slot machine where you pull the lever and hope to get a matching row, say four cherries. Except with Line Em Up, the player can actually have an impact on the outcome. After you pull the lever, you might get a chance to swap a couple of tiles around to make a match, just like a typical match 4 game such as Candy Crush or Bejeweled.
Troy: And now you've got this diagonal of bars, and this right here, this line of cherries. And then you can also get this. Right. And now you've got a little horizontal of bells. So finish. Right. And you won $7.50 from that win. So when it comes to slot machines you can choose things and what not. But you can't actually affect your wager. This game, you can mess up on and affect your wager. This game, you can maximize your payout if given a good board.
Phil: One thing I'm concerned about is casinos are always focused on velocity of gambling.
Velocity -- also known as rounds per hour. When it comes to casino games, the more rounds, the better.
Phil: And it seems like this would slow down the velocity.
Troy: Amazingly enough, for people, the learning curve for this game is very similar to that of video poker. So if any of you play video poker, you're kind of slow at first, you kind of learn, like, oh it's better to hold a pair than a high card, right? And then eventually you get to the point where you can play 400 rounds an hour. Evan and I have been playing this game for around six months, and we can play 320 rounds an hour at almost perfect strategy.
Phil: And how does that compare with the regular slot velocity?
Troy: Regular slot velocity is around 450.
Phil: So, yeah, that's a significant slowdown after months of your training.
Troy: But the problems is is that you get bored from playing the slot machine.
Troy: So, sure, if you get 500 rounds per hour. But that's if the person plays for the full hour. That's if it's always being played.
Phil: So the tradeoff you're saying is this helps them to keep the player there longer, even though they're playing slower?
Howie: I know a little bit about, I've read a little bit about the psychology behind these game mechanics in casinos, and to Phil's point there is something called the zone. You guys are familiar with the zone?
Troy: Oh yep. You just don't know what you're doing. You just do it.
Howie: It's not even about winning or losing. It's just the mechanics of the game, and the lights and the sound are completely, have been completely calibrated scientifically to make sure that you sit there for hours on end. It seems like, are you saying this enhances the zone? Or can this possibly take you out of the zone? Because there's been years and years of research to get people into this "zone." And now this seems a little bit more interactive.
Troy: You definitely get into the zone playing this game. Once you get used to the mechanic, you definitely get into the zone.
Howie: But how long until you get used to it? Because this is sort of modifying a little bit of human behavior, in terms of this is a new thing, you know. How do you get people to get in?
Jake: I don't know if it's that new, Howie. I mean this is for people who play social games, right? You play Candy Crush or Bejeweled. It's that mechanic.
Howie: I'm saying people who play slot machines.
Evan: The zone works for the traditional baby boomer gamblers. That's the bread and butter of the casinos right now. But the casinos are worried about how are they going to attract that new gambler, how are they going to attract that underserved gambler that doesn't currently have a game in the market for them. They don't want to just go and sit mindlessly at a slot machine and get in the zone. They want a more interactive experience. And that's what we're trying to bring to the table.
Troy: Essentially this would be what the casino calls 'found money'. Because these people aren't gambling now. So any amount of money that they spend gambling on our game is found money. It's money they wouldn't have made anyway.
Found money: now those are the kind of words investors like to hear. It sounds like Evan and Troy are slowing getting the investors to take them and their company seriously.
Evan: Right now we're in talks with one of the biggest gaming equipment manufacturers in the country about a distribution deal where, exactly what I was talking about, the studio distributor deal. So, we're in early talks there. And then we've been approached by multiple online casino, online casino, the people that run the online casinos, the operators, in that space.
Howie: So, you're game developers and you have relationships in Vegas that can find manufacturing partners and distributors, and they will potentially pay you for your software, for the games that you're developing. I'm curious: why are you raising money?
Evan: The reason we're raising money is because we're basically, we've been bootstrapping this entire time, and we've gotten to the point where we need a bigger team and a full time graphic designer as well as a sound designer, to start working on the full design for this game.
Jake: But you said, if you're working with some of the distributors that you could take a lower split today in exchange for having them do some of the final touches, right?
Evan: Yes. We lose a lot of the creative control in that aspect, and that's one of the things we're really worried about. Because innovation is so stagnant in the gaming industry, we would hate to lose creative control to one of these big manufacturers and then see them tarnish our game into something that we didn't want it to be in the first place.
Jillian: I still don't understand why you need the money? If you actually created a game which somebody wants, why would you not just license it to them and start creating revenue?
Evan: That's a good question. You want to tackle this one?
Troy: Yeah. We're trying to build a brand. This isn't just a product.
Jillian: Go ahead answer.
Troy: So what I'm saying is, we want our own team of graphic designers, our own team of sound designers, and for the other ideas that we have and we want to make games that are Guru Games.
Jillian: Do you think that might be a good idea to try to sell your first one, to bring in some revenue, to support that?
Evan: That's what we're currently, that's what some of the talks that we're having now.
Jillian: That's what you're doing?
Evan: Yeah, exactly.
Troy: Yeah. Yeah.
Evan: It's the difference between the game getting on the floor at the beginning of the year or the game getting on the floor in a year and a half.
Jillian: So the game is not ready to put into casinos yet?
Evan: No, it's not.
Jillian: Because it's not at the level that you need, correct?
Jillian: In order to get it to the level that you need you need to add additional expertise, right?
Howie: Or you get partners on board that can accommodate those?
Jillian: Yes, but he's saying that they lose control that way.
Howie: Right. But in the beginning, just to get this thing developed, get it into the casinos, get some money being generated. Maybe just proof of concept. Get it out there.
Investors are seeing the potential this game has to be huge. But they aren’t seeing eye to eye with the decision to forego the help from game manufacturers. They want to see this thing get out on the casino floor and find out if it could be a hit. But Evan and Troy are pumping the brakes.
Evan: We have a lot of interest from heads of, high up positions, in these casino companies who are begging for innovation.
Jillian: Well, you can also launch this online. For online casinos, right?
Jillian: You would think you could enter that market even easier.
Evan: And actually the online casinos is actually less work for us. We're approaching online casinos as we speak. But the problem with that is we have to figure out our deal with the big guy first, because we need to see how much of the pie the big guy wants. The big guy might want to say I want social casino, I want online casino, and I want land based casino rights. I want all those distribution channels. So we want to make sure we pleasure that person first, because they're our main source of revenue and land based is the main source of gaming revenue.
Jake: Have you done any like, have you pushed this game out free in the app store?
Jake: Just so someone can... You need data to say that people do sit and play this for three hours or whatever it is. What sort of data do you have on that?
Evan: It's basically, we're not promoting it, it's basically word of mouth around our friends, we’re keeping it small to start. All of the feedback we've gotten from our players so far is this game is addictive. Like, I can't stop playing it, I would love to play this in a casino.
Jillian: Remind me again what you're raising and the valuation?
Evan: We're raising $600,000 and we are not going for a specific valuation. And then down the road we can talk more specifics about how that convertible note looks.
Jillian: How much have you raised?
Evan: We actually, today is our first day that we're starting fundraising. So we're kicking off with a bang, I guess you would say.
Right at the end of the pitch, Evan and Troy drop a bit of a bombshell: these investors are thefirstinvestors they’ve pitched, which would explain the nerves. But once you get past the stumbles and stammers, they have a good product.
Let’s see if their first try was enough to hook our investors.
Here’s Jake kicking us off.
Jake: I like what you're doing . I know that casinos have a huge problem with millennials. And millennials prefer table games, but the table games aren't generally as profitable. And the slots used to be the bread and butter of the casinos and they're sort of dying out, right. So I get that. And I think this is a really interesting solution to that. I would recommend you either sign a deal with a third-party game studio, just license the game out. Or get into one of these online casinos. And not make this one game, like what you're trying to stake your whole business on, like take a haircut on it, but get the revenue through the door, and focus on that as your fundraising. Keep most of the company to yourselves. You don't need to sell a bunch of equity with this kind of business. You have one decent hit and you get your name out in the world with the revenue coming in, and then that second game you hire the full team and then you really build the brand. I don’t think you have to do that on the first game but we need to see some sort of traction first. And so like for that reason, I'm going to pass.
Jake’s out, here’s Howie
Howie: You have some anecdotal validations with these conversations, which is awesome. Those are great signals. That doesn't happen every day, when these casino heads react the way that they do. And I also think, believe it or not, your age, you should use that to your advantage. There's people that want to help kids. You guys are taking initiative. It's amazing. You're still in college, but you're thinking entrepreneurial. You should leverage that to get people to help you. I think that if you continue to explore this and like get the data, like Jake was saying, put it into casinos, start getting those metrics in terms of time at machine, velocity, all that sort of stuff, then I think that becomes a much more exciting and interesting thing for me to want to get involved in. Because it's like, wow, this is kind of on the bleeding edge of where casino games can go. But for all those reasons right now I'm going to pass, but I'd love to see where it goes and maybe revisit in the future.
Evan: Awesome. Thank you.
Howie’s out, Here’s Phil.
Phil: I think it's a cool idea, and I applaud you guys at such a young age for pursuing it. For me, it's a simple decision, because I don't invest in pre-revenue companies. So I'm going to pass. But keep up the good work. You guys are onto something.
Troy: Thank you.
Three out of four investors have passed. Only Jillian remains.
Jillian: So, I have never played Candy Crush. I've never played Bejeweled. I don't know anything about games. I have played a slot machine, that's true. And with my late mother I did play some online poker. But other than that, I have really no great, really no deep knowledge of this. And so because of that I am passing. But I want to say, because one of the things that we all like to do is with early stage investors, you're really going to need people who add value. It's not just the money. So I know you'd like my money, I know you'd like all of our money, but the fact is that with that it comes nothing. I like have an empty head about this. So seriously. And when my children listen to this podcast they will all be nodding their head like, you do not want her on board. But I do...
Jake: That's true about every investment.
Jillian: Ooh. That will come back and haunt you.
Jillian: I'm just thinking to myself, why don't you know about this space? It is such a huge space. Thank you so much.
Evan: Thank you guys for your time. We appreciate it.
Jillian: We'll definitely be watching out for you on the cover of a magazine.
When we come back, our investors speculate on what makes a casino game a success -- and I’ll talk to Evan and Troy about what it was like to pitch in the white hot spotlight.
Welcome back! Now that our young entrepreneurs have headed home, let’s hear what the investors were thinking during the pitch.
Jillian: You know, this is such a deficit of mine. I know nothing about gaming. And it's killing me. Zero. I don't play them. I don't, the video games I don't do.
Howie: It's a big, especially with VR, it's going to be, I mean, it's already a big space, but it's going to be bigger.
Jake: The content creators are really hard. I mean, I think these guys are sharp and they're working on an interesting niche, for sure. But when it comes to new social games, like mobile apps, basically, I think predicting which next studio is going to be huge, I mean, how could you have picked Angry Birds? Or Candy Crush? Candy Crush is the exact same game model as Bejeweled.
Howie: Or Pokémon.
Jillian: See Pokémon, I know!
Phil: That's the problem.
Howie: But would you have predicted that Pokémon would have done...?
Jillian: No. But I play the game.
Phil: It's like investing in movies or broadway shows.
Jillian: I do play Pokémon.
Howie: Yeah. It's an amazing game.
Jillian: Because it's, you know... I love the Pokémon.
Phil: It's just like gambling. You try and pick winners. And then six months later someone comes out with a game that's a similar concept but a little better, a little cuter, boom! You're out.
Howie: their game, did it, it seemed like it was helping you increase the probability of you winning?
Jillian: Which I agree.
Howie: But that's fake.
Phil: They still have like the cap on it. They control, if you saw how many times it took him, they control how often the Line Em Up opportunity comes up, and then within that you have four options, you can only get so far. It's all math, it's all controlled by math.
Howie: I feel like the player will start to figure out that it's kind of a gimmick at some point. Like, it's not actually making me win more, it's just, kind of like...
Jillian: But don't they all? Isn't that the whole thought?
Phil: I'm just more concerned about the velocity. I know that they said that people are going to play longer. But you know what, if you slow down play, that's a...
Howie: There's an amazing book, I think it's calledThe Zone, that talks about how much science goes into getting people to sit. And seriously the most astonishing takeaway from that book was that, when you're in the zone, as a player, and when you win, when you actually win a jackpot or you win, they are upset. Because it takes them out of the zone. It's not actually about winning or losing. It's just about a departure from their life.
Jillian: Really? Really?
Howie: Yes. It's a departure from reality.
Jillian: That's really interesting.
Howie: It brings them into this new kind of like digital world.
Phil: And they do everything at the casinos to encourage you to stay in that zone and to continue the pace.
Howie: Right. The pace is important.
Phil: Everything from the lighting to the air temperature.
Jillian: You want to help them.
Howie: I want to help.
Jillian: Oh, to be 20 years old. And making games. And by the way, good for them that they were engineers, these two kids. Engineers. And I just thought that was just, I don't know, I love them.
Phil: They're still in school and here they are pitching. It's great.
Jillian: You want to give them little hugs.
Jake: He got a little emotional, too, I think.
Jillian: They did.
Jake: Troy looked a little bit like he was tearing up.
Phil: Oh, no way. Now I want to invest. Now I'm going to write a check.
Howie: That's part of their pitch. They cry and then everyone gives them money.
Jillian: Oh. Actually I really thought about just saying, listen, I'll give you $10,000.
Phil: Wait, what was that?
Jillian: I was really thinking of giving them just $10,000.
Howie: Just to kick it off?
Jillian: Just to kick it off.
Phil: That would have been nice.
Howie: That would have been nice.
Phil: It's not too late. Go ahead. I dare you.
Jillian: I actually might do that.
Jake: I dare you.
Jillian: Oh bite me.
Phil: I double dare you.
Howie: Phil, why are you passing on this deal?
Phil: Well, Howie, it's too much of a gamble for me.
Phil: I'm not gonna take this kind of crap shoot.
Howie: There we go. I think the odds are a little too high.
Phil: The odds are very... There are so many puns.
Jake: They'd be too low, I think is what you would say.
Jillian: Why can't I figure out these really quickies, that you guys do? What's wrong with me?
Jake: I don't roll the dice with my investors' money.
Howie: There it is.
Jillian: Oh my god. I have nothing.
Howie: That's the winner. That's the winner.
A few months later, I called up Evan and Troy to hear where things are today with Guru Games.
Josh: So let's just start here. I want to know, that was your first pitch, right guys? Like, what was that like?
Evan: It was kind of crazy. It was very different for us. We had only pitched in a controlled setting to, like, advisors and mentors of ours, so it was really crazy to get the chance to actually pitch real investors. And that kind of kicked off all of the pitches we started doing after that. So it was a really good way to, like, get our feet wet and, you know, start to learn how to do these kind of things.
Josh: Alright So I kind of want to relive the pitch from your guys's point of view, when you came on our show. Do you guys remember the morning of? Like, how were you feeling? Did you have nerves?
Evan: Well, we definitely had nerves. They were pretty bad. I was feeling pretty sick that morning.
Troy: Yeah, I didn't sleep that day. We just kind of were at the airport and yeah. But yeah, I think definitely it was different because, like, you had such a short amount of time to do the pitch and, like, all the cameras and everything I thought was, like, not the cameras, the microphones and everything, I thought that, that threw me off a little bit. But it was a cool experience, for sure.
Josh: So a lot of firsts, you guys were going into it pretty excited, obviously nervous. What do you remember happening in the room?
Evan: So we walked in, we were practicing, and we were like, "Man, I wish they would just come in already because," we'd like to start, like, we don't want to forget what we're going to say. we knew as soon as they walked in, that all the nerves would go away and it just would be really natural.
Josh: So how many times did you guys practice it?
Evan: Ten or eleven times you practiced that opening, right Troy?
Troy: Yeah, yeah.
Josh: For the record, I was waiting for you guys to finish up before we sent the investors down. I thought you guys were going to come up! And then we would start! And you guys kept practicing. So I figured you needed the practice.
Josh: so I'm curious, there was this moment when you guys were pitching where, it was right at the beginning, you had been practicing with note cards, Troy and Evan? Were you guys both using note cards or just you, Troy?
Troy: Yeah, I think was — no no no, I was using my phone. I had the google notes, I think I had open. And then, yeah, I don't know, it's just like, kind of froze up for a second when, you know, with the mics and everyone not saying anything at once, it kind of, kind of made me freeze up a little bit. But —
Josh: Right, and then you whipped out your phone, right? Like, during the actual pitch?
Evan: Oh yeah, I forgot about that, yeah.
Troy: Really? Oh, that's embarrassing. Yeah, I guess I did. Wow that's, wow, no, yeah.
Josh: It's a traumatic memory, is that what you're saying.
T: Yeah, it's a traumatic memory.
Josh: So Evan, like, what were you thinking when he whips out his phone during the pitch? Did you think for a second, like, oh I should step in and like start talking?
Evan: No, because I didn't want to step on Troy's shoes. I was going to let him —
Josh: Trip on his own shoes?
Evan: And then I would pick him up after the fact.
Troy: Funny story, it's actually funny you bring that up because literally before the pitch started I said, "Don't help me in any way!" [laughter] "If I fall on the ground, like, don't help. Like, I'll figure it out."
Josh: Why did you tell him that?
Troy: You know, it's better to struggle through it. I'm much better, I think I'm much better at pitching now because of that experience.
Josh: Like, what would you say is the biggest difference comparing that first pitch to maybe how you pitch your company right now?
Evan: I believe when we pitched the first time we had pitched it as a strictly we were going after land-based casinos. And there's just so many other different routes for us to take to get to market that we didn't realize in the first place, and didn't really explore enough. We're working with a social casino company to get basically free-to-play versions of our games up on casinos, say, on, like, your phone or, like, on Facebook. So like, that, it's really that online side that we really found better for us, a better match for us because that's where our expertise lie and allowed us to ignore the hardware.
Josh: So you kind of put the casino thing on the backburner. You're pursuing social casinos?
Troy: but we haven't been exactly sitting on our hands, either. We've had [laughter]
Josh: Oh, okay!
Troy: No, no, like, during that time that we've been trying to market that, we've built five or six other games and we're working on a clash of clans game currently.
Josh: You say you guys have worked on six game since then?
Josh: That's a lot!
Troy: What we really learned from the judges after our pitch was that this is definitely hit-driven market, and that we decided to just take as many cracks as we possibly could. So maybe line em up isn't our biggest success, but we have a lot of other tries to go ahead at.
Josh: So have you been in touch with any of the investors since then?
Evan: I've talked to Jake since then, just because Jake offers a lot of really good advice and he's a very straight shooter so he gives us a lot of good advice about just ways that we can improve, and Phil actually connected us with our, who we're going to be using for our sound company for our games in the future. It was really cool for them to, for Phil to go ahead and sync us up, because I think our two companies have a lot of good synergy there.
Josh: Did you raise the money you were looking for, that you were asking for on our show?
Evan: So that was something that our new advisor kind of turned us around upon, Randy basically said there's no reason for us to raise money right now and we should get as far as we need to go without raising money.
Josh: So how are you guys funding your company? Are you, do you have capital, do you have friends and family money invested? Like, how are you guys building this?
Evan: So nothing we do really requires capital. We don't have any employees right now. Me and Troy do basically everything. The only thing that we pay for is legal. And so we both have part-time jobs we do on the side. We're still finishing up our schooling. And so we're just kind of doing this with whatever time we've got leftover after that. We're really pouring in a lot of time after school, between jobs, just trying to make this a success with kind of just bootstrapping with what we've got.
Josh: I think there are actually a lot of advantages to being the age that you guys are and building what you're building, and it's not like you're your age but you're completely unqual — like, you guys are totally qualified to be doing this because of your background and because of even your day jobs, so it's, it's exciting but there's still, like, people are going to root for you more and care about you more just because you guys are young and doing this.
Evan: I think on the other side of things, though, the age has definitely hurt us a lot because there's been some sales meetings where we walked into where they treated us like we were just college students or, like, they would, like, congratulate us on how far we've gotten but never really take us serious, taken us seriously, so in an industry like this where age and connections really determine how far you go, it's been a big barrier for us thus far.
Josh: That must be really frustrating. Does it happen often?
Evan: Enough to realize that at some point we'd have to address this problem in terms of bringing in, like, a heavy-hitter I would say.
Josh: Or growing some facial hair or something.
Troy: Facial hair.
Josh: Alright guys, thank you again!
Evan: Thank you!
Josh: We should touch base some time. I want to hear how things keep going. When do you guys graduate? How many years are you out?
Evan: One more.
Troy: One more year. Just the fall and the spring.
Josh: For both of you?
Josh: Gosh, that’s crazy.
Evan: I know, right?
It would be easy to write these two kids off as wannabe entrepreneurs. They’re 20, bootstrapping without any capital. But instead of getting drunk at frat parties or god knows whatever I was doing in college, they are running Guru Games between classes and on their weekends. And so maybe they’re having a hard time getting other people to take them seriously -- but they’re takingthemselvesseriously. That makes a difference. And... they’ve got a pretty good headstart on their competition.
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Our show was produced by me, Josh Muccio, Asthaa Chaturvedi and Rob Szypko. We were edited by Devon Taylor.
Our Theme Music is by Breakmaster Cylinder, with original music composed by The Muse Maker, Bobby Lord, and John Kimbrough. We were mixed by Enoch Kim with help from Matthew Boll.
Thanks to Lisa Muccio for planning the season 2 recording event last fall.
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All right -- you’ve been listening to The Pitch from Gimlet Media. I’m Josh Muccio. See you next week.
Next week on the pitch...
Matthew: And we're building a social engagement platform that lets influencers and fans interact at scale.
Phil: It sounds very cool...How are you monetizing it?
Phil: But does that mean a lot to the fans? Just that they liked it?
Jillian: Need I say more? Like, Myspace!
Howie: She can tell you all about Myspace.
Jillian: The fact that you even know what Myspace is is a shocker.
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Investor on The Pitch
Howie Diamond is the Co-Founder and Managing Partner at Pure Ventures, and early stage investment firm that also invests in the development of its founders. Also a musician, Howie founded and sold a music management/licensing company in Los Angeles called Lo-Fi Music. After that, he moved to San Francisco and began working closely with dozens of start-ups running business development for a Bay-Area tech agency called Sparkart.
Investor on The Pitch
Jake Chapman is a Managing Director at Army Venture Capital Corporation and focuses on companies working on technology that enhances the national security of the United States of America. The sectors I focus on are AI, Robotics, Aerospace, Autonomy, Quantum Computing, Semiconductors, Manufacturing, Security, Biotech, Defense, Energy and related industries.
Investor on The Pitch
Jillian Manus is Managing Partner of an early-stage Silicon Valley venture fund, Structure Capital. Branded “Architects of the Zero Waste Economy," they invest in underutilized assets and excess capacity. She was named one of the top 25 early-stage Female Investors by Business Insider in 2021. Jillian serves on numerous corporate and non-profit boards, these include: Stanford University School of Medicine Board of Fellows, NASDAQ Entrepreneurial Center Board of Directors, Fuqua School of Business at Duke University.
Investor on The Pitch
Phil Nadel is the Founder and Managing Director of Forefront Venture Fund and of Forefront Venture Partners, one of the largest syndicates on AngelList. He has started and sold several companies and has invested in more than 200 startups with several exits.
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