While a majority of Boothies are talking about ideas in “mainstream” businesses such as healthcare, fin tech and education, three first-year MBA students and a lab school student, yes you read it correctly a lab school student, are trying to disrupt a market that does not get a lot of attention in business school - mobile game publishing. With more than 30 billion global revenue, mobile game has overtaken console as the number one sector in the gaming industry, which China, Japan and US sharing more than 60% of that pie as the three leading market. With more and more saturated market in China, a lot of developers start to look at opportunities overseas. Famous for its mature market and high ROI, US market has drawn increasing attention from these Chinese mobile game developers and publishers. However, unlike most of mobile apps, such as Spotify or Evernote, which essentially look and feel the same, mobile games have many factors to fine-tune to achieve expected ROI across cultures. While app platforms such as App Store and Google Play are doing a terrible job facilitating app discovery and eliciting structured player feedback - a key to understand the success factor of a game - WillowFlare is uniquely positioned to solve this problem by providing a crowdsourced market research platform with a panel of US players.
WillowFlare team is an interesting combination just like its name. The four founders are all extremely interested in the business after Ray Liu, the CEO who built up the initial client relationship in China, introduced the idea. Richard Zhang, the “Jack of all trades” in the team, is helping build a sustainable financial model while tapping into the player base with his previous gaming startup experience. Now both the mobile game developers in China and players in US are covered, they are spending a lot of time to build the platform, where players can play the game, write feedback and get rewarded. Valentina Fernandez is the marketing guru in the team who is exploring what is the best way to get players to add value to the mobile games. Last but not the least, Wanqi Zhu is the lab school student mentioned above, but make no mistake, he is also a grader for the graduate level computer science courses at UChicago. He is the coder in the team.
Reflecting back to how it got started, Ray mentioned that he went through the whole lifecycle of the entrepreneurship programming offered by the Polsky Center and EVC club. From just an idea coming out of a random conversation, to what is now believed by the team a real business, the resources, coaching and network that Booth provided are truly instrumental.
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