Australian company Roar Engine recently wowed ‘em Stateside at VentureBeat’s MobileBeat 2011.
The mobile startup beat out 15 other hopefuls to win one of two coveted Tesla prizes. (Named after Nikola Tesla, the scientist who discovered early mobile communication. Obvs.)
Roar Engine pulled off the flashy feat by building a social game in just four minutes. “What if you could build Farmville in a week?” co-founder Clint Walker asked the audience.
“Roar Engine offers a cross-platform, scalable, social game application layer that’s instantly available.”
And once the company’s done making space in its awards cabinet for its shiny new Tesla, Walker’s got his eye on another big prize.
“To position Roar as the go-to social game building platform for mobile and web over the next two years.”
In the beginning…
Roar Engine began life in 2009 as games company Run With Robots.
“We saw a ton of opportunity in the very nascent smartphone market,” Walker says.
If the name Clint Walker sounds familiar, it’s because he founded 2007 Cool Company Award winner Rising Sun Research and also featured among Anthill’s 30under30 in 2009.
“Facebook as a platform was very new but growing fast, and we were really excited about the space.”
The company spent its first year building “competitive advantage” in the shape of a cross-platform, highly-scaleable technology backend that allowed it to quickly and easily create game mechanics using a suite of tools.
“We built the technology ourselves because there was nothing on the market at the time that gave us what we needed,” according to Walker.
“After about a year into building our own games we realised that we were sitting on something far more valuable in the underlying backend technology.”
“We pivoted the business to productise and commercialise the technology platform we had built, and retired our games business to focus entirely on what has become Roar Engine.”
The Roar Engine platform is still currently in private-beta period. Its MobileBeat outing was actually the ‘industry’ unveiling of Roar 2.0, Walker says.
“We’re likely to have at least one other ‘launch’ this year, tied into work we’re doing with our partner companies.”
And there’s more good news doing the rounds for smaller games developers. As of mid-June 2011, Roar Engine’s platform has been free to use for games with up to 100 daily active users.
“Giving you time in the sandbox to figure out how to monetize players,” the company says.
Roar Engine hasn’t always had its sights set on conquering the mobile games market. In fact, Walker says it’s only in the past six months that mobile has emerged as a serious contender for the company.
“It just shows how quickly the market moves.”
“When we started, the iPhone was brand new, Android was mostly still just a nice idea, and Facebook was waaay behind MySpace as the biggest social network.”
But, as luck would have it: “We designed our technology to be platform agnostic specifically so that we would have the option to move into the most exciting opportunities, rather than fixing our market and building the tech around that.”
How great it feels to win
According to Walker, the whole Roar Engine team’s feeling pretty chuffed with themselves following the MobileBeat win.
“I mean, fixing a software bug is easy, but getting people genuinely excited is hard.”
“Winning an important event like Mobilebeat gives everyone in the business a superboost of energy and enthusiasm that is really hard to come by in any other way.”
“Simply being selected to present at the event from the hundreds of applications was incredible exposure and validation. But there’s something about winning that creates a halo that is very attractive – for business, deals, and people in general – which leads to opportunities that simply don’t arise otherwise.”
“I think we’re very lucky to have won that event in the face of excellent competition, and we’re doubling down to make the most of that halo.”
Since its win, the company has received an “overwhelmingly positive” response from the mobile industry.
“With Roar, developers can not only create a social game application layer really quickly and easily, but get all the tools needed to manage, grow and scale, which means more time building out the player interactions, workflows and fun, and a faster time to launch.”
“The fact that Roar is such a cost effective solution (a fixed price for amount of usage), that it doesn’t ‘tax’ developer revenue like Facebook and Apple do, makes it a very attractive option.”
Advice to would-be entrepreneurs
Fact: new businesses make mistakes. Walker is a ‘fail fast’ advocate.
“Every business is so different that inevitably you make some of the same mistakes in new ways, and some new mistakes in familiar ways.”
“And new mistakes in new ways of course.”
“But you also avoid a lot of obstacles, and tend to have a better eye for kicking goals – and that simply comes with experience.”