OneBigGame: Martin de Ronde and Susan Marshall
Company name: OneBigGame Website:www.onebiggame.org Founders: Martin de Ronde, Susan Marshall Age: 35 Staff Numbers: 2 Date started: July 2006, first product launch 3rd of February 2010
Tell us what your business does: We are an entrepreneurial charity active in the videogames business. In other words, we are the world’s first non-profit publisher of videogames. Like Live Aid, but for games, we work together with famous game designers to create games, which are sold online and proceeds go to charity.
Where did the idea for your business come from? I was watching a documentary on the 20th anniversary of Band Aid and figured something like that should be possible in games. Being an entrepreneur myself (I founded 2 game developer firms over the past 10 years) I tried to come up with a business model that would benefit consumers as well as the famous studios and designers contributing, so that that win-win situation would ultimately benefit our charity partners to which we donate 80% of our net income.
What were you doing before starting up? I had sold my previous company the year before and had a non-compete for 3 years. I couldn’t do anything commercially in the field of videogames, so I asked the company we sold to (Sony), if it was ok to do charity work in the games business. Needless to say, they were fine. Then came 3 years of dedication, patience and perseverance, very similar to the early stages of other start-ups I was involved with.
Have you always wanted to run your own business? I quit my first job after 2 weeks, quit my second after 8 months and then took the plunge, way back in 1998. I don’t have a problem with authority (as a matter of fact, I prefer being the second in command in a company, not the spotlight man), but I always have ideas which I can only carry out in my own business.
How did you raise the money? OneBigGame was funded by my own private funds from the start. We did look at all kinds of funding options, but our business model is so unique and so non-business in a way, that it was difficult to get traditional funding.
What challenges have you faced how have you overcome them? We didn’t have all the usual problems, but one fairly unique one: our suppliers are creating our products in their spare time, so each time a commercial deadline loomed for them, work on our project halted. This stop and go process meant delay after delay, which made it very difficult to plan ahead and plot revenue streams. This jeopardized our relationships with charity partners, so we had to try and get more control over our supply process. We did this by formalizing the pro bono agreements.
How have you promoted your business? We work with two established PR agencies who also help us pro bono. As the entire initiative is all based on the Band Aid for videogames idea, PR really works well: it’s a news story worth telling.
What’s the impact on your home life been like? I work seven days a week and I owe eternal gratitude to my girlfriend for being patient with me. God knows how often I used the ‘it’s for charity’ excuse when I was working late again.
What was your first big breakthrough?The first product has only just gone live on Xbox Live Arcade (Microsoft’s online shop) and that really is our first big breakthrough as the sales are good and reviews are very positive.
What would you say the greatest difficulty has been in starting up? Finding focus. Initially we had a great many ideas but things only started to gain speed when we knew exactly what we wanted to do. Looking back, had we known what we know now from the start, we could have easily gained a year in production work.