Games · Small business

What to look for in "Business Grow Partner"?

Kris Jones Game Designer

March 23rd, 2013

I've been building up a mobile studio designed to create interesting and connected games in the "free 2 play/freemium" markets for iOS, Google, and Amazon AppStores. I have the experience to build the games and deliver them to users.

However, I am curious on recommendations on what to look for when seeking a "Business Growth Founder." What I mean by this is someone like a CEO who knows how to manage employees, raise funds, and handle the general long-term growth and exit events?

Jessica Alter Entrepreneur & Advisor

March 24th, 2013

Good to check out topics before posting, there was a great discussion on this already

Michael Barnathan Adaptable, efficient, and motivated

March 23rd, 2013

Gaaah, last time my email was truncated, this time it came in completely blank! Sorry all. Again from the message board:

Only you can evaluate your business needs (and whether you really need that type of founder right now), but when I hear "business development", I usually think of people who can find and negotiate partnerships, help raise funds, and solicit customer feedback. A CEO is something a bit different than a business developer, although you could possibly find someone who has both skills.

Lydia Loizides Founder and CEO @GGGrit

March 24th, 2013

Due diligence - talk to people they have lead or they have worked for and not just their references.  LI is great for finding people you may know connected to someone. IMHO the best sign of a leader (either business or tech) is their "followship" - how many people would follow them to their new gig.  Good luck!

Joseph Hsieh Growth Marketing & User Acquisition Specialist

March 23rd, 2013

Hey Kris,

It's great that you have the maker DNA - you can build, create, and code.  If I was in your position, the "growth founder" is someone who can do the other aspect of the business.  Games are intrinsically product or experience oriented - the right person for you needs to have a blend of technical, people, and distribution skills.  You may not need someone who can match your prowess in building the core elements of the product, but as you know, we're in an API dependent, analytics driven, and ecosystem centric world.

Your founder should now how to put data in a database, write landing pages to test, understand distribution strategy, and discover new and unique ways to distribute your games.  On top of that, this person should be able to attract and command respect for people who would work in your team in the future because they understand the machinery of how things work - not just the whitepaper version or the prototypical MBA playbook.

I'm sorry, but someone who can't figure out how to do those things themselves without "bugging you" about making a web page is just too slow.  Landing pages need to be tweaked every day, and understanding the world of Unity3D, Apple iOS, Android Rooting, etc - they just have to be technical enough to know what the world you live in means.  You can find the BD, VP Marketing, and "agencies" later who can get you past the halftime show, but right now, you're still in the first drive.

Best of luck,


Jon OShaughnessy

March 24th, 2013

Michael - I chuckled :) (saw the other one)


Really good question. I've been struggling with the flip-side of the same concern re: technical founder. I find it interesting how the biz and engineering worlds seem to foreign to one another even when we're doing the same thing.

First, I'd look for the same qualities and traits as in any other "what to look for in a cofounder" post. In my opinion the instant-no-go's occur when strategy, vision, ideas don't align. Plus, you obviously need to get along. I think that one is overlooked the most. If those don't happen, it doesn't matter if they're really good at what they do.

As for the skill sets in a biz founder, that's complex. While fundraising is important, I would suggest that you look for someone who doesn't brag about that or list it as the main thing they bring to the table. I'm a former VC, so it could arguably be my best strength, but I always side-step the "how are you going to get funding?" question because I hate the focus on it. Yes, it's important. But in the end, fund raising is only a byproduct of building your business engine the right way. It's much, much, much more important to know how to do that than be able to give a good story to an investor. Most investors aren't dumb, and prefer to have a less polished pitch with real, hard data and traction behind it than the opposite.

In that light, if I were you, I'd drill them on questions like: "What specific ways are you going to approach marketing? What steps does that involve? How do  you measure a good campaign? How do you measure appropriate traction? When do you know if we need to keep tweaking our "business engine" versus applying resources to acquiring new customers?"

The point of these questions are twofold. 1) Avoid biz guys who claim they know what they're doing because "they just know" or "they've been doing it for 20 years." Same as an engineer. Not all engineers who have been doing it for a while can architect well. 2) See if they know how to build the business the right way. You should get answers that talk about some form of the following: LTV (lifetime value), margin, unit metrics, CAC (customer acquisition cost), customer retention. In short, the unit metrics of the business NOT total numbers "we need to get to 100 clients" or "we'll hit $1M revenue." This is a common thing VCs know and really good business guys know, but not a lot of people follow. No matter what business you're in - from a Mom and Pop sandwich shop to a multinational corporation - you do two things. You have way(s) of getting customers and you sell them something. As long as the first is less than the latter, you will grow. We express it as CAC < LTV (customer acquisition cost to life-time value), or in other words the cost to acquire a new customer versus the total profit that customer will generate over their lifetime of interaction with you. The higher that ratio is, the faster you'll grow. Aim for something like 2.5-3.5x. If you hit 5, call me up and I'll come running to join you and work for equity only :). 

If you're potential biz cofounder doesn't reference any of that stuff, or doesn't really talk about it well after you bring it up, definitely time to move on.

Lastly I think Joseph was right - the best ones are biz guys who learn to code (a little) and can pull their own weight. 

Hope that helps!