The Gaming Founders Podcast Episode 7: SuperJoost - The Entrepreneurial Journey of Professor and Author Joost van Dreunen
Welcome to The Gaming Founders Podcast, where we interview founders that have shaped the gaming industry. You’ll hear origin stories, tactics that helped founders and companies survive and thrive, and key lessons for anyone building the next generation of gaming companies. Your hosts are Eden Chen, CEO of Pragma and Kevin Zhang, Partner at Upfront Ventures.
Today’s guest is Joost van Dreunen, the former CEO & Co-Founder of SuperData Research, a games market research firm that was acquired by Nielsen. Joost is now an academic and entrepreneur, a professor at the NYU Stern School of Business, and author of One Up: Creativity, Competition, and the Global Business of Video Games. In addition to being an investor and advisor for funds and firms active in interactive entertainment, Joost publishes a weekly newsletter on gaming, tech, and entertainment called SuperJoost Playlist. He received an MA from the University of Amsterdam and a Ph.D. from Columbia University.
In this episode, you’ll hear how Joost became fascinated with games at a young age, how he pitched and hounded his professors to allow him to write his Ph.D. thesis on the business of games, his experience prepping and selling his company SuperData to Nielsen, and how he sees the future of the gaming industry changing in the next five to ten years.
How Joost got into games as a kid, studying games in the early 2000s, pitched games to professors as a PhD thesis, earned money as an analyst to start a company
Founding of SuperData in 2010 and the state of the industry at the time
Fundraising - appealing to a network of colleagues and friends, the new landscape of large VC firms, having all your paperwork and numbers in order
The process of selling SuperData to Nielsen and advice for others going through that process
The book - One Up - the new business models - innovation and strategy in today’s gaming industry
The outlook for the future of gaming - from product to service, and from fringe to mainstream - business models will change in the next 5-10 years
Reducing barriers to entry, tech vs. creativity, monetizing, marketing, and distribution
Advice to your younger self - focus on yourself and your own business, not everyone else’s. Your money is to buy you more time, not foosball tables
The Gaming Founders Podcast is brought to you by Pragma, a venture-backed backend game engine founded by the engineering leaders who built the platforms for some of the largest live service games including League of Legends, Fortnite, Destiny 2, and Plants vs. Zombies 2. Pragma powers services like accounts, matchmaking, and player data for the world’s most ambitious live service games. CEO of Pragma Eden Chen was also the founder of Fisherman Labs and Lightmark Capital and was previously an investment banker at Citigroup and Lehman Brothers. Kevin Zhang leads the healthcare and gaming practices at Upfront Ventures. Upfront has backed standout teams across all technology sectors with a current focus in healthcare, fintech, consumerization of enterprise software, gaming, computer vision, and AgTech/ sustainability.
Pragma is a venture-backed backend game engine founded by the engineering leaders who built the platforms for some of the largest live service games including League of Legends, Fortnite, Destiny 2, and Plants vs. Zombies 2. Pragma powers services like accounts, matchmaking and player data for the world’s most ambitious live service games. Eden Chen is a serial entrepreneur and co-founder of Pragma, Fishermen Labs and Lightmark Capital, and started his career in investment banking at Citigroup and Lehman Brothers.
Founded in 1996 in Los Angeles with investing professionals based in LA and SF, Upfront Ventures has backed startup teams across all technology sectors, with about half in Southern California, and the rest across the US and Europe. Kevin Zhang is an avid gamer and former neurobiology researcher who leads gaming and healthcare investments at Upfront Ventures, including Pragma.