Inside the VentureSpur Experience: An Interview with James Simpson

James-Simpson_casinoJames Simpson is an active leader in the Oklahoma City technology and gaming community.

Inside the VentureSpur Experience: An Interview with James Simpson from Goldfire Studios

My company is Goldfire Studios. Basically, we are creating the future of social gaming – what we call truly social gaming – with a platform and HTML5 browser games.

What was your favorite part of the accelerator experience?

James: I would have to say that is was a combination of being able to interact with the mentors and the local, successful entrepreneurs. Also, getting to know, interact, and go through the process with the other members of the accelerator on a day-to-day basis was great. We are really good friends with the members of the other accelerator teams and we have continued to help each other after the program.

James-SimpsonWhat kinds of challenges were you facing in your company when you decided to enter the accelerator?

James: A big part of it was just social proof. We’d had a product that was sort of out there. It was still sort of under development. When I entered the accelerator, it was just me. So, it was sort of a challenge of expanding the team and then using that to expand the product.

What kinds of operational changes took place in your company over the period of the accelerator?

James: I think a big part of it was transitioning from a one person project-based start-up to more of an organized business with payroll, with financials.

What changes about your business strategy or model over the course of the accelerator?

James: Going into the accelerator, we had more of a focus on just the games and then we realized that the platform side of the business was really important. While we are still doing a lot of development on the games, we are also putting a lot of effort into the platform and making other developers aware of that platform for when we opened it up for third-party development.

What was the single most dramatic change in your startup during the accelerator?

James: It would have to be the expansion of the team. We brought on [CTO] Luke right at the beginning of the accelerator and shortly after that we brought on [Lead Digital Artist] Lane. That really allowed us to take development to the next level and focus on some more of the important things that we needed to do to expand the business.

What was your favorite part of the mentoring?

James: We had some really awesome mentors from various fields. We had a local mentor from a local company that is really related to our field that had a lot of amazing insights and was able to give us a lot of great advice as we progressed. We also had mentors that had a good grasp of the marketing side of things, which is an area that we had been lacking. He was able to steer us in more of a direction that will help us in the long-term on growth. And, just overall, meeting with each mentor every week or two was really helpful and it allowed us to bounce ideas off them and getting ideas on some of the issues that we were running into.

What was your favorite workshop during the accelerator?

James: Cory Miller from iThemes did a workshop on online marketing, specifically more focused on email, which is what we were more interested in. We’ve got a really large email list that we weren’t really engaging with at all. He gave us some great ideas and tips on how we can keep those contacts and users engaged through email in effective ways.

What was your favorite part of pitch day?

James: It was just being able to interact with investors and local people that we wouldn’t have had access to otherwise. We were able to talk about what we are working on, get feedback off of that and get valuable contacts out of that experience.

What would you tell other entrepreneurs considering accelerators about the acceleration process?

James: Look at where your business is. I think most entrepreneurs and startups can really benefit from mentorship from people who have done this before. Even if you’ve already got some traction, or you have a product out there, that can still be something very useful to take it from that stage and really take it to the next level. Accelerators are a really great opportunity to do that.

What would you tell other startups about how to get the most out of the experience?

James: Focus on always staying connected with the mentors. Always engaging with them to get the most out of that and also participating with the other members of the accelerator. That is an important network that you’ll continue to have past the end of the accelerator. That’s as important as the mentors as well – just everyday being able to bounce ideas off of the other teams is valuable.

Check out GoldFire Studios 2012 Pitch Day presentation!

Go to www.goldfirestudios.com to read more about GoldFire Studios!

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This blog is dedicated to providing advice, tools and encouragement from one entrepreneur to another. I want to keep this practical and accessible for the new entrepreneur while also providing enough sophistication and depth to prove useful to the successful serial entrepreneur. My target rests somewhere between the garage and the board room, where the work gets done and the hockey stick emerges.

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