Actionable advice from businesses in heavenly startup hotspot Tel Aviv

Next we have advice from Gur Dotan, engineer turned entrepreneur, and co-founder of Soomla, which assists game designers to connect them with users and monetise their products.

What made you decide to start the business?

SOOMLA’s journey began three years ago my two cofounders and I noticed inefficiencies in the way mobile games were being developed and monetised. Free-to-play was on the rise with in-app purchase as the leading monetisation strategy, which rendered the mobile gaming market to be ultra-competitive.

Developers without multi-million dollar budgets weren’t able to distribute and monetise their games at scale. The technology and data analysis was being developed by each studio without any collaborative learning from each other. We decided to build the GROW data network. Through this data sharing platform we are collecting a lot of data about gaming patterns. The end goal is to be able to predict users’ game genre preferences and in-game preferences.

With advanced data analysis and machine learning we are capable of answering questions like what virtual goods people buy in games, how likely are they to purchase something, and how much time will they spend playing different game genres. That will allow us to solve app discovery and monetisation which are the biggest problems of the mobile ecosystem, and to capitalise on that solution.

Our data products are based on the SOOMLA open source framework, a full technology suite which interweaves in-app purchase, level design and social sharing to create engaging and monetising games. Today the framework is backed by a thriving community of worldwide developers, all sharing the same goal of standardising mobile game development.

How would you describe the startup culture in Tel Aviv?

The Tel Aviv startup culture is based on creativity, innovation, and a strong flavour of Israeli “Chutzpah”. The startups here aren’t afraid of a challenge or failure. They are hell-bent to change the world or die trying to, and this ethos is what drives so many people here to go down the entrepreneurial path.

Also, the city of Tel Aviv helps foster this mentality by providing free WiFi all over the city, hosting various conferences and organising countless meet-ups. Currently there’s also a push to make the foreign work visa process easier for everyone.

Toss in the pleasant weather, endless bars, world class restaurants and a beautiful beach boardwalk, and I’d say this is startup heaven.

How has this culture benefited the business?

We aren’t afraid of making bold moves. We trust our employees to set the highest goals and to get their work done. It’s about achieving goals and giving employees the autonomy to reach those goals in the most creative way.

We value technology and actively promote our open source code as part of the transparency we believe in.

What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced?

Our biggest challenge was to achieve initial scale of developers using our platform. To solve this, we’ve leveraged our free, open source technology to attract game developers who shared the same values as we did.

We’ve also employed lots of content marketing efforts focusing on content deemed valuable to our target audience.

What is the most important lesson you’ve learned?

Don’t be afraid to push the envelope. If you have an idea and believe it can benefit the industry, then go for it. We believe in the lean startup approach, so create your MVP, get it to market quickly, collect feedback and re-iterate. Focus on learnings all the time.

What advice do you have for UK entrepreneurs looking to start a new business?

The one thing that sets successful companies apart is the ability to adapt. Realise your strengths, what the trends in the industry are and then move in quickly on the opportunities as they’re created. When something’s not working for you, don’t hesitate to pivot your company.

Kat Kynes is a copywriter for Lottosend, which enables users to play lotteries from around the world online from desktop and mobile devices.

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