A Q&A with Crowdpark co-founder and COO Christoph Jenke. The Berlin–based company was founded in April of 2009.
SUB: Please explain what Crowdpark is, and the value proposition you bring to social media.
Jenke: Crowdpark is pioneering social betting games—bringing the thrill of legal betting to the world of social gaming. Crowdpark will offer several betting and casino gaming products for multiple platforms including the web, mobile, and social networks. Crowdpark adds a betting layer to where people are already connecting with friends on engaging topics such as sports matches, current events, celebrity gossip and the like. Its first social betting game is “Bet Tycoon” on Facebook, where players make bets with virtual currency on what will happen in the future. Crowdpark’s patent-pending dynamic betting technology is what generates live, real-time experiences allowing players to leave a bet—at any time and collect winnings—similar to the stock market.
We’re also really excited about what we have coming for the mobile and second screen platforms. We’ll provide more insights on those products soon.
SUB: Who do you consider to be your competition?
Jenke: Crowdpark is creating a new genre in social gaming—social betting games. Other games in the larger category of casino games have solely focused on slot machines, card games, bingo or roulette. So far, there has not been an equivalent on Facebook for real-money betting, especially sports betting. On a broader level, we play in the social gaming playground with companies such as Zynga, RockYou, Playfish and Wooga, including those developing casino games such as Playtika.
SUB: What differentiates Crowdpark from your competitors?
Jenke: We’re experts and completely focused on social betting games. Our products are based on current events and the bets happen real-time. Much of the excitement of Crowdpark’s games derives from its patent pending “dynamic betting” technology that enables forecasts in social gaming—in real-time—similar to how people play the stock market. Crowdpark products offer players the opportunity to bet on actual events in sports, entertainment, business, politics and other topics. For more information about Crowdpark’s unique technology used in some of the games, see the “Dynamic Betting: The Technology Behind Crowdpark’s Social Betting Engine” white paper.
Prediction markets are already being used by companies to forecast various business key performance indicators, Google, HP etc., with higher accuracy then before—see the white paper.
Our patented “dynamic betting” technology brought a new level of stickiness and differentiates from betting principles people are used to. With Crowdpark, you’re in it every second and are always connected with every player. This makes for an extremely sticky game. Our first game, Bet Tycoon, uses this patent-pending dynamic betting technology.
Moreover, as part of the launch, the Company announced the Crowdpark Social Betting Index, where you can see the current events and topics that people are betting on most frequently. It is fascinating to see (you can see the index here: http://www.crowdpark.com/press/bet-index/).
Our most popular topics include: Soccer (European football), Gossip/Celebrities, Football (American football), Business, Politics, Music, Movies and TV, Baseball, and Motorsports.
SUB: What’s your business model? How does Crowdpark generate revenue?
Jenke: Just like other social gaming companies, Crowdpark generates revenue via the sale of virtual goods through micro-payments. Game players in general buy Facebook Credits to play games on Facebook. Players in “Bet Tycoon” are able to buy an in-game currency called “Crowdpark Dollars” to buy additional energy or buy virtual items with those Facebook Credits just like in any other social game. There is no translation of such virtual currency to real money and, therefore, no gambling or money-laundering. It’s 100 percent legal, and has all the thrill.
SUB: What was the inspiration behind the idea? Was there an “aha” moment, or was it longer in developing?
Jenke: The inspiration for Crowdpark happened as a natural outgrowth of the collective expertise of the founding team. Crowdpark’s founders have a background in developing algorithms to predict pricing in B2B markets as well as in the realm of social gaming. With this technological expertise and game industry savvy, we saw a unique opportunity in a B2C context—to create a new genre of social gaming called social betting games.
SUB: When was Crowdpark founded and what were the first steps you took toward establishing it?
Jenke: Crowdpark was founded in April of 2009 in Berlin which we regarded as a place that was a burgeoning creative hub and continues to be so as Europe’s Silicon Valley. We first developed a web-based German language prototype, Crowdpark.de, and then quickly evolved the game into the Facebook ecosystem with the help of our Series A financing round.
SUB: What have the biggest obstacles been so far to building the business?
Jenke: In pioneering any new category and building a business, there are challenges. In our case, Crowdpark is pioneering an entirely new genre of social gaming—social betting. No other developer is focused on social betting so we’re especially excited to evangelize the fun to be had around combining legal betting with social gaming. The games are 100 percent legal. In addition, finding the right creative talent is crucial in order to turn a vision into working products, and the recent funding will help us expand the team.
SUB: You recently raised $6 million in new funding. How do you plan to use the funds?
Jenke: The funding will be used to enhance the technology; develop new games on a cross-platform basis by offering several betting and casino products for different platforms including Facebook, the web and mobile apps, and, to hire more talent in game design and development.
SUB: Why was this a good time to raise outside funding?
Jenke: Our investors—Earlybird Venture Capital and Target Partners—are among the leading and most respected venture capital firms in Europe. With many years of experience as managers, entrepreneurs and venture capitalists, Earlybird and Target Partners help us with their network, support us in developing and marketing our products and to build our organization. We are convinced that with our recent funding, we can accelerate our growth to bring more and better games to users faster on a cross-platform basis.
SUB: Do you plan to raise more funding in the near future?
Jenke: Currently we are not looking for further funds. However, social gaming is a highly competitive market and our competitors have raised considerable amounts of money. Therefore, we are more than willing to look at opportunities that will enable us to grow further, attract more talent or internationalize faster.
SUB: What big goals do you have for Crowdpark over the next year?
Jenke: We aim to extend our growth and build amazing games based on our dynamic betting technology and in other hot growth categories such as casino games. In July, Sean Ryan, the director of game partnerships at Facebook, said the casino category is creating “unbelievable monsters,” and is still largely untapped by developers.
Crowdpark will continue to enhance our first product, the Facebook social betting game “Bet Tycoon”. It is part of Crowdpark’s strategy to offer several social betting and casino products for multiple social platforms, mobile and for second screen technologies.
Crowdpark – www.crowdpark.com
A brief video explaining “dynamic betting”: http://vimeo.com/17525013