Growing A Mobile Games Development Startup In Bangkok With Jakob Lykkegaard, Co-Founder of Pocket PlayLab

Jakob, please introduce yourself…

I was born in Denmark and moved to Thailand over 5 years ago to look for new opportunities and build a startup. That meant I had to drop out of my University and my job i loved at SPAMfighter in Copenhagen.

I always knew that something big would happen in Asia, however Thailand was never on the top of my list, until I actually visited on a business trip. I loved the people and the country so I couldn’t stop thinking about all the things I could do or build here.

Before starting Pocket PlayLab I co-founded Pagemodo, the first custom Facebook Page builder based on templates. We learned a lot of tough lessons on culture and business building, but never gave up on the vision and later sold the company close to its peak time, to Webs Inc. and later Vistaprint.

What’s the story behind creating Pocket PlayLab?

After selling my first startup I ended up investing in new startups and ideas in Bangkok and Pocket PlayLab was one of them.

My co-founder Thomas Andreasen had a small app development studio prior and we had the opportunity to take over a great gaming team building Facebook Games.

This resulted in us having a team of around 15 people from day one, with us coming from a tech business background and no experience in building games.

It took us a lot of time and money to learn how to make games, but we always believed that the right vision and team would eventually find the secret sauce.

How’s traction working out so far?

It is going better than any of our excel sheets told me half a year ago, so that translates into better than expected. At the moment we are hiring locally and flying in the best people we can find to take Pocket PlayLab to the next level, as we have found a platform internally we can continue building upon.

Our latest title Juice Cubes has been downloaded over 10 Million times over the last few months and more than a million people playing it every day and revenue thereafter.

We will soon move into our new 1000Sqm office and I am starting to see that it might not be enough if we continue the same growth as we are doing now.

What challenges did you face when launching, and how did you overcome them?

Some of our main challenges came as not a single member of the original team had ever built any server or mobile game platform to the size and scale we were aiming for.

We overcame the challenges by trial and error. Our entire team has learned so much from that process that they are now among the best in the field and as a gaming company we are now attractive enough to pull in guys that have worked with big scales and games before.

What strategies are you using to market your apps?

A lot of developers are still dreaming of “A free viral overnight success”, just like we did in the beginning. However the only thing that works in todays world is pure paid user acquisition (FB ads etc), either your users spend enough money in your game to make it profitable enough to buy them, or your game will have little to no chance on succeeding and you might as well start working on something else that will.

It is a rough reality, but it took us some years and a lot of money to learn that lesson.

How does being based in Bangkok impact the business?

There are a lot of advantages and disadvantages by being based in Bangkok, but for me the advantages are way bigger. The main challenge in Tech startups in Bangkok that I have seen, is that it will take you longer to get things up an running to full speed.

You will rarely find team members with years of experience in exactly the product you are working on from the start, but will instead have to look for rough diamonds of very talented people that are willing to learn and start.

One of the huge advantages that I have found is that nobody I’ve met has said no to a meeting or a job offer in Bangkok. I guess there are a lot of people around the world very bored in their corporate jobs and are willing to skip it all for an opportunity to work in the land of smiles. Making great games as a job is of course a big upside as well.

How do you see the startup and investment ecosystem developing in Bangkok?

The ecosystem has changed a lot over the last few years. When I started working on my first startup 5 years ago I knew nobody here and we didn’t have fancy startup events like we do now.

The closest thing I could find was people doing affiliate marketing on their own, but very few were building a proper tech business with a longterm vision.

Things have changed so much that we now have more events, workshops and startups than I can personally follow.

A great thing about the ecosystem is that it is like a family and everybody wants to help each other to make it better and bigger.

I’m personally doing my best to invest most of the money I make into local startups as the potential is endless.

We are sometimes making fun that you just have to be the “Tallest of the midgets”, meaning that if your startup was doing the same in US, you would be a midget compared to the huge competitors.

In Thailand you don’t have many big competitors and huge corporations doing the same as you, so you will quickly become the “go to guy” in Thailand for that specific field.

We are trying our best to build Pocket PlayLab as the “Go to place” for mobile gaming, so that anyone looking for gaming opportunities in Asia will come to us first. That gives us a great network of partners and potential talent.

What’s next for Pocket Play Lab?

That’s the question that still keeps me excited. We are once again moving faster and scaling to a bigger scale than anyone of us has ever seen.

We are constantly changing to help the company and culture handle longer term vision and now have the opportunity to plan longer than just the next game title.

We have started getting a lot of international attention from partners and investors that I have always dreamt about working with. There are so many things happening, so fast, that 2014 can only be an extremely good year for us. With a strong plan and an awesome team, it can’t happen fast enough.

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