I recently had a chat with the chairman of Fight My Monster, Dylan Collins, who shared his expertise on entrepreneurship, his role in Fight My Monster, the growth of Fight My Monster's, their biggest challenge, advice on raising money and advices for entrepreneurs.
Hi Dylan, great to have you on YHP?
Thanks, Joseph. Delighted to hang out.
Tell me about your entrepreneurial background – did you start young or later?
Reasonably young. Started my first company (Phorest) in university, which got acquired the year I graduated. Then I co-founded DemonWare, which created all the technology that allows Xbox and PS3 players to play against each other online. We were used by publishers like Ubisoft, THQ, Sega, Activision etc. DemonWare was acquired by Activision Blizzard and is now the core online tech behind the Call of Duty franchise. After that I founded Jolt Online, one of the first social game developers in Europe. It was acquired by GameStop-the biggest games retailer in the world. Last year I met Dominic (Williams), founder of Fight My Monster and we joined forces-now FMM is the fastest growing online game for boys in the UK.
Who was your inspiration growing and why?
Mostly Batman, because I was a huge comic nerd. Actually I still am. But let’s keep that between us.
What is Fight My Monster and how does it work?
Fight My Monster is the fastest growing online game for boys in the UK (although we’re exploding in the US at the moment). It’s a free-to-play trading card game where you can battle or trade with other players and build up your monster card collection. So far we’ve had over 6M cards created and over 32M battles-it’s an incredibly active community. It was founded by Dominic Williams (CEO), a software entrepreneur who has four boys (hence the inspiration).
What does your role involve as Executive Chairman?
Dominic and I have an unusual management structure-we’ve redefined certain roles. He looks after the product vision-he’s the creative force, and technology. I take care of business and corporate development.
How has the business been funded? What is the upside/downside of been a funded company?
FMM has been insanely bootstrapped, given how fast it’s grown. We reached our millionth player on investment of less than £150k, which is unheard of. A couple of months back we closed a seed round of $2.1M from Greycroft and BV Capital as well as several well known SF and LA angels.
Good investors can help you transform a company. The reason we went with Greycroft and BV is because of their superb media network and our shared vision to make Fight My Monster a global brand.
How did you initially get traction for the business?
The under-13 demographic is an incredibly difficult one to communicate with as they’re generally not on Facebook, Twitter or even email. Incredibly we get most of our audience from word-of-mouth in the playgrounds. Crazy but true!
What makes Fight My Monster different from any service out there?
First of all we’re not a virtual world-we’re very different to the likes of Moshi, MonkeyQuest and Skylanders. We’re a trading card game with completely unique virtual monster cards. I think the closest thing people think we resemble is a 21st century version of Pokemon.
What are the most crucial things you have done to grow your business?
Hiring brilliant people and finding brilliant investors. No doubt. Also, opening a branch office in San Francisco has had a major impact as well.
Would you say the business has changed from the first initial idea?
If you look at how disruptive the under-13 demographic is for the entertainment industry, I think our opportunity becomes bigger every day. The new global entertainment brands are being created by online games and communities such as Angry Birds, Moshi Monsters and Stardoll. As a purely 8-12 boys brand, we’re getting involved in some incredible conversations which are pretty huge in their implications.
What has been your biggest challenge for the company and how did you overcome it?
In the early days getting people to understand the Fight My Monster vision and just how big it could be. Getting people to see the change that’s happening in the entertainment world and how brands are user-generated rather than design-generated.
Can you give us some advice on raising venture capital for a startup?
My top five:
1. Practice your presentation skills constantly. Always be rehearsing.
2. Have a clear narrative on where the company has come from (and industry) and where it’s going and your part in it
3. Pick your investor targets based on relevance and what they can bring.
4. Do as much forward planning as you can e.g. identify people you may want to hire etc.
5. You’ll be wrong until you’re right-don’t lose hope just because people disagree with you
In your experience, what are the Top 3 critical elements of running a profitable startup?
How do you feel the entrepreneurial ecosystem growing in Europe? If you could change one thing about it, what would it be?
I think it’s getting better and better but it needs two main additions:
1. A vibrant secondary market. Allowing founders to take money off the table gives them the comfort to aim for the stars with their companies. It also creates more liquidity for angel investors which will in turn amplify this aspect. It’s been a critical part of Silicon Valley’s ecosystem.
2. VCs bring in new partners to keep things fresh is vital. Accel Partners bringing Max Niederhofer in is a great example.
3. Okay, I meant three things! More early stage VCs who can move super-fast.
What is the best advice you have for new or future entrepreneurs?
In the end common sense usually always prevails. It’s genuinely hard to be doing something when everyone around you says you’re wrong or simply unfashionable. If your logic/data is correct, in the end you’ll be proven right.