Don’t be afraid to share your ideas for a new product, service or company. There are very few people in this world who can actually execute your ideas.
Justin Beck is the co-founder and CEO of PerBlue, a mobile and social gaming company in Madison, Wisconsin. The company is best known for its flagship product, Parallel Kingdom, which is the first location-based RPG. Justin is a passionate software developer and entrepreneur. As CEO, Beck has grown PerBlue from a group five college friends to a team of 40 full-time employees. Prior to starting PerBlue, Beck held software engineer and program manager positions at Microsoft and Google. Beck graduated from the University of Wisconsin with degrees in computer engineering and computer science.
What are you working on right now?
We just released our third location-based mobile title, Parallel Zombies. We are still riding the momentum of that launch in the office. We’re also busy optimizing gameplay and monetization of our previous titles, Parallel Mafia and Parallel Kingdom.
Where did the idea for PerBlue come from?
The dream for our product, Parallel Kingdom (PK), started really simply. My co-founder, Andrew Hanson, and I were bored with homework one night around 4:00 a.m., so we decided to take a break and start a totally new project. We wanted to make a game with four goals in mind: it had to be played on smartphones, it had to be fun, it had to make money and–just for kicks–it had to use the phone’s GPS. The iPhone had been released a few months earlier, and the Android was just announced, so we wanted to take advantage of this new technology and gaming platform.
What does your typical day look like?
There really isn’t a “typical” day for me. The few constants within my day are emails and meetings. Other than that, I’m busy leading the PerBlue team and steering the vision for our products and the business overall. I travel a lot to gaming conferences all over the world, speaking and showcasing our titles to investors and media outlets.
How do you bring ideas to life?
We launch games through our tightly integrated team of top-notch developers, artists and game designers. We work tirelessly to create new games that are exciting and interesting for months and even years! Our games are always going through rounds of polishing; we strive to continually improve gameplay and the user experience by adding new content often.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
The adoption rate of smartphones all over the world. As a mobile gamemaker, we are excited to see more and more people adopting the technology and playing games on their devices. Our games are meant to be played all over the world, and as more and more people buy devices, more people will be downloading games and apps.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
I’ve really loved every job I’ve ever had. During college, I interned at Microsoft and Google, and enjoyed each for different reasons. Ultimately, these internships taught me that I wanted to take the risk and form my own company. In the back of my mind, I knew I could always go back and work for either tech company.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
If I were to start all over again, I would keep our flagship product at the center of our focus. We knew Parallel Kingdom was successful, but we chose to start developing other unrelated products. This strategy segmented our team, and it took us about a year to realize the negative effect it was having on the company. Refocusing back on our proven product helped get us back on track. Today we are busy building a brand around this product and expanding within the niche.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Don’t be afraid to share your ideas for a new product, service or company. There are very few people in this world who can actually execute your ideas. Your friends and family will provide valuable input and feedback–so share away!
What is one problem you encountered as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Building and preserving a culture for your startup is incredibly difficult. It takes time and effort to create a work environment that is exciting, fun and productive. My biggest piece of advice is to make significant investments into building the culture, because it will be worth it in the long run.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Business ideas are a dime a dozen. The true gold is finding your niche and kicking ass at it. Your idea could be anything: a product that solves a problem you encounter, or something you’re very passionate about. There is a market for just about anything, and social media and the internet make it easier to discover and access them.
If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and how would you go about it?
I would encourage people to go out on a limb and create a startup. You never know what can happen! I turned down a really attractive job offer to start my own company and live in a city that I love. The independence that came from that decision has been worth much more than the salary I turned down.
Tell us a secret.
I want to do startups for a long time.
What are your three favorite online tools or resources and what do you love about them?
- Spotify. I’ve got music playing at all times. Spotify lets me stream music from my computer and on the go.
- Skype is PerBlue’s tool of choice for interoffice communication.
- Gmail. About 95% of my time online is spent processing email.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I love all things entrepreneurship. Have you heard Gary Vaynerchuck’s story? He has two books, and I would recommend both. Crush it! Why Now is the Time To Cash In On Your Passion and The Thank You Economy explain the social shifts in the way business is being done today and will be done going forward.
Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?
- Jason Fried, co-founder of 37 Signals
- Kyle and Cameron, co-founders of Nibletz
- Jane McGonigal, gaming psychologist and author of Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World
When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?
I laugh out loud every day. At PerBlue, we believe in working hard and playing hard too. We always find the humor in every situation and never take ourselves too seriously. I’m pretty sure the most recent time I laughed out loud was when I was playing a rowdy game of volleyball with my co-workers.
Who is your hero?
Probably Steve Jobs. Steve Jobs created a billion-dollar industry (now approaching a trillion-dollar industry) from his garage; he overcame adversity in both his personal and professional career. I always admired his vision for continually improving Apple products and creating a sleek and sexy user experience and strong brand recognition.
Why did you decide to stay in Madison?
I chose to keep PerBlue in Madison for several reasons, the first being that Madison is an amazing city. While the winters are sometimes bitterly cold, there’s so much to love here: great restaurants, unique people, beautiful lakes, and most importantly, a very creative cultural atmosphere. Second, it’s honestly a lot cheaper to live and grow a business here. Sure, it’d be great to live on the West coast, but when it comes down to it, we are saving a lot by being here. This also gives us more options to grow and allows us to hire more people. And speaking of hiring people, the third reason to work in Madison is its signature university: The University of Wisconsin. The school is a great place to find and hire young talent; we never have to worry about searching for candidates or not having a good crop of applicants. While Madison might seem like a humble city for some, it’s the ideal place for me and our company.
How do you balance work and fun?
I make fun a priority. Fun is essential to staying fresh and inspired at work. My favorite way to spend a relaxing day is on a boat or up in a plane. When I return after a weekend, or after an evening spent with friends, I am much more productive and efficient.
Justin Beck on LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/justinbeck6
Justin Beck on Twitter: @JustinKBeck
Justin Beck on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jkbeck
Justin Beck ‘s website: www.justinkbeck.com