Maximo Cavazzani - Founder & CEO of Etermax

Success is created right at that point between ability and necessity. Both the ability to create and an eye for necessity are trained by doing.

Maximo Cavazzani (29), creator of Trivia Crack and CEO of Etermax, has a degree in Software Engineering from the Buenos Aires Institute of Technology (ITBA). While studying in 2008, he created iStockManager, the first free app for iPad, iPhone, BlackBerry and Android for buying and selling stocks for “TD Ameritrade,” one of the most important stock brokers in the US. Near the end of 2009, together with two college friends, Maximo formed Etermax; a company which specialized initially in software development and currently in multi-platform social games.

At the end of 2011, Etermax launches its first game, Aworded, a multi-platform word game available in multiple languages which quickly became a worldwide success just months after its launch and was the trigger behind the company’s subsequent growth. In 2012, following in the line of multi-platform social games, Etermax released its second word game, Word Crack and in 2013, Etermax created the bingo game Bingo Crack. In October of that year, the company developed and released Trivia Crack, a trivia game with cultural questions both regional and worldwide, which just a few months later created an uproar in the Latin American market. A few months after it’s launch, Trivia Crack went to #1 in Applications and Games in many Latin American app stores.

In December 2014, Trivia Crack hit the USA and broke records, remaining for 66 consecutive days in the top ranking of Google Play and Apps Store.

Where did the idea for Etermax/Trivia Crack come from?

I started thinking what kind of game would give us an advantage over other companies. Trivia games attract audiences of all ages, and those available at the time (board games or game shows) were always very popular but no one had yet been able to translate them into an application.

The challenge then was to launch a word game whose mechanics weren’t taken directly from those board games or game shows.

Trivia Crack was developed based on previous experience; in one game we had developed characters, in another, issues with account sharing and registration. It’s a bunch of small things that when added together in a new product appear to have created a product out of nothing, but they are all things that one brings with them. Not to mention the experience of having made the servers to support millions of people.

Due to an issue with cost, the questions would run out, were boring, or were only local. From there, we came up with the idea to create a system where all the users could create their own questions and rate those they liked. And it worked, users really became engaged in the game’s Community. You have to realize that 200 thousand questions are sent per day. When sending the question, one can choose whether it’s global or local to that country. Questions can also be translated from one language to another. The system chooses and organizes the questions based on whether the users have rated it positively or negatively.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

Wake up at 8 then a speedy breakfast, go to the office at 9, answer emails and check on the previous day’s work. At 11 we have a general meeting and we arrange the different day meetings. Lunch from 1pm to 2pm, and work until 6pm. At 7pm I go to Crossfit, then eat and go to sleep at 12. I try keep a routine, keep meetings short and focus on the important things.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I try to find gaps in the market which we can fill and then discuss the ideas with the team. After that we work for a month on the whole concept, every detail, every aspect. After that the project manager starts to code and design with the different teams and I follow the process. Once we have a working version I spend a lot of time in the details, which are very important. Then we test and release.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

Self driving cars.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

Between the “real world” and that of the company, you learn a lot: skills one believes they have and then realize it’s not the case, such as public speaking; knowing how to treat people in order to get what you want; understanding that one may think the power is in one place but in reality it’s elsewhere; that there are certain people who settle in the company and though they do nothing productive one has to deal with them; that being a boss is not better than being an employee because in a way you end up being everyone’s employee; that when things are going well the success belongs to everyone, but when things go south it’s your own fault.

Basically what one learns is that there is a certain suffering required in order to accomplish great things. Frustration is a part of what makes someone change, and what’s needed to create anything substantial.

I’ve always said that everyone is born with natural abilities and that can be a good thing, but generally that comes with a lack of necessity. For example, in my case I never learned to study because I was always good in school. Every natural ability you’re born with generates a counter ability that you have to discover and destroy. The issue is that it’s very hard to find them and just as hard to change.

What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

I’ve always worked on personal projects, I’m like my own boss. Etermax is my first company.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

I would try not to work for other companies, but go directly to develop my ideas.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

As far as being an entrepreneur, I believe that whatever you do, the first time will not go well. The probability that a 22-year old will succeed in his first experience is near impossible. There are a hundred things standing between one and success: it has to do with how prepared you are to do it, how well you treat your employees, etc. It’s almost impossible to accomplish all that one the first try. You’ll be able to enjoy only once you look back, not in your day to day. If you’re enjoying your day to day too much, you’re nowhere near where you could be and things will probably go wrong. On a company level, you have to be better than the rest. You, not your company. I would love to tell you that all this happened to me because I’m a genius, but that’s a lie. Even if I were a genius, what sets successful people apart from the rest is that they set their minds to it, take action and learn. And they suffer the failures. The entrepreneur does what has to be done, not what we want to do. An entrepreneur that’s too excited about his work is a bad entrepreneur. If someone were to ask me why I was an entrepreneur, it’s because it’s the most difficult thing in the world. Because I know that by doing this one grows and becomes better. But it’s a process that’s not for everyone.

The only honest piece of advice I can offer is to “do”. Because by doing you lose the fear of failure. I may have the same intellectual capacity as I did when I was 18, but my ability to reflect and learn from my mistakes has made me a better person.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.

There are a few keys points for reaching the level of success of this type of content:

The strategy should focus on the product.

The importance of visual identity (simple, clear, paying more attention than to the programming).

Incomes from inside and outside the product (begin with a gaming app, advertising and spreading the offer to TV shows, toys, merchandising, etc).

A strategy that has allowed us to grow in this business and have it grow in economical terms, for example, has to do with the monetization strategies of the apps.

There are 5 ways to monetize an app: sale of the app, advertising via the mediation, direct advertising, in-app sales, hidden interests, for example, a brand implements an app not with the intention of monetizing, but for example, for branding.

An important figure to consider is that 95% of all created apps fail. So in order to be within that 5% it’s necessary to take into account other data, such as the number of downloads, number of daily users, number of times the app is used, ARPDAU (average revenue per daily active user). In addition, of course, it’s necessary to have a good app, a good design, etc.

But on a personal level, it helped me to understand that what motivates me most is understanding that there is no such thing as limits. Before founding Etermax I was very happy at a job where I earned U$S 1,000 a month working from home. When I created the stock trading app I thought it would be the most important thing in my life. But saying that the most important thing in your life had passed at 22 years old troubled me. And that anguish pushed me to reach for more. I made “Aworded” which ended up being 10 times more important than the last thing. Now, “Trivia Crack”… Bill Gates, Steve Jobs are people who dared to reach for more. Understanding that it can happen to you. Understanding that it may not happen to you, that motivates me.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

I think that companies a lot of times place focus on their individual parts (BI, Marketing, etc.). I think the most successful companies set themselves apart because the CEOs or the people in charge concentrate on the product, and the rest is secondary. It shouldn’t be the other way around.

I always give the same recommendation which is that ideas have no value. They are there floating around and a bunch of people have them at the same time.

The important thing is to be able to follow through with them. Success is created right at that point between ability and necessity. Both the ability to create and an eye for necessity are trained by doing.

“Apps” today are more of a fad, but I think the important thing is finding something in which you can be better than the rest. The platform is secondary.

Tell us something about you that very few people know?

I am left handed, but my right arm is stronger.

What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?

I have a lot of applications on my phone. I use the classics, WhatsApp and Facebook. Instagram is another app I really enjoy, because it lets me share the most important moments in my life. And this is a place where you discover lots of new things. Sharing these things with friends makes me feel good.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

Creating a World Without Poverty” – Muhammad Yunus. It’s the story of a man who changed the world by understanding it differently. It will open your mind.

What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?

Warren Buffet and his way of understanding investment.

Bill Gates and his way of understanding wealth.

Elon Musk and his work with Tesla and Space X.

Steve Jobs with pretty much everything he did (good and bad).

John Maynard Keynes and his concepts of macroeconomics.


Twitter: @MaximoCavazzani