Every week we publish an interview with a start-up. We ask five questions, hoping the answers will give you inspiration and new views. Well, actually six questions, since we also ask the start-up to who he or she is passing the mic.
This week’s start-up is Mooh, a studio and developer of massive multiplayer games for casual audiences. The games are free, don’t need a plug-in, are cross platform and Flash-based and can be played from any web browser by thousands of players simultaneously. The company is an initiative of the Dutch companies Virtual Fairground, Ranj and Ex Machina.
We’re interviewing Maarten Brands, who has just left W!Games to focus on other projects, one of which is Mooh. He also co-founded a community and dating site for Christians, called Funky Fish and is working as a consultant for amongst others, the mobile start-up yoMedia.
Brands is a creative and strategic thinker who likes to do new things and start new initiatives: “I’m interested in a lot of stuff and I like to write which is why I studied Journalism – but I don’t blog -, although I quickly found out the whole news reporting thing wasn’t for me. I guess my main passions are the Arts, Games and Innovation.”
How did you guys come up with the idea for Mooh?
Mooh for me is the result of a lot of things. Frustration about the way the current ‘traditional’ retail games industry works, the rise of casual gaming audiences and their gaming preferences, the success of avatar-based social networking amongst teens, phenomena like World of Warcraft, the use of micro-payments etcetera.
One thing in particular that stuck was the realization that the reason people play Massive Multiplayer Online (MMO) games and why they use social networking services is often for similar reasons. It’s about self-expression, status and communication. The gaming element just give people more fun things to do while they are hanging out on-line and more room for self-expression. If we can take away certain boundaries in terms of accessibility and available types of content, many, many more people will play community games.
The whole gaming industry is on its head at the moment, with different kinds of business models coming up and a new type of consumers entering the market. I see an opportunity for Mooh to really challenge current conventions.
What was/is your biggest challenge during the development process?
Up until now, getting enough skilled people on board and involved. We solved a big part of that by having some really great studios partnering in Mooh, but I think everybody in this industry is clamoring for skilled programmers, designers, artists etc.
Another one that we are well aware of is that making these large scale games for hundreds, thousands or hundreds of thousands of audiences is a huge puzzle that involves, gaming, security, payment, customer support and strategy. All these pieces need to fit together and that is why we’ve been planning this for a long time.
What will be the influence of Mooh on the the next web?
- The end of overwrought company names for web start-ups.
- Making Avatars a major part of your online personality.
- Casual MMO games in general will form a really strong case and will act as a significant driver to completely move towards digital distribution of entertainment content from all industries.
- Game-like navigation and User Interfaces of games have will influence how the web is navigated and vice versa.
Can you describe the Netherlands’ start-up culture compared to Silicon Valley?
I’ve been to Silicon Valley a number of times. For technology and internet infrastructure businesses it is a great environment to start, much like Israel. However, it’s maybe not the obvious place to start for a company that is also very much about the entertainment and gaming industry like us, because that is not in the Valleys mindset. One of the first US VC’s that expressed an interest in what we are doing was from LA for instance.
I think start-up culture in the Netherlands is very much improving, but that could be my own wishful thinking and not necessarily the way it really is. The Netherlands is organized as a very risk averse society in general, just look at how much ridiculous insurance everybody here has for everything, and that has its effect but there will always be young people trying to put their foot on the map. I think the Seed stage especially is very tough in The Netherlands. If you have a business idea that you can build a prototype of for let’s say EU 25.000, you’re ok because you can probably finance that yourself, but if you want to get a bigger business of the ground like Mooh and even if you have a team and a great business plan, getting someone to put money into it is very tough.
I also would like people and companies from the Netherlands to increase their level of ambitions and to speak out this ambition. I like it when someone announces that they want to be the biggest and best in the world but that gets frowned upon here to much.
You can make up this question yourself!
What’s the worst piece of business jargon you heard recently and what is the coolest Dutch saying?:
The worst piece of business jargon I heard recently is, “Low hanging fruit”. People using this, you know who you are!
The best Dutch saying is, “Now the monkey comes out of the sleeve”.
(note from the editor: when people say that the monkey comes out of the sleeve, they mean that there was a hidden agenda or crucial detail, which is revealed at that actual moment.)
Brands asked us to interview the guys from Zecco. We hope to publish an interview with them pretty soon!