Startup: Lucky Day
Launched: May 2014 (product launched July 2015)
Founder: Joshua Javaheri
Location: Los Angeles
Employees: 4 in the U.S.; 8 in Belarus (mostly engineers)
The pitch: The hardest part about sustaining a mobile gaming company is attracting and retaining users. Joshua Javaheri, the founder and CEO of Lucky Day, thought he might be able to change that and get to 100 million users. The summer after his freshman year at Boston University he created three, simple-to-use mobile games that allow players to win real money, not just points, tokens or a free game. He kept the game’s interface simple (often a one-click endeavor) with a focus on prizes in small amounts, generally between $1-$5. “We would rather have more small winners than just a few big ones,” says Javaheri, “because we want everyone to feel like a winner.” Hence a mobile gaming app named, appropriately, Lucky Day.
How it works: Some of Javaheri’s fondest memories of his childhood in L.A. involve trips to gaming arcades, so he built games that recall that. In arcades you can win a huge prize that can be turned into cash or lots of smaller prizes, but what Javaheri remembered most was, he says, “the feeling of winning.” He wanted to deliver that winning-moment feeling and excitement to gamers on their phones, and for free. The first three games were a virtual scratch card, a virtual slot machine and a virtual Lotto game. “We started by creating simple games that people already understood,” said Javaheri. Each day users are given a certain number of credits—essentially tokens—with which they can play games.
The real innovation here is the way Javaheri and his team are integrating advertising, making it part of the actual game. There are no pop-up or banner ads on the games themselves, which Javaheri finds distracting. Instead, the ads are part of the game. “Imagine a scratcher game as a kind of mobile ad, like a billboard. You’re scratching off on the billboard, but it’s contextual, it’s part of the game,” he says. For example, the background of the scratch game might be an ad for your favorite coffee place. Or in the slot machine game, you’re trying to match different coffee brands. That’s the future of advertising in mobile games, according to Lucky Day. “When people advertise on television or on highway billboards, it’s all about estimating impressions, because they never really know who is looking at their ads,” says Javaheri. “But with Lucky Day, you know exactly who is looking at your ads and how many people have seen it.”
Traction: In the six months since they launched their first games, Lucky Day has acquired half a million users; more than 25 percent play games every day. The number of users is doubling every month, says Javaheri, and that’s without doing any advertising. The company has introduced casino games too, like Big Fish Casino, Double Down and Blackjack.
Funding: Lucky Day had a pre-seed round of $500,000 and is in the process of raising $2.5 million, which is on track to close by the end of March. Javaheri says the company is still building out its team and doesn’t yet spend money on marketing. Growth has been by word of mouth.
The future: Javaheri wants to fill out the number of games offered in the casino category and then jump to other ones down the road. He says the company will also move from simple, one-click games to ones that require a bit more skill but also allow for more control over how they are played. And of course, he still has to graduate from college. Javaheri is now a junior at USC in the Marshall School, learning about entrepreneurship and business. Although running a business and raising money would have most students cutting back on their course load, Javaheri increased his. Whatever he learns in a given week he tries to use immediately, with Lucky Day. “I took a marketing course last semester and just applied it to the business, right away. It’s just the way I am, I have way too much energy,” he says. “In fact I’m jumping right now while I’m talking to you.”
Credit: Forbes –Eilene Zimmerman