Irishman’s social network pursues US$66bn games market from paradise island

27 Feb 2014

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The Player.Me founding team Jamil Velji, Mak Sok and Sean Fee

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Irish entrepreneur Sean Fee has launched a social media site for gamers that aims to serve the US$66bn-a-year video-games industry. Player.me has already won the support of renowned gamers like StarCraft legend Sean ‘Day9’ Plott.

Fee launched Player.me all the way from an island off the coast of Thailand.

As demonstrated by the Collison Brothers from Limerick who’ve built a US$1bn software company in Silicon Valley called Stripe, young Irish tech entrepreneurs aren’t afraid to go further afield to find fast-growth success.

Sean Fee started out in investment banking with Davy Corporate Finance before co-founding his first startup, iFoods with Niall Harbison, formerly of Simply Zesty and now an investor in PRSlides.

Fee’s new venture Player.Me is an Irish-registered video games start-up that he runs from Ko Samui, an island off the east coast of Thailand.

Social gaming

Capitalising on the social sharing capabilities of next generation consoles like the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, Player.me is a platform for players of video games to connect with each other and promote themselves as players. The platform integrates with other 3rd party sites and services (e.g. Twitter, YouTube, Twitch, Xbox Live, Steam and PSN) to give players everything they need in one place. 

“We’re targeting the gaming community from players to developers and networks – groups of players, like Machinima. We feel we can create the ultimate community for the gaming industry. We offer both players and game developers the ability to create their own beautiful one page profile in minutes and have their fans follow all their updates across all their platforms with one click. The gaming industry is a $66bn market and it’s projected that there will be over 400m social gamers in 2015 in China and the US alone so the potential opportunity is significant.

“When players are in and following people and games they start to get their feed (Twitter, YouTube, Twitch or Player.me updates). They can filter the feed by the platform they’d like to see updates from so they’re only delivered content that’s relevant for them. Similarly they can select their favourite games, like additional games and pull all their video content (from YouTube or Twitch) into their profile. We’re working on adding more layers of social interaction, specifically focusing on conversations around individual games.”

Fee met his fellow founders while working for another start-up on the Thai island.

“We all loved the place and wanted to do our own startup out of here. The quality of life is incredible, the ability to bootstrap is obviously a huge plus and we have access to the Asian market, which is very large. The company however is Irish-registered and I realise that once we raise a seed round, which we’re in the process of doing, we’ll more than likely have to set up our main office back in Europe or the US but we’d always want to keep a base in Samui.

“One of the things that always struck me with the previous start-up I worked for was how easy they were finding it to hire really talented people which, anyone who knows about recruiting in tech will understand, is a really hard thing to do! It seemed to be the appeal of living in Paradise mixed with working on an exciting product. That’s why I would love the opportunity to have an office in Samui and one in Europe or the US, especially given how cheap it is to run an office out here.

“Also, I hadn’t heard of companies like Tencent and Naver (who own Line) until I came out here and now I realise how huge they are. The West is only starting to see how big tech companies can become out here.”

Player.me launched its private beta on the 17th of February and so far over 3,000 people have registered to get access.

“We’ve allowed over 1,000 users from over 60 countries on to the platform and the response and feedback has been incredible. We use Intercom for our in app communication with users and we’ve had over 100 users sending through positive messages as well as feature requests.

“We’re going to be releasing our iPhone app soon so hopefully that will add an additional layer of interaction, even though we’ve done everything in our power to make the site fully responsive.

“We’re raising a round of investment at the moment and I’ve reached out to a number of people I know personally in relation to it, but the really great thing is that we’ve been contacted cold by a number of the biggest investors in gaming companies recently so that’s a nice vote of confidence in our idea, if nothing else.”

Inspiration

Looking back on the Irish start-up scene Fee says local start-ups need more talent, less founders.

“It’s starting to remind me of San Francisco where everyone you meet is a founder, many of them first time founders, and you worry about where we’ll get the employees if we only have founders! I would like to see more people work for other start-ups for a year or two before starting their own business because I think it would give them the experience needed to decide if it’s really something they want to do. I should have taken that advice myself.”

Fee says he gets his inspiration from people like Stripe’s Patrick and John Collison and the team in Intercom. “From day one they’ve focused on their product and delivering something special for their users and the beauty is they’ve done this without banging drums and shouting about themselves from the rooftop.

“There are a lot of founders who think it’s all about getting your name out there and doing every bit of PR you can, but in my opinion it’s about how great your product is and how much your users love you, then they’ll do the shouting for you … and there’s more of them! Word of mouth is truly the most important form of marketing so build something great, treat your users as importantly as they are and you’ll start to see the benefits. 

“Also, do something you’re passionate about. I’ve worked on start-ups I didn’t really have a great passion for and no matter how successful you are you never really love it and for the amount of work you’re going to put in to your start-up, you should at least enjoy a good percentage of it.”

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Editor John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com