Tech start-up of the Week: Hipster CEO

10 Nov 2013

Ger Kelly, Hipster CEO

Starting up a company for real is not a game, but meet the man who has turned the business of start-ups into a game. Ger Kelly from Getchoo Creations has created a game called Hipster CEO that allows you to take your own little start-up all the way to the top of the tech world – all from the comfort of your iPhone or iPad.

The Hipster CEO game places the gamer at the head of a company potentially worth billions of dollars and they have to navigate the start-up from humble beginnings to lofty IPO heights.

The irony is the game reflects the reality for Ger Kelly who is hoping to build a stable, bootstrapped business from desk space on Dublin’s South William Street.

“Every man and his dog has an idea for an app or startup that they think will make them millionaires. I’ve worked in startups for several years and know that it takes much more than a decent idea to be a success. I wanted to give the wannabe entrepreneurs out there a chance to see what it’s like to really run a startup. Development kicked off at the end of June, so it was a three-month development/pre-launch marketing cycle.”

Growing up Kelly’s favourite video game was the football management simulation Championship Manager. “Hipster CEO can simply be summed up as Championship Manager for startups.”

The game was just launched on the App Store this week. Kelly explains how it works: “Players pick their product (like a Social Network or Music Service) and their niche market and then start out on their path of taking their startup from their dorm room to the top of the tech world.

“Success is determined by how well you can build a great product, market effectively and sell – along with some other challenges along the way. The early players love the online leaderboard too – where you can show off just how successful you’re startup is. The app is on sale for €2.69.”

He said that so far there has been over 1,000 downloads of the app. “There’s been a few glitches but that’s natural with new software. I really didn’t expect people to take to it as quickly as they have. Aside from notifying the mailing list, I haven’t done any marketing yet! Hipster CEO is exclusively iOS at the moment.”

As the game gives everyone from teens to their early 30s a chance to unwind, the reality is that Kelly is living the very start-up experience he is creating for his community of customers.

“I’m looking to build a stable, bootstrapped business. Besides selling on the App Store, I’ve a few monetisation strategies in mind for the future – but they’re a secret for now. I’ve a desk space on South William St which is a godsend because I hate working from home.”

Passion for the start-up scene

Kelly explained that he has been making websites since he was 15 and has been working with start-ups for the last five years. “The passion I have for the startup scene is one of the major factors that led to the creation of the app – you learn so much over such a short amount of time. I’m a bit of music snob too which is how the name Hipster CEO came about (special thanks for Howard Kim for that one).

“The ultimate goal is to teach wannabe entrepreneurs the Lean Startup methods; things like: getting market validation, launching/failing fast and focusing on marketing and sales rather than obsessing over the product. I’ve seen, through my experience in the startup scene, that most first-time entrepreneurs make the same mistakes over and over again. I want Hipster CEO to be a platform where they can make these mistakes without squandering their life savings. It’s a pretty lofty ambition but a worthy one.”

But as luck would have it Kelly has been faced with the usual start-up problems that players of his game may not yet appreciate in real life.

“From a technical perspective I need to make the product much more stable. Marketing is always tough for techies like me so any help I can get on that is hugely appreciated. I think if I manage to create a good product and get the word out there then sales will (more or less) look after themselves.

“Time will tell just how big the market is and whether this is a sustainable business.”

And his advice for other tech self-starters based in Ireland right now: “Validate, validate, and then validate your idea some more! It’s said all the time but most startups fail because people create something no-one wants. The internet is great: create a marketing website and allow people to join a mailing list if they’re interested. Hipster CEO’s list had over 1,600 emails before launch which was pretty good considering the traffic that came to the site. If this had been only a few hundred then I probably wouldn’t have developed the app.

“Also: try to avoid investment up front. It takes the pressure off in the early days and also cuts off a lot of possible paths you can take as you develop since you’ll need to reach scale faster than a bootstrapped startup.”