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Hello, everyone today. I'm having an opentalk with Justin Waldron. Justin Waldron is an American internet entrepreneur best known as the co-founder of Zynga, which makes online social and mobile games. Zynga is considered to be the pioneer of Social and mobile game, responsible for creating many of the microtransaction and viral marketing business model, which are now ubiquitous. Within four years of its founding Zynga grew to 1 billion. Dollar in annual revenue, faster than any other internet company that point of time. In 2011 Zynga held the largest IPOs since Google, with the valuation of over ten billion dollars. Justin left Zynga in October 2013 and is currently an active angel investor and advisor in a lot of technology companies. Zynga's top games include CityVille, FarmVille, The Pioneer Trail, Zynga Poker, Mafia Wars, Empires & Allies, and Adventure World. Justin has five patents in his name and can speak three very different languages: Chinese Japanese and English. So welcome Justin on opentalk. It's great having you here. Thanks for having me. It's great to be on. Cool. So it has been like one hell of a journey at Zynga for you, right I can sense. So let's talk about starting up Zynga, right from inception, How did the idea come? How did you guys come together as a team? How'd it all start? You know, it's really funny because we didn't have your sort of typical founding story in the sense that we kind of were all friends before this and decided to meet up and get together and build this company. Actually what United us was our interest in building social applications. So originally Facebook released the platform in 2007, and I built one of the first applications on the platform it was The first day of it coming out there was a bunch of launch partners that were official companies. And then I was a college student who who built an application immediately as fast as I could and put it up and after that Mark reached out to me and said he wanted to build some some more applications for Facebook. And so I said, oh yeah sure why not and we started experimenting and just with a focus on hey, this is this is a really interesting new platform. Let's see what it'd be the best thing we can we can build on it. We all think this is going to be big but we don't know exactly what what's going to be big yet. Justin so what was the name of the application Justin you built before Zynga. Do you mind? So I mean, it's really esoteric. It's not something that you know ended up becoming big but it was it was game-related. So basically at that time you needed to have a something that looked like a phone number if you wanted to play online games with your friends on the Nintendo Wii and Nintendo Wii was very popular at the time and it was frustrating because I had a lot of friends who had a Nintendo Wii but I couldn't play any of the online games with them because I had to go around asking everybody for their their phone number. It was called your we number and so I made an application where you could just put in your we number and then it would show you all your friends. We number so it was a very easy way to discover how to connect and play with your friends without all the hassle of having to manually share the numbers. It was a very simple application. That's how he's able to get it up so quickly in the funny part is it ended up being directly related to what we We all end up focusing on which is basically making it easier to play games with your friends. Right, right. Yeah, in fact the zingers mission has been they connecting the world through games. And as this is exactly what you started much before even Zynga, right? That's what the power of social ideas. Yeah, exactly. And I think every one part of it was seeing the ability for Facebook's platform to help to help achieve that type of use case and so of course like the Facebook platform enabled that I think another part of it is I just I grew up while all these these console games and an online games were really becoming very popular. And so and so when I was when I was a teenager or even before that, you know games like like Half-Life in Counter-Strike and Starcraft and you know Battlenet and steam and all these things were becoming very very popular. So like I think I grew up during the time where I saw how interesting it was to play with my friends, but it was just it was so much more difficult than it ever never should have been so when I kind of put those two things together in my head, it just seemed like a very obvious opportunity to me at the time Franklin College is like the the guys who used to play similar type of games used to hang out together and and they used to be like unsaid cult kind of thing where the people who used to love a particular game would actually end up becoming the best of the Buddies. Yeah. I mean it was it was one of Only ways to get it done people used to have Lan parties right that have to set up a special networking switch and invite all their friends over carry their computers into the room and and set it all up. And so I grew up doing that sort of thing and the ability like seeing the ability were like Technologies and we're coming together to be able to let people play games with with their friends and family without having to do any of that work to me was just like the most exciting thing we could possibly be doing so When once we started working on some products together the first the first game we released actually worked on some things that weren't games before and none of them are very interesting. We didn't really release any of them. We put out poker and the reason we put out pokers because Facebook was mostly college students at the time and at that time, Texas HoldEm Poker in the United States was just having a moment. It was World Series of Poker was huge on TV and in every college student was playing it and they're free. I'm so it was just very it was very clear that if we were going to do a game that would be something I would be interesting to do and when we put it out and for the first time you just landed on a web page and you're in this poker game and you're playing with with real people with real pictures and real names. It was just it was just amazing to see I mean it was it was weird. It's like I built it but I couldn't believe it when I used it how different it felt because seeing real people sitting there was like with this realization of what we would actually put together and how and how big of a deal it was going to be and so from that moment. It was just it was clear like okay, you know, let's go do this to as many different types of games that we can what are all the games that will that are possible to do like this and how would we how would we go about building them in none of us came from a game background? So that's kind of where a lot of The Growing Pains came from and where we learned a lot. It's kind of very interesting right when you were saying when you started building it up. You are not that sure about how will it look like, but when you actually saw the game yourself and the application and experience you are presently overwhelmed by the whole thing. I think this is do you support so many companies like probably 50 plus companies. You see that phenomena where you often or is it very rare? I think I think you know, I try to invest in a company that has a Potential to do that I think then when you actually get that, you know, you know it when you see it and that's that's one of the tough Parts about investing right and once something is obvious. It's funny how it can take it take it takes a while to be obvious to everyone and so I think at that moment it was obvious to me because I spent the two or three years before that playing online poker with with the best poker clients and at that time. They were all downloadable to download a Windows executable to play poker and setting it you to set it up you to set up an account in the whole thing was really really painful. So I had that experience and so being able to just land on this page and have my account automatically there and have my friends just instantly be able to hop in with me all that was like it was just so obvious to me how much better it was and maybe some other people who bumped into it at the time. They didn't necessarily Ali like have the same set of experiences to be as floored by it as I was but I knew wow this is you know, just what I was doing a week ago to play my with my friends and poker. This is just a hundred times better. This isn't 10 times better than a hundred times better. And so I mean when I look at other companies and it's always it's Kaufman saying that it should be 10 times better and I think I think sometimes it's not obvious to everyone how it's 10 times better right away, but when but when it really when it's really working And you know eventually it will become obvious to everybody. I think it's like falling in love right when it happens, you know. Yeah, exactly. Otherwise, you can't even explain it. So just in like 2011 you guys went public and you started in 2007 and formerly was launched in 2009. So for years you raised probably more than 80 million dollar in funding you grew from less than 10 people to 1,000 people probably 2,000 people T had so many active. Users daily active users. So from outside looks like a hell of a journey, right? But I'm sure that deep inside. They must have been chaos. They must have been you must have been baking things left side Center and it wasn't funny right probably like you would not be happy with that icon, which is going to must not be happy with 50 things in the company, but you are growing like crazy. So just talk about those moments when you were experiencing the hyper-growth I would say, how are you feeling like that that one of fine? I mean, I think I think it was hard for me to even realize the significance of it at the time. So, you know a lot of it is blocking and tackling like your servers are falling over and you're just figuring out how to fix it because it needs to be fixed now and and for for a while that meant, you know long nights for everybody and even just shipping code at midnight because you know, most of our users were American users for the first in the beginning of the company and so we would intentionally make Are all of our product releases happen at midnight because we thought more than likely we were going to break something. So if we break it, it better Disturbed as few people as possible. So, you know, I think I think the method was and Facebook saying at the time was move fast and break things and I think back in the days of like the web where you didn't have to have a bills that passed apples approval or Google and the whole process for Leasing and rolling back. I think that attitude was a lot more common so we were definitely Moving in this way. That was like, okay. Well just get it out and see how it goes. And then we can always fix it later in the company was was like that too. But very quickly what we did was brought in people that were super experienced. I think the challenge was they were very experienced from an industry that was actually quite different from what we were building. So what we really had to figure out how to do is marry the idea of a the best people from games and the best people from sort of the Internet world and figure out what were the lessons we wanted to take from each and there were probably like a set of lessons that from both of those that we had to unlearn so the trick was kind of figuring out as quickly as possible to prove or disprove. What were the processes and the learnings that we wanted to keep and what which ones we didn't. Great. Okay, and I understand Justin you are in Tokyo right now, right you have shifted your case. So do you mind talking about how did this happen from the shift from Silicon Valley to the Tokyo City fourth bring you what brought you here and and your experience of the reason and your experience right now? Sure. Yeah, well, you know originally we wanted to open up an office in Tokyo. Japan has always been one of the world's largest game markets and at the time it was one third of all the world's game revenues for social games. And so Zynga was doing really well outside of Japan. We were we had maybe 80% market share on Facebook. We are just very dominant at that time. And so we're trying to figure out like, what are the Areas, where we could go and see this type of growth that could double the company's revenue and one of the only places in the world at that time was Japan and so we looked for local companies to buy and we ended up buying a great company. So I ended up moving here for a little while to help integrate them into help basically figure out what games are going to make in the strategy for going after Japan and after I spent, you know about a year here. I am moving back to San Francisco. Esco and it always left an impression on me. Just how how much talent is here. The people I worked with her great the lifestyle and Tokyo is was also was also really nice. I mean I grew up in the east coast of the US so I never felt totally at home. And you know, California, I spent a long time there and I have so many friends there, but it was never for me the place where I always knew I'd be forever and so, you know when it when it came time to set up More else when I could kind of choose later after I left and then I spent more time thinking about what I want to do next. I just figured it was it was a it was worth giving a shot and honestly I moved here about three years ago and I said, you know after a year, we'll take another look see if you see if it's still the right thing and I'm still here three years later. So it's just it's it's been a really nice nice thing for me. I was lucky because I had friends from you know, when we open up the office here that made it easier for me to transition. Right. Yeah, I think Japan is very warm. People are out there a whole culture and the whole feeling as you said you feel like home. That's really nice. Cool. So I think Justin we are coming to the end of opentalk. I'm sure there's so much to talk to you about but we will probably leave that for next open-top the final on the closing note. What are the three things you would advise the young entrepreneurs to do or probably what to do from your past experiences You know, it's interesting. I think one of the biggest mistakes I see is people working on the wrong the wrong thing too long and it's a really common problem because I think that unfortunately with how the seed stage funding works right now, sometimes the process can get pretty competitive and when when you have multiple funds fighting over investing in this early stage company that really has improved in much yet. time's the people who invest their investing in the the concept in the idea as much as they're investing in the founder and it depends on the investors and it depends on the process, but that's often the case and I think what ends up happening is that if a good founder realizes like oh this idea probably isn't going to work and they've kind of taken the steps to really be sure of that sometimes what happens is they just kind of keep working on that for too long because that's sort of the agreement they had with the investors that they they work with and so I really like this idea and there's this guy that used to work with at Zynga named Roger Dicky and when he start his new company, he called it Untitled labs and the concept was, you know, look we're going to make ten different experiments and they're in these areas and you're investing in me and my team and this is the process we're going to use to validate or invalidate. Each of these experiments as quickly as possible and then you know, the three best ones will add more resources to and go deeper on and then finally we're going to pick one and then we're going to go raise our series a based on that idea. And I think that that model is actually leads to better outcomes a lot more frequently. I think it's a very common way to to have a bad outcome to work on the wrong thing for too long. And I think people know what the wrong thing is earlier than they usually change what they're working on. So I like the idea if you can if you're able to set up that sort of expectation to do that. And that's for Zynga that's actually similar to how we started. So I mentioned we worked on some things before games and the truth is we said, you know social is really interesting, but that's super Broad and and we worked on some things that that were not games. We worked on sort of social related toolbars for browsers and stuff that that really if we just got stuck on that and we had raised money with That idea then you know, we probably would have missed opportunity that we eventually ended up seizing. So I think it's really important to make sure you're you're working on the right thing and you're willing to kill your ideas when they're not good investing. In fact, these are calm and also Rahul is asking not knowing when to give up or change direction, right? So when you said that sometime a lot of times we actually know about it that's not working out. It does that we fail to acknowledge and act on that piece. And we tend to elongate an experiment other because of lack of other experiments or as you said lack of or probably due to our commitment, but if we actually design the whole process which is experimental in nature, and we communicate the same to our investors and to our fellow team members that he we are going to fail fast dry fast instead of kind of kind of getting who don't do a wrong idea, right? Yeah, totally an early in the company stage. I mean your goal is to be to be acquiring information right in Your process should be optimized around finding out as much as possible as quickly as possible. And if something is not going to work you want to invalidate it quickly to and so that's actually also better for you and you behave differently when that's the goal. So if you're married to an idea, you don't often behave in a way that you want to invalidate it quickly. If you're if you're married to the idea of success in picking the best idea then actually like you really You'll read team your ideas a lot more you'll Challenger. It ideas a lot more you'll you'll be much more critical of how they're actually working and willing to move on to it. And if it's if you set things up from the get-go like that then hopefully your team will be too. Great. I think that's very very helpful Justin and it was a lot of learning for me and interesting to learn about Zynga Journey because I have been through that cycle of seeing zynga's game and I used to get at least 50 requests every day from farmville and Mafia wars like I can tell that it was crazy. People were making 5 Facebook accounts so that they can get extra life and and play games on Zynga on Facebook. So I think it you what you did was probably a phase, an era where people actually you probably introduced the whole gaming to a whole set of new audience, which I think is really setting a trend and I really respect you and lot to learn from you Justin and we should have an opentalk with you again soon. Yeah, actually, yeah, it was fun and I love to go deeper on some stuff soon. So yeah definitely looking forward to it. Okay. Have a great day. Bye. You too. Thanks.