Gaming Your Education

Most students graduate facing the challenge of getting a job, but Chai Botta, the CEO of GameIn this isn’t a problem.  He and his co-founders are already running their own successful start-up, with a fast-growing game in the Windows 8 store, even though some of them are still in full-time education, including Chai.

The story starts in April 2012, when Chai – a mathematics student at Rome University -  applied to take part in an entrepreneurship course run by (a BizSpark Network Partner).  Based in Rome, this particular event included creating 30 teams of four, each of which were each tasked with coming up with a great idea for a start-up.  The end point was a competition where they would all compete in front of venture capitalists for first place.  A lot has happened since then, so we’ll hand over to Chai to tell his story.

“Being part of the InnovactionLab project was great.  Before that, I had no idea what it was like to be an entrepreneur, but it taught me a lot and made me realised that I had it within me to start my own business.

I was also lucky in that I was part of a strong team in the InnovactionLab project.  We all have a role to play:  Valerio and Justine take care of all financial and managerial aspects, meanwhile Edouard and I wrote the core of the game.  And we’re all passionate about videogames which is really important, because that shines through into our product innovation.

The result was that we came up with a brand new of thinking about games.  Although we didn’t win the top prize, it was the catalyst for our approach to creating a new concept of games.  By this, I different devices or games but using the same avatar, to share their prizes, money, benefits, goods from a game with any of our other games. No other gaming company is doing this in the same way that we do.

Plus, being part of the Innovaction event gave us a chance to network with some useful contacts, including venture capitalists and Mario Fontana from Microsoft.  Mario really liked what we were doing and wanted to see how Microsoft could help us develop our company.  Straight away, we joined BizSpark, which has been great for giving us access to free technology, but also networking and support. 

The result is our company GameIn, which uses our new approach to games.  We aim to make the games as interactive and exciting as possible, using technology such as geo-location, augmented reality and the cloud.  Our first game is SquarePix, which we have develop since we have been part of BizSpark and is now available on the Windows 8 store.  SquarePix is a geo-located game based on conquering real places on a map and is a cloud-based solution with a Windows Azure back-end.

Our first business model is the classic freemium one (where the basic game is free but users pay for additional features, such as clothes for their avatars).  Our second business model is based on geo-located ads, but in an unconventional way.  We plan to sell special pixels on SquarePix to big companies who can then show their ads on the pixels.  Users can challenge the companies’ own players and if they defeat them, could win a discount coupon.  

We’re now being supported by Enlabs, an incubator here in Rome, who will help us to start presenting to potential investors.  We already have hundreds players all over the world and we expect this to continue growing fast as the popularity of the Windows 8 Store spreads.  All our games are in English and we are targeting the global market from day one.

Technically, this year has been a learning curve for me.  Before this, I had no experience of coding at all, although my colleague Edouard did.  I had to learn coding in just two weeks, but Microsoft has a good, structured API and we also received very useful tips from the Microsoft Dev campus in Rome.  Even though Microsoft is a huge organisations, I’ve found that it never forgets about start-ups and students with great ideas all over the world.  The most impressive thing happened to us was to be invited as guests to speak at a Microsoft Gaming event for developres about coding a game using html5 and Javascript for a Windows 8 app and that was broadcast on Channel 9. 

What more can I say? In only six months my life changed drastically, from being a normal university guy to a co- founder of a gaming start-up with already a game-app inside the Windows 8 store. From InnovActionLab and Microsoft I learned that if you have the right attitude, anything is possible!”