Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Playd Co-Founder Anthony Fraiser Talks About Minorities in Gaming

Held at the Roger Smith Social Media Hotel in New York City, NewME Community NYC, Blacks in Technology NY and EA Games organized an intimate gathering of seasoned—and aspiring—designers, marketers, programmers and game developers, among other gaming professionals, on Monday. Attendees mixed and mingled before the scheduled panel discussion, which featured Senior Producer at Playmatics James Seetal, Playd Co-founder Anthony Fraiser and Advisor to the International Game Developers Association’s New Jersey chapter Sean R. Scott, as well as members of EA’s Diversity and Inclusion team, began. Moderated by BIT’s Mike Street, the conversation addressed various topics, from challenges faced within the gaming industry and available resources to networking tips and what investors look for in tech startups.

It’s there that caught up with Frasier. Many recognize the 26-year-old from CNN’s Black in America: The New Promised Land – Silicon Valley, but there’s more to his story than what viewers saw on the hour-long special. The Newark, NJ native doesn’t hide behind his rough past and the fact he dropped out of college. In fact, Fraiser remarks it only makes him work that much harder. He founded The Koalition, a gaming site for urban youth; a meetup group called BrickCity Tech and, as seen on the cable network’s fourth installment, co-founded the gamers’ app Playd. spoke with the NewMe Accelerator participant about life after Black in America, the importance of mentorship, and what’s next for the young tech entrepreneur.

What have you been working on since people saw you participating in the NewMe Accelerator on CNN’s Blacks in America: Silicon Valley?

Since I’ve been back, I’ve been pretty much working on user acquisition, just building my user base. That’s all I’m concerned about is getting in front of gamers, going to every game conference I can. That’s pretty much what it’s all about.

For someone who might not be familiar with your gamers app Playd. What is it? Explain its offerings and how it compares to other apps within the same category.

It’s almost like a Foursquare for video games. It lets you check into your games, share what you’re playing with your friends across your social networks, but we’re moving into an area that hasn’t been moved into before like trying to have the first digital loyalty system for video games. So what we want to do is start rewarding players for playing games by giving them digital rewards and actual, real incentives that they can redeem with game publishers such as EA.

That would be really huge, especially when it comes to getting rid of the number of users who go out and buy second-hand games—used games—which is hurting publishers like EA—$2 billion a year almost.

Now that Playd is available for download by iPhone and Android users, how’s it performing?

So far we have over 10,000 active users and those users have, pretty much, checked into 50,000 game sessions on our app. We just want to triple that within the next few months or even the next month, if possible. That’s what we’re working on. NewMe was a big help.

How important is it to get out there, attending community-styled meetups like tonight’s event, especially for one’s personal brand?

Super important! My advice for people running startups: Be at the meetups that are in your industry and that are related to you. I’m an African-American male who has a startup, so [being at a] Blacks In Tech [event] makes sense. But what also makes sense is being at E3, PAX, GDC, Comicon, [and] all the gaming events.

Mentorship is very important. It’s something many entrepreneurs and seasoned business leaders credit with their success. Who are some of your mentors?

The biggest mentor we [NewMe Accelerator participants] had altogether was Mitch Kapor. You got a taste of him in the documentary, as well. But here’s a guy who’s had his footprints all over the Valley. He’s everywhere; his fingerprints are all over so to have somebody like that kind of coach you on how you should be pitching, how you should be making sense and even reaching out to him to say: “Hey, you think this investor would be interested in this?” He’ll do introductions and all of that stuff. He’ll let you know what you’re doing wrong, why you’re not interesting. I think he’s one of the most effective.

I made good friends with Curtiss Pope of He’s been a great mentor to me, personally, because here’s a guy who’s been in the Valley all his life. He pretty much left a six-figure job to do this stuff. He’s teaching me the way and telling me how to be. He’s somebody I call every once in awhile to get some tips from and he’s been a great resource.

What can we expect to see from you in the future?

I’m working on some other projects right now. Outside of Playd, there’s BrickCity Tech, which is my tech meetup. I’m also working on a music startup, as well, on the side. It’s very early, but look out for it when it comes.


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