Shark Tank season 4 kicked off two weeks ago with Indiana University, Kelley School Of Business graduate Derek Pacque’ turning down a $200,000 investment offer from Dallas Maverick’s owner and billionaire entrepreneur Mark Cuban. Pacque’ turned down the investment because of the equity stake Cuban wanted in exchange.
That wasn’t the case with Mention Mobile founder Ryan Ozonian. Ozonian took a one in a million shot and sent Cuban an email with a two year old blog post. According to Ozonian in just 8 minutes Cuban replied. That single email exchange led to Cuban investing $250,000 back this time last year. Cuban followed that investment up with another undisclosed investment in April of this year.
Mention Mobile is a social gaming company that already has a handful of titles under the belt utilizing the popular Facebook platform. Some of their titles include: Trivia Friends, Doodley, and Zombie Bash: Christmas Attack. Their about to launch a new game, partnering with Chillingo as the publisher, called Word Derby. They expect to get that game out to users later this fall. It will be the first asynchronous word game for Chillingo.
We got a chance to talk with Ozonian about what he and MentionMobile are doing in the interview below:
What is Mention Mobile?
Mention Mobile is an independent developer of social mobile games and applications. Our goal is to build great games that connect friends.
Who are the founders and what are their backgrounds?
Ryan Ozonian, founder and president
Ryan’s extensive background is in online communications, web 2.0 project management, online social landscapes and casual game development. With a strong interest in casual gaming and mobile devices, Ryan combined his unique skill set and creative vision to form Mention Mobile.
Kory Jones, co-founder
Kory is an Emmy award winning entrepreneur who joined Ryan fresh off the sale of the last two companies he co-founded. Over his 13 years at Reality Check Studios, his creative vision helped the company redefine graphics in live sporting events for Fox Sports, CBS Sports, ESPN, NFL Networks, MLB Networks and Sky Italia. Career highlights include creating pre-visualizations for Star Wars Episode 1, working on NHL on Fox’s glowing puck and creating graphics for the first stereo 3D broadcast of an NFL game. Vfx supervision of feature film effects and commercials, direction of broadcast opens & packages, interactive projects and location based entertainment round out Kory’s professional experience.
Where are you based?
Los Angeles, CA
What is the startup culture like where you are based?
The startup culture in Los Angeles is thriving. For the last few years, a great little tech bubble down here that is growing rapidly that includes a ton of incubators, accelerators and independent start ups. The creative culture that already exists in Los Angeles has done a lot to feed many of the minds that are out here now, producing some of the most exciting stuff. I can see a lot of great companies and offerings coming out of Los Angeles in the near future.
If I had to describe the startup culture in Los Angeles in three words they would be: young, talented, and unafraid.
What problem does your startup solve?
We are providing mobile gamers with quality games that have innovative social elements that have not yet hit the marketplace. Our upcoming game Word Derby (launching Fall 2012) allows users to casually compete against multiple friends at once while also introducing a social element that can connect friends of friends who have never met and turn them into insta-buddies. Hey, there’s a cool name for an App…Insta-Buddies…every idea has to start somewhere :)
What is one challenge that you’ve overcome in the startup process?
Finding amazing talent. Since there are so many people that want to do something in mobile right now, from large corporations to individuals, it has made the search for quality mobile developers extremely difficult. For Kory and I, recruiting without much experience and assembling a talented in-house team was a challenge but we were able to overcome with persistence and presenting developers with our awesome concepts that they themselves could fall in love with while building.
Who are your mentors and role models?
People like our primary investor Mark Cuban are the type of people I look up to. To name a few more…Steve Jobs, Eminem, the Bettner Brothers, and all other aspiring artists and entrepreneurs who use their talents and skills to drive themselves to succeed each and every day. I look up to the people that have the balls to go for it and take smart risks. I think that the incredible amount of will power, persistence and effort it took the people above to succeed is often overshadowed by those who like to think they just got lucky. The majority of successful entrepreneurs believe in themselves and put in a ton of effort while under an immense amount of pressure to become successful, and that is what I admire the most.
What’s one thing the world doesn’t know about you or your startup?
We have our weekly meetings while sitting in a circle on the roof of our building.
I’m a 2 handicap in case anyone wants to challenge me to 18 holes of golf :).
What’s next for your startup?
The launch of Word Derby. A word game we have been working on for a year with our publishing partner Chillingo. It comes out this Fall (2012). It is not only a game that we have been anticipating for a long time, but as Chillingo’s first asynchronous word game there is a lot of excitement out there, so look out!