To say Charles Hudson is #winning would be an understatement. He’s a Venture Partner at SoftTech VC, one of the leading in the Valley (think Mint and Tapulous) and is CEO and co-Founder of a hot new mobile gaming start-up called Bionic Panda Games.
A self-described “biz guy” Charles got his MBA from Stanford and has been in the Bay Area for 15 years. He’s worked at Google and Serious Business (Acquired by Zynga). On top of that, he’d also had a conference business and research business that focused on the social gaming (Social Gaming Summit) and virtual goods (Virtual Goods Summit) vertical under his belt. In December 2009, the conference business was purchased by Web Media Brands(WEBM) based out of NYC.
Hudson’s current work at SoftTech with Managing Partner Jeff Calvier consists of “working with really high qualitiy entreprenuers, tackling interesting problems and opportunities.” SoftTech has invested in over 90 companies since Fund I and primarily invests in early stage start-ups. Their latest investment is in Breezy, a mobile printing company in its first round of funding . Hudson worked with Clavier, 10 years ago when he worked at In-Q-tel (the investment group for the CIA… yes that CIA).
Needless to say Hudson’s days typically start at 5am. He spends a couple of mornings out of the week in Palo Alto at SoftTech, spending the remainder at Bionic Panda in SanFran.
His latest start-up, Bionic Panda, just launched it’s first game, AquaPets, on Android and the start-up is an interesting changeformany mobile gaming companies. Their focus is 100% on the Android Platform. When asked why the company is Android-exclusive, Hudson answered, “The more we utilized Android and some Android-specific capabilities, the less likely it is that we can replicate those same features and functionality on iOS.” While this is bad news for iPhone and BlackBerry users, it allows the Bionic Panda team to be laser-focused and deliver the best product. For Hudson, it also opens up Pandora’s box in terms of creativity.
When Hudson tells the story of starting Bionic Panda it seems as it was predestined. Hudson and his co-Founder Michael Jimenez worked together for almost 2 and a half years at Serious Business and enjoyed really working together there, they also had complementary skill sets which was a huge plus. Which made Jimenez the perfect choice to start a business partnership.”As a business person the hardest thing to do is find a technical co-Founder that you trust and enjoy working with together. It felt like one of those once in a lifetime opportunities where I got to work with someone really smart, where we had enough past working experience where I would know how they would react under pressure and challenging situations, and who was also equally interested in doing a start-up as well.”
There are many times in an entrepreneur’s life where the idea comes first may not always be the best. In the beginning, games were not Bionic Panda’s focus. They actually started with a Facebook application. Jimenez and Hudson weren’t happy with the results and left it to work on other projects. The best piece of advice Hudson received when they were getting started was “You should really plan for a year, assume it will take a year to show in terms of product development and product traction.” Hudson laments, “The person was almost exactly right down to the day.”
Once a solid idea was formed, the ball got rolling, full steam ahead. They started concept work on the game in September, hired their first non-founding engineer in December, and launched the game the last week of February. From functioning prototype to actual product only took about six weeks.
The last few weeks weren’t without difficulty. During that time, while they were in the midst of beta testing, they installed a metric system in beta version of game that tracked what all their users’ activities, so determining feature set and UX issues was more of a exact than just making an educated guess for the team. They refined and changed about 15-20% of the game and also re-prioritized features and their releases. They now release new features and bug fixes on the average of every 1-2 days. To add more icing to the cake, Bionic Panda is also hard at work on two other titles.
When asked what advice Hudson would give would be entrepreneurs and those teetering on whether to take the big jump he said, ”Find an entrepreneurial support network, preferably people who are a little further ahead or have already been successful.” He quickly added “If you lose interests in an idea don’t force yourself to continue to work on it.”Category: Entrepreneur, Featured, Uncategorized | Tags: Aqua Pets, Bionic Panda Games, Charles Hudson, In-Q-Tel, Serious Business, SoftTech, zynga