This is the first in a series of ten posts where we will highlight a UT student and the startup they have built. For these Student Startup Spotlights we look for inspirational stories of students who assembled a real startup with customers, users or investors. If you know a student with a compelling startup story email us at email@example.com!
1. In a few words, tell us a little me a little bit about yourself and Clay.io?
Clay.io is a platform for games that can be played on any device. For consumers, we’re a place to find fun games to play, regardless of if you’re on your phone, tablet, or PC. For developers we help with distribution, and easy integration of high level features. On the distribution side of things, we have developers’ games featured in our marketplace, but we also make it really easy for them to also get their game in larger marketplaces like Facebook, the Chrome Web Store, and Windows App Store. In addition to that, we have an API that lets developers improve their HTML5 games with features like user accounts, leaderboards, achievements, in-game payments, analytics, and a few more with just a few lines of code.
2. Who is the typical customer of clay.io?
We have two main customers: HTML5 game developers, and game players. To this point, the game developers have been hobbyist game developers, but we’re working on getting more game studios on board. For game players, the typical customers have been early-adopter types (folks who know what HTML5 is and understand why it’s great). That’s mostly because we’ve focused our efforts on acquiring developers first, but are slowly shifting some of our focus to the game players.
3. What do you see as your main advantage over other online gaming sites?
Clay.io focuses on games that work on any device (HTML5 games). Traditional online gaming sites are for Flash games, and given that Flash doesn’t work on iOS or Android, those gaming portals focus strictly on gaming from the PC. The thing is, people play games on their PC, and their phone/tablet, just from different sources – so if they buy a game on their phone, and that game is available on the web, they would have to buy it again. Clay.io fixes that.
We’re very early in the space of HTML5 games – for the marketplace aspect, there are only a few others out there, most of which don’t focus on working on all devices (PC, mobile, tablet) like we do. For the high-level feature API we offer, there are a few unfinished products out there (still in private beta), so really we’re the main option for easy integration of user accounts, leaderboards, achievements, etc… So having a quicker start is an advantage, though some will argue that.
4. What has made your startup successful?
Clay.io is by no means successful yet – we have 4,300 members and 150 games, which are okay stats for an early startup, but the true measure of success is revenue. So what will make the company successful? Persistence, luck, and reacting to those lucky moments tactfully.
5. How many employees currently work for Clay.io? All students?
At this early of a stage, everyone is more of a co-founder than an employee, but there are 3 of us working on Clay.io right now – myself, Robert Leung – a finance major, and Radhika Sakalkale – a marketing major.
6. Did you always know you wanted to start a company in college?
Not really, I’ve been programming and coming up with smaller ideas for sites here and there since 8th grade, but this is the first thing that resembles an actual company with long-term goals.
7. What do you see in the future for Clay.io?
We have two things I’m excited about for Clay.io in the next few months. The first is we’re in the process of dotting the i’s on a contract to port a very popular iOS and Android game over to HTML5 (with some exclusivity for Clay.io). The second is a student HTML5 game development competition called “Got Game?” we’re running from March 5th through April 5th. It’s a global event where students at any university can develop and submit an HTML5 game for a chance to win over $10,000 worth of prizes – sponsored by Mozilla, GitHub, 3DayStartup, and a few others.
8. What advice do you have for students who are thinking about starting a company?
Make sure you’re committed to it. It’s not glamorous by any means, but if it’s what makes you happy, then do it. If you say you’re going to show up to something, show up, and show up on time.
9. What is the biggest thing you think the Longhorn startup community is lacking compared to other university startup communities?
I’m not too familiar with other university startup communities (though I do know some top-notch companies have gone through Stanford’s StartX). So to answer the question as just what the UT startup community is lacking, I think the big thing is time. Most of what’s going on with startups around UT started a little over a year ago when Bob Metcalfe and Josh Baer arrived.
What I’ve noticed is the really smart, motivated, and talented undergraduates all want to, and end up starting their own company. We’re at the point where there are a lot of undergraduate startups run by smart people, but not very many legitimately good companies. I think (hope) with more time, as startups fail these smart students will join forces rather than heading their own company. Now that we have more of a community and interaction between student-run companies, the likelihood of this increases.
Also with time (hopefully) comes a more successful company for others to look up to, learn from, and use as a resource.
For the other side of the question however, what does UT have that other universities don’t, there’s actually quite a bit. The main resources Clay.io has used are the Longhorn Startup class, Austin Technology Incubator, and Longhorn Startup Camp (office space for student startups at 1616 Guadalupe). Now we also have the Longhorn Entrepreneurship Agency as part of Student Government.
10. Any mentors, teachers, friends, family members you would like to give a shout out to for helping make Clay.io so successful?
Again, not successful yet but Bob Metcalfe, Joshua Baer, Kyle Cox, Tim Campbell, Ken Demarest, my parents, and a ton of others I’m leaving out.