Posted on March 25 2015
This week's Wednesday Woman is the social entrepreneur Jude Ower. Founder and CEO of PlayMob, Jude is responsible for creating the world's first platform which connects games to social good. Read how she came up with the idea for her business, and how she finds working in a male dominated industry:
Bardega: Jude, can you tell us a little about your background and how you got into the games industry?
Ower: I loved making games when I was younger (physical games) and playing on the old school consoles like Spectrum and Commodore 64. Games have always been a big part of my life and coming from Dundee, where the first computer games course came from Abertay University, it was a natural move for me to then land my first job as part of the founding team of a gaming startup. The startup was building games for learning which I loved - a way to use games for greater good! This was thirteen years ago now and it's what got me started on my career path of gaming and startups
Bardega: What led you to starting your own company, PlayMob, and what is PlayMob’s mission?
Ower: In 2010 when the Haiti earthquake happened, Zynga launched a campaign in Farmville selling virtual goods to raise money for the Red Cross to get aid to the victims. In just five days, they had raised $1.5m and, not only that, but engagement was increased within the player base so benefitting the business too. It was then I thought, imagine if all games were to do this - by doing so, there's a huge potential impact we can have on causes, and a great impact on businesses too. Also, I really wanted to be able to play a variety of games and see the impact I was having across different titles. (I was actually at the SXSW festival in 2010 when I dreamt up the idea for the business so I began talking to investors to understand about raising capital to seed the idea.)
The big vision is for players (and now anyone online) to see a collective of all the good they do by taking simple actions online, with a goal to raise $1b for causes. The user account system is in progress, and we are starting off by purely focussing on B2B, starting in gaming, and now expanding beyond gaming to other industries.
Bardega: We’re really inspired by what you do at PlayMob. How do you think we can encourage more social entrepreneurs?
Ower: I think when entrepreneurs see the clear business and social benefit interlinked - making money for social impact, while still growing a profitable business, that's when we will see more entrepreneurs enter this space.
Having a social purpose doesn't mean making less in the long run though; Tom's shoes last year sold 51% of the business for $500m, this was a huge milestone for social business and proof that we can have $1b businesses based around doing good. I actually think it will begin to be the norm at some point, a time when there will be more demand for social good products, and even possibly see millennials who won't work work for, or buy from, companies that are not driven by social purpose.
By 2020, when 75% of the global workforce are millennials, all companies, large and small, will have to seriously consider how they give back in order to attract and retain key talent and customers.
Bardega: The gaming industry is renowned for being male dominated - how have you found it and what do you think needs to happen to encourage more women into the industry?
Ower: It is getting better - saying that, for me, it is such a norm that it is male dominated. It is such a fun industry to work in and the people all love what they do from all areas of studios and publishers, so there has never really been any feeling of being different or left out. I feel it is very inclusive however I can imagine if you are a woman looking in, and have never worked in the industry, it can be quite intimidating.
The best way to encourage more women into the industry is to hire them! There is now an equal balance of men and women playing games so it is becoming more of a balanced industry which will help. And there are women in games groups, and MCV hosted an awards ceremony a few weeks back to showcase the top 100 women in games, the whole event is filled with ladies and about seven men! I had never seen a gaming event like that before - it was really refreshing.
Bardega: That's great to hear! Final question we always ask - what advice, if any, would you give a younger Jude?
Ower: Have more confidence and believe in yourself. Years ago I would look at other people running business and think they were super human. As you get into it, it is all about hard work and perseverance but the more you do, the more confidence you build around listening to your gut instincts and making decisions. For me, this all came with experience, from failing, learning and carrying on - all of which are absolutely key to pushing forward to realising your dreams and potential.
Also you have to realise that everyone goes through hell and back - because of this I am curating a book called Startup Secrets which is anonymous secrets, by startups, for startups. It's a way of showing what goes on behind the scenes to make the journey less daunting and lonely, and to show you can get through anything. The secrets coming in are brilliant and hilarious so I hope this helps current and future startups once it is published.
Actually, there are probably a million and one things I would advise a younger Jude on now... That may be the second book!