TJ Murphy

Curious.

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The Great Grocery Game

It was about 9 o'clock in the morning, early Saturday, with the sun shining and my refrigerator totally empty. I had to buy groceries. Luckily I live in San Francisco, a city filled with startups who can’t wait to outsource the minutiae of everyday life. At the tap of a button a complete stranger will come over to my house and live life on my behalf. It’s both disturbing and beautiful. With so many choices it can be hard to know which one to pick. So instead of take a gamble, I decided to put them to the test. Three delivery services, head-to-head, in a race to purchase and deliver an identical order of groceries on a Saturday afternoon. Game on. The Experiment I started by compiling my grocery list. I took my last 12 trips to Safeway and built a comprehensive database of every item I had purchased. From that I crafted a standard basket - the order that I felt was...

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Focus on The How

When building a company it’s important to reflect on the way we use our time. Seth says the best teams do this by focusing on how they operate.

Great teams are set apart by The How, they focus on making every piece of code better, they push to build art faster, reduce iteration time on design and squeeze more out of a single sprint. These people understand that time is the only thing you cannot buy and that growing the team or raising more money is just a way to push back an inevitable deadline

Seth Sivak’s The How

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The Power of Aspiration

As product creators, we have a lot of tools at our disposal. Tapping into raw human emotion is one of the most powerful of all. One of the emotions best used by games is aspiration.

Aspiration is an emotion that can produce incredible results. James Bond is a character that’s many people aspire to be. In the recent 007 flick Skyfall, there’s a scene that features our british masculine ideal getting a close shave by a beautiful woman. This one scene has increased sales of straight razors by 4x.

Nick Gibbens, The Shaving Shack’s Brand Director, believes Bond’s legendary style and iconic status have inspired men to try out a new method of wet shaving. “Bond fans have an emotional attachment to 007, they love his Aston Martin cars, Omega watches and dinner suits. So it comes as no surprise that they have jumped on his love for cut throat razors.

...

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Building a Data-Informed Startup

At MinoMonsters, we use data every single day. We spend a lot of time looking at it and we believe it’s important. Today we will monitor and record over 10M points of data. But what are we doing with all that information?

We’re building a mobile game, but we use data just like any mobile startup would. We use data to track the health of our business and we use it to inform certain decisions. Data helps us understand if we’re growing, it helps us debug product flows, and it helps us discover new opportunities for engagement and revenue.

Just as important as the data itself, the cadence we use to look at the data is critical. We can’t look at everything, we simply don’t have the time or attention. We must be disciplined in how we look at data and ensure we’re using high-yield visualizations of our data.

One way we look at data is daily health...

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Owning your destiny

Patrick Wyatt, creator of the Guild Wars series and one of the original developers at Blizzard Entertainment, talks about the birth of the Warcraft franchise. Originally, they sought to license the Warhammer brand for use in the game. They decided against it.

It’s surprising now to think what might have happened had Blizzard not controlled the intellectual property rights for the Warcraft universe — it’s highly unlikely Blizzard would be such a dominant player in the game industry today.

Blizzard has made over 2 billion dollars on the Warcraft franchise from the games alone. That’s not including the card games, conferences, swag, virtual pets, or their upcoming feature film.

Activision Blizzard is now worth over $13,000,000,000.

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Increasing retention for social games

Retention is a tough topic. Every consumer app startup is concerned with it but no one really knows how to move it. Executing on retention can be brutal. You can try hundreds of different tricks, changes, tweaks, and pivots and still not see the needle move. It’s also a really important piece of data. For free consumer apps, your retention is a key factor in your customer lifetime value. Retention is one of the hardest and important metrics to move in a startup.

As Nabeel Hyatt points out, most people cannot move the needle on retention unless something is fundamentally wrong.

… in general you will not make retention go up materially post launch. I have seen virality increase materially, engagement go up, monetization improve, but rarely do you see retention really pop after launch.

Retention is a really hard problem.

At MinoMonsters, we’ve also struggled with...

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Sharecropping on Facebook

It wasn’t that long ago that Viddy was raising $30M for it’s “Instagram for Video” app that had stormed Facebook. It was being heralded as the return of virality for its spammy Open Graph integration. I wonder what happened to that?

Facebook pushes big updates on Tuesdays. They have taken these Tuesdays as an opportunity to systematically crush Viddy’s DAU to under a million. Why would they do that? Why give free distribution away when they can charge for it with ads.

When building for Facebook you can abuse viral opportunities all day long, but when it comes down to it, you’re playing on Facebook’s turf. And Facebook doesn’t fight fair.

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The motives behind Facebook Camera

Facebook has just announced Camera, a standalone iOS app that’s been over a year in the making.

This app execution is fantastic. Compared to the classic Facebook app, Camera runs smoothly, loads fast, has intuitive use, and feels native. But why would Facebook release a separate camera app? Don’t they already own Instagram?

The answer lies in Facebook’s secret sauce to engagement - photos. The entire engine of Facebook runs on users taking, tagging, liking, and commenting on photos. Without it, Facebook is nothing. And if you take a close look, you’ll see that the entire Camera app is designed to get you to post as many photos as possible.

They have camera roll integration, allowing me to quickly pick a photo to upload.

Their story post form includes an extra call to action to add more photos.

They used a batch-style picker that lets me upload lots of photos...

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The OMGPOP acquisition: 6 weeks later

Now that the dust has settled on Zynga’s purchase of mobile game developer OMGPOP, the outlook isn’t quite as rosy as it was just a month ago. Most Zynga titles take months before hitting their peak and then slowly decline. Draw Something has lost about five million users in a single month just weeks after the acquisition. That’s bad news for Zynga.

Draw Something DAU

Zynga doesn’t simply dish out $180M for a team of 40 in New York. When they bought OMGPOP they expected their games to perform. Newtoy, the Texas-based mobile games developer, was acquired by Zynga for $50m. Their hit title Words With Friends has held in Top Grossing for over two years. Draw Something could be out in the next two months.

Zynga beat earnings estimate for Q1 this year, largely due to the OMGPOP acquisition. If the Draw Something studio can’t hold on to it’s DAU, Zynga could be hurting...

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How Hacker News Saved My Startup

I’m co-founder of a startup called MinoMonsters, we make an iOS game by the same name. We went through YCombinator in the Winter 2011 batch. On December 18th, the eve of our big launch, I nearly fucked everything up. This is the story of what happened.

MinoMonsters is a monster battling game. Think of it as Pokémon for the iPhone. As is the case with many apps, our game is internet connected. During the course of play, the app talks to a backed server. The server diligently performs tasks like finding your friends, letting you purchase in-game items, and letting you play with others. When planning our server, we needed a solution that was quick to build, had fast performance, and was light over the wire. We chose to build the server in Ruby with EventMachine and Synchrony speaking in protocol buffers over TCP.

Since our soft launch on December 6th, the server has been chugging...

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