The Internet is changing the content business dramatically, and in this story, we will explore the casual gaming industry through the eyes of entrepreneur John Welch, a gaming industry veteran, who hopes to build a brand as high-impact as Electronic Arts in video gaming, through his venture PlayFirst. I met John a long time ago through the MIT alumni association, and his venture capitalist for PlayFirst is also a common friend of ours, Gus Tai, of Trinity Ventures, also an MIT alum. I promise though, that this will not be a MIT lovefest.
SM: Please describe your personal background.
JW: I grew up in suburban Western Massachusetts, which offered a lot of space as compared to the Bay Area. I was either running around outside or playing with Legos or video games. I loved to swim and ski on both water and snow. We lived in the halo of two world-class cities, Boston and New York. We never went to NYC when I was a kid, but loving the Red Sox and hating the Yankees was a way of life. The Red Sox 2004 World Series victory and the three Patriots Super Bowls were incredible for Massachusetts; we waited a long time to win at a sport we didn’t invent! (Basketball was invented a few miles from where I was born in Springfield, MA.)
My parents were huge proponents of education. Neither attended college, but they were at least as responsible for me getting into MIT as I was. I liked school well enough, but I hated homework with a passion. Actual learning was fun, but anything I considered rote memorization or busywork really ticked me off. My dad would tell me that he didn’t care if I went to college, but he was going to make sure that I had my pick of them when the time came to decide. It would be my choice to go or not, but I had to get the grades to get in or I’d feel his wrath. Going to MIT. shaped the rest of my life, so I am very thankful my parents pushed me to achieve all I could.
I became an entrepreneur at an early age, not entirely by choice. I found out later that the amount of money I made mowing neighbors’ lawns barely covered my dad’s costs on the equipment and upkeep, but he wanted me to learn to make and value money. As I reflect, I realize he also wanted me to realize how hard it is to earn money directly versus via a more leveraged model – and for that you need education.