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LaunchLand: Social Gaming to provide seed funding and engage entrepreneurs

Social gaming websites are expected to gross over $6.4 B in revenue by 2014. What if we could engage social gamers in a virtual world of entrepreneurship and direct the revenue from games to actual entrepreneurs? Enter LaunchLand...

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Written by DeletedUser

Overview
LaunchLand gives gamers an opportunity to experience the challenges of entrepreneurship through the virtual process of running a start-up business. LaunchLand combines the engaging elements of social gaming in order to encourage experimentation and collaboration in the world of entrepreneurship. Participating players develop profiles to share their ideas and skill sets.  In addition to playing the game, they are encouraged to communicate via chat with other LaunchLand community members in order to discuss business ideas, provide feedback, and collaborate. A portion of the profits from the game will be directed towards a startup incubator that will take applications from LaunchLand registered individuals and offer opportunities to develop some of their real life start-ups. 

Impact
A barrier to entry for many entrepreneurs is fear of failure; Allowing for virtual entrepreneurship may help convert would-be entrepreneurs from participating in the virtual world to taking risks in real life. Engaging in a start-up community, accessing shared resources and having ideas validated encourages individuals to take risks.  Gaming also allows all individuals to experiment with start-ups regardless of their background, encouraging individuals who might otherwise never consider entrepreneurship. Furthermore, by giving LaunchLand users an opportunity to apply to a startup incubator, we are helping bridge the gap from the virtual world to reality.  This gives users a tangible resource and promotes the move from experimentation to implementation.


How the game works:
LaunchLand allows budding or wannabee entrepreneurs to safely test drive the world of start ups. Players choose from a list of avatars and have three options to start, they can either 1. be a solo entrepreneur 2. start a business with other friends or 3. take up a role on an existing team. In all cases they can add team members as they go. Adding team members takes equity, but will increase resources for the company. Team members can be facebook friends or individuals from the LaunchLand community that a gamer selects based on their profile and past performance.
Players starting a business choose from 5 different industries. Each industry has 5-10 business concepts for players to choose from with varying competitive dynamics. Players can also upgrade to choose from a larger list of business concepts to add more variety to the game without overwhelming first time users.

The goal for players is to grow the valuation of their company, earn networking clout and experience points. Players earn money and points by making smart investment decisions, collaborating and responding to changing market conditions.  

Once players have chosen an industry and business concept they now need to figure out the best way to invest their money. Just as real entrepreneurs rely on others for advice, knowledge and expertise, LaunchLand players can use their euros to get advice from industry experts, “talk to consumers” and buy market research data.  

Players are then provided with a makeshift office in “Mom’s attic” and are given several options as to how to start the business. They will use the information they have received and can use points for additional advice in order to get started.  As a player becomes more successful they are upgraded from "Mom's attic" to more stylish offices.  They can even use points to buy amenities like ping pong tables or   snack machines for the office. 

Players make investment decisions using euros and equity to grow their experience points and the valuation of the business. Decisions include (but are not limited to) capital investments (upgrade machinery, office space, IT,) advertising and marketing spend, R&D and product development and hiring staff. Individuals earn euros when they are able to sell product, engage customers, and collaborate with suppliers. They earn network clout when they collaborate with and mentor other entrepreneurs. Individuals can lose network clout and euros if they deliver products that don’t meet customers needs or mistreat their workers.

If a business is successful “investors” may offer to buy all or some of it. Players can choose to continue to work with their business or sell the business off. Players are able to keep the money they make from selling the company to start new companies within the game. This allows individuals to experience success in growing the business and keeps them engaged with the game by allowing them to explore other industries and business models.

Social Gaming
Simulation gamers occupy a substantial segment of the mobile gaming market, investing a significant amount of their expendable income in the virtual economy (also termed, synthetic economy) in the context of an Internet-based game. Players predominantly visit these venues to fulfill recreational interests, and often do so multiple times a day to regulate discrete ‘resources’ and maintain their competitive advantage in the live virtual market. This concept would provide a forum to mingle entrepreneurial talents with entertainment interests.
We believe this game is viable based on the success of other business games such as Fantasy CEO and Wall Street.  Some of these games incorporate real-time market data, which we believe might be an interesting twist for LaunchLand. We could like commodity prices, electricity and overhead costs, seasonal demand and other variables of the game to real time market conditions. We are exploring this as an option for later versions of the game.  Despite the popularity of other fantasy business games, to our knowledge, there has yet to be a "Fantasy Entrepreneur" type game.


Further Application
This game could also be used in educational settings just as many other simulation games are used to give graduate and undergraduate business students experience with the trials and tribulations of the start up world.  Thank you to many collaborators who shared their ideas and suggestions about LaunchLand as an educational tool. We believe it can be successfully incorporated into a curriculum to teach students about entrepreneurship as well as remain open to the mass market in order to engage individuals who would not otherwise have an opportunity to learn about entrepreneurship or experiment with start ups.

How will your concept support web entrepreneurship?

LaunchLand gives entrepreneurs access to capital by directing some of the $6.4 B in annual revenue from social gaming into a startup incubator. Entrepreneurs can upload a profile, relevant experience and to post their start up concepts onto LaunchLand's forum in order to share ideas, connect with collaborators and get valuable feedback from potential clients and colleagues. For would-be entrepreneurs, LaunchLand provides a safe space to experiment. By providing idea exchange, collaboration, access to capital and concept validation, LaunchLand will give virtual entrepreneurs the confidence and resources to take the plunge into real-world start ups .

What kinds of resources will be needed to get this concept off the ground and scale it?

In order to make this project a success, we will need to build an engaging and challenging virtual game and community. This requires capital, technical talent and access to technology. We may want to collaborate with established individuals in the social gaming industry in order to be at the forefront of gaming technology. Once built, marketing and PR will be essential to raise awareness and promote trial. We also need to work with Universities and other startup incubators to either fund an existing incubator for LaunchLand user ideas or develop a startup incubator from scratch. Our to do list: Research on target market Development of positioning statement Game Design Brand development and distribution Pursue potential collaborators in gaming and social media industry (Zynga, Facebook, etc.) Determine fair and appropriate use of LaunchLand profits as directed to a startup incubator We are seeking collaborators

How could we get started?

We can get started right away! Our team is based at Cornell University and with some capital and a little encouragement, we can work together with gaming engineers to get this up and running, so vote for us!

Virtual Team:

Our Team Members from the Cornell CIPA Hackathon: Jill Axline Susan Buckwalter Joseph Jelinek Linda Majani

49 comments

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Photo of DeletedUser

DeletedUser

This is a great concept.

One thing that I would suggest adding is the feature to reiterate your business plan/model as a part of the game as you get feedback from the members of the community. Business ideas change over time (as we know very well here at OpenIDEO) and I think it would be helpful for LaunchLand wannabe entrepreneurs to see the evolution of their business model over time as they receive feedback from other players, investors, and the market.

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DeletedUser

Great point, Brett! We want to create many ways in which users can take advantage of feedback and advice from other entrepreneurs to advance in the game and to experience the decision making process of real entrepreneurs. It would be cool to have a timeline feature that would allows users to look back on the choices they made and how their business model changed. Thanks!

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DeletedUser

I'm a little late to this party but feel this idea has the potential to act as a portal for all the finalists ideas as well as help get people into action. LauchLand will aid those definitely looking to launch their own business but will also allow curious minds to tinker with ideas that if they get traction to actually make the jump into action. It also offers exisiting firms the opportunity to test new strategies.
Sorry for the rant but love the potential if the framework can get sorted.

Photo of Tracy Brandenburg

Awesome updates!!

Photo of Amy Bonsall

Also, check out this related concept:
http://www.openideo.com/open/web-start-up/concepting/virtual-economy-for-vapor-startups/

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DeletedUser

We took a look at Jyotirmaya's idea and its wonderful. We wanted to add him on - is there a formal way to do this? Thanks for the heads up Amy!

Photo of Meena Kadri

Great updates, guys! You can add Jyotirmaya to your Virtual Team Field.

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DeletedUser

Thanks to everyone for their support and great ideas over the last few weeks. We made some changes to incorporate the feedback we received and flushed out the game concept a little more.

Please let us know what you think!

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DeletedUser

A good idea- get it right and it could be huge. I'm not sure to what extent it would promote good business practice in the EU though- you'd need to look at multiple language options.

A good starting point might be to look at some of the proprietary business simulations available like http://www.business-smart.com/products/fantasy-ceo/ and approach them with an offer to make it social, mobile and bring it to the Facebook masses.

Photo of Amy Bonsall

Nice idea. What interests me here is this addresses at least three of our themes: creative funding, celebrating start-ups, and tapping untapped human potential. It is a lovely way to allow people to engage with the entrepreneurial world in a fun way, which hopefully will turn some would-be entrepreneurs into actual entrepreneurs. And, what a great feeling to see your virtual support turn into real world success.

Love Tim's idea of looking at business simulations as inspiration. Maybe talk to business school professors about how this could end up being used in business school classrooms? And secondary school teachers as well. The first order of business is just to make it fun to use, then get to the rest.

There is a great article in the current edition of BA's business:life (sadly not online) that talks about how social gaming attracts different types of users, particularly women. Zynga is great at this - for instance Hidden Chronicles' main audience is women aged 35-60. Given this challenge is for the EC, a great question to consider is how social gaming can actually exploit cross-border collaboration. What if it is a way for would-be entrepreneurs to meet and try working together in a safe environment?

Photo of Anne-Laure Fayard

Hi, I'd like to follow up on Amy's point regarding a simulation version to be used for teaching. It could be used in business school classrooms but it should be used in other schools as well (engineering, design, etc.). While reading your concept, I immediately thought of a version of this that could be used in a course. I personally use a couple of simulation, but in particular a great simulation on change management which was developed by one of my colleagues at INSEAD. I have been using it for the last few years in management programs but within an engineering school.
I could see this game (as it is or an adapted version of it) to be used in class and then debriefed and used as a support to discuss concepts related to entrepreneurship. A great way to support experiential learning.
I also remember colleagues in marketing that had a course based on a simulation. Students were in teams and had several rounds to play and they met in between with faculty members for coaching sessions. You could also envision something similar for this game: rather than one session, it could be the basis for a whole course.
I'm sure that with the current interest in entrepreneurship, there will be many schools which would be interested in sponsoring the idea.

As regarding the European aspect, it depends on the main aim of the game: if it's to teach specifics about how to start a business, then laws and other regulations matter; but if it's more about developing an understanding of the main mechanisms involved in developing an idea and launching a business, I think the game can be made generic enough that it could work in most countries without modifications.

al

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DeletedUser

Tim - Thanks for the simulation ideas. We reviewed what you, Amy, and Anne-Laure pointed out regarding simulation and did some research in that area.

Launch Land 2.0 aims in this direction while still keeping many of the organic elements of the prior version.

We really liked the idea, as Anne-Laure added, about Launch Land becoming an educational tool as well as a fun game to play. Hence, our new version is something we think may reveal the hidden entrepreneur of a gamer whose original intention was to just have fun while also providing a realistic framework an existing entrepreneur can learn in.

We would love to hear what you gals/guys think about the new 2.0 version!

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DeletedUser

Nice idea! I love social gaming, and this s gonna be a very attractive platform to get practical experience! So I wanna ask more, what if the real- world market shows very different result, u know things r changing everyday, so how can keep updating and how can we build relationship between the virtual and real world?
Thank u!

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DeletedUser

Very good insight and point Jiangxuan! The software inputs RSS news feeds to stay abreast of market trends/conditions and factors relevant items into the game. Then it is up to the entrepreneurs in the game to incorporate these new issues. What are your thoughts on this solution and are there any other ways you think we can add real world events? Would love to get your feedback!

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DeletedUser

As an aspiring entrepreneur, I like this idea. Certainly something I would like to use. The value added for me as an entrepreneur is the ability to get community feedback and validation/invalidation on ideas I would like to evaluate. I'm not too clear on who, besides entrepreneurs who want to get funding, this is geared to benefit; the community of users/gamers or who...

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DeletedUser

Hi Rick. Leveraging off of your input regarding community feedback and validation/invalidation of venture concepts, we refined the concept to award game participants points for engaging potential customers early on in their new venture. In our refined game, entrepreneurs get to experience the real world challenges of launching a new business. Gamers who may not be entrepreneurs but still want to play are welcome as it makes the game more lively and real. The social mobile gaming market is already very large and growing!

Photo of OpenIDEO

Congrats on this post being today's onsite Featured Concept!

Photo of DeletedUser

DeletedUser

Thank you :)

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DeletedUser

There is so much promise here by bridging the virtual and physical and building on some proven game mechanics around sharing and gifting. Get started now, it's a great idea that should be in beta.

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DeletedUser

Thanks Robert. We have been prototyping a few concepts that blend real and virtual worlds. Thanks!

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DeletedUser

great idea, this could be built on the ideas of such games made by zynga. the "villes" This could connect people across the world very easily building more ease between countries.

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DeletedUser

Yes, connecting people across the globe to work on entrepreneurial endeavors is a top goal for us. We envision tomorrow's start-ups comprised of people all over the world.

Photo of jyotirmaya mahapatra

Hey nice idea !

I also had a similar idea "virtual economy for vapor startups"
http://www.openideo.com/open/web-start-up/concepting/virtual-economy-for-vapor-startups/

And social gaming is an excellent platform.

I think you should also think about the potential users as they are going to drive the simulated economy. Now if only the startups and beginners participate in such a social gaming, it won't give an actual simulation of economic movements. It will be great if the synthetic economy would not only engage and expose them to market condition, but also help them with predictive simulation and help them in making informed decision.

Photo of jyotirmaya mahapatra

Would love to collaborate.

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DeletedUser

We reviewed your ""virtual economy for vapor startups" and its pretty cool! We welcome your collaboration. Is there a way to formally add you on?

Photo of Burak Kazaz

This is a brilliant idea -- sending my props

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DeletedUser

Thanks Burak!

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DeletedUser

Like your idea! :)

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DeletedUser

Thanks Ari. We have refined it since so we hope you like the 2.0 version!

Photo of Louise Wilson

I love the idea of turning a social happening into something for social good. Why stop people from enjoying social gaming when it can be it to good use.

Have you spoken to anyone who is currently into social gaming to see what they'd think of this idea? Would be interesting to hear their point of view!

Photo of Meena Kadri

Welcome Cornell Hacksters!
Might be some learnings from the Urgent Evoke team for starters?
http://blog.urgentevoke.net/2010/07/26/what-went-right-what-went-wrong-lessons-from-season-1-evoke1/

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DeletedUser

Wow, great article! Thank you!

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DeletedUser

Thanks Louise. We have been speaking with a lot of gamers and they find the game interesting. We are hoping non-gamer entrepreneurs will find it interesting as well since they can gain simulated real world experience by playing!

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DeletedUser

Hi Meena. We checked out the Urgent Evoke concept as recommended and it is pretty cool. Thanks!

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DeletedUser

What time and time zone does refinement officially end?

Photo of OpenIDEO

The best way to calculate when the phases switch (as we're all on different time zones ;^) is by the Realisation phase counter at the top of the left column or the Evaluation phase counter at the top of the page. You can actually keep updating your concept after the phases switch – but then you run the risk of some people evaluating your post before you've added your finishing touches.

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DeletedUser

Thanks Louise. We have been speaking with a lot of gamers and they find the game interesting. We are hoping non-gamer entrepreneurs will find it interesting as well since they can gain simulated real world experience by playing!

Photo of Paul van Zoggel

The technology/design is easy, plenty of people/companies who can deliver. Do you have already a game mechanic smarter than farmville meets foursquare?

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DeletedUser

We are still looking at what talent we might have here at Cornell, but would welcome any suggestions/referrals. Thanks!

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DeletedUser

has true potential to be realized....use the existing structures of social gaming am insert some social aspects...bravo

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DeletedUser

thanks for your support!

Photo of OpenIDEO

We love the simulation part of this but the advisory panel cautioned against making it an environment where companies are actually launched. Consider pivoting it to be about simulation for educational purposes, and we think it has a lot of potential.

Swing by our Web Start-up Challenge Refinement Phase Announcement: http://bit.ly/startup-shortlist + the Lowdown on Refinement: http://bit.ly/oi_refine for more tips!

Photo of Anne-Laure Fayard

I like the idea!
I had a comment below about the educational simulation aspect and this inspired me to develop a concept: http://www.openideo.com/open/web-start-up/concepting/definitely-a-virtual-incubator
You might find some useful ideas or references in our concept.

Photo of OpenIDEO

Hey there Cornell Hacksters! Congrats on being shortlisted for our Refinement phase of the Web Start-up Challenge. Only 6 days left to evolve your concept. We hope you'll be chiming in and updating this exciting idea.

Photo of DeletedUser

DeletedUser

We are meeting up again and looking forward to refining this idea! Thanks for your support!

Photo of Amy Bonsall

Looking forward to seeing the updates guys. Thanks for putting time into iterating it! As you get together, think about how you can make it into something more like a simulation that doesn't rely on people inputting real start-up ideas into it. It will be an awesome educational tool in that regard and will simplify the concept.

Also, you might consider charging a fee for using it in classrooms on a per head basis and not have it provide funding to entrepreneurs - that's a big challenge in and of itself.

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DeletedUser

This game has real potential. How do you address the problem of making sure you're supporting real and morally excellent entrepreneurs? I would love to team up on this concept to help fully fill the obvious gaps that you pointed out. My approach is very people oriented. We remove all negatives through sociological assimilation.

Photo of DeletedUser

DeletedUser

Thanks Ari! We belive it's a promising concept!!

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DeletedUser

Oops...I meant 'believe.' Sorry for the spelling error!