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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

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. 

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

Evaluation results

17 evaluations so far

1. How well does this concept address a significant pain point felt by European web start-ups?

This is a major pain point for European start-ups - 17.6%

This is a "nice to have" but not a serious pain point - 70.6%

I really don't know - 11.8%

2. How novel do you think the concept is?

Never seen it before - very novel! - 47.1%

This is common in some places but not in many parts of Europe - 5.9%

This is not novel but a good iteration - 23.5%

There are already other solutions out there that address this problem - 23.5%

3. How easy is this concept to implement and maintain?

It could be implemented quickly and easily maintained - 17.6%

It could be implemented quickly but will require regular updates to ensure it is accurate and relevant - 35.3%

It is a big undertaking and would need a lot of support and cooperation from people and organisations to make it happen and to maintain it - 47.1%

4. What type of organisation is best placed to take this forward?

The European Commission should own this one - 17.6%

This belongs with member state governments (e.g., the UK, Belgium, etc) - 0%

This is best being owned by a private company - 35.3%

This feels like a non-profit - 11.8%

This is a start-up itself! - 35.3%

5. Overall, how do you feel about this concept?

It rocked my world! - 41.2%

I liked it but preferred others - 41.2%

It didn’t get me overly excited - 17.6%


Join the conversation:

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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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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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