Chris DeWolfe

CEO | Jam City

Mobile Entertainment

Los Angeles

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CSQ Q1 2019, Visionary of the Year

Chris DeWolfe: The Mobile Gaming and Social Media Pioneer Gives a Behind-the-Scenes Look at Home Entertainment

In fewer than 20 years, Chris DeWolfe has started two companies that have been pivotal in redefining the technology industry in Los Angeles. In 2003, DeWolfe co-founded MySpace, the world’s first social media and networking platform. Two years later he sold it to Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp for $580M. At the end of 2009, DeWolfe had reunited with ex-MySpace co-founders Aber Whitcomb and Colin Digiaro as well as former Fox Executive, Josh Yguado, to launch a new gaming platform, Jam City. Today, the Culver City–based company also works with some of the biggest brands in the world, including Harry Potter and Disney’s Frozen. In 2018 the company launched Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery, which became the fastest game to hit $100M in revenue in Jam City’s history. It went on to become the number one downloaded game in nearly 40 countries. In January 2019, Jam City raised $145M, bringing the company’s total financing to more than $300M. 

What are your biggest business concerns surrounding COVID-19? 

First and foremost, I was concerned with the health and safety of our employees and making sure that we did everything we could to keep people out of harm’s way. As we made the decision to transition to a work-from-home setup, the main focus was on maintaining productivity, company morale and communication. I am incredibly proud of how everyone has come together.

We’ve worked closely with leadership across the company to create a variety of processes, establish a cadence for virtual meetings and check-ins, and maintain Jam City’s culture. At a time like this, it’s important for people to stay connected, so we have more All Hands and Town Hall meetings with the whole company, there are countless virtual events, and we have Slack channels that range from work-related topics to fitness, realities of working from home as a parent, and many others. We’ve purposely made an effort to over communicate and get employee feedback in the early days of the transition.

Some of the best companies emerge from difficult economic times because business plans are more carefully vetted, and entrepreneurs are more thoughtful about how they spend their money.

What is your current business strategy for dealing with the situation? 

We’re very fortunate that we are a media company based on technology. We are familiar with working remotely as we have eight different studios. I think around mid-March, we were more concerned about productivity. But, we’re in a good groove now. From a business perspective, we’re getting very player focused. We’ve reached out to them for a check in to see how they’re doing during these difficult times. In the first few hours we received thousands of responses. What we heard was that our games are providing stress relief, increased joy, and much needed distraction from their new circumstances. Also, to further help our players, we created Happy Hours where players have access to special features and boosters.

How do you think things will look in your industry a year from now? 

Mobile gaming is and will continue to be the fastest-growing form of entertainment. As players become more sophisticated, we’re going to be making sure that we continue to create games and experiences that keep them engaged and delighted. I think we’re also seeing that our games are providing a social outlet to players more than ever. We spend a lot of time thinking about new ways to uniquely add those social experiences to our games.

Jam City CEO Chris Dewolfe in his Culver City headquarters.

I also believe that the business will continue to grow at an increasing rate as more users are being introduced to mobile gaming. Right now, there are very few entertainment experiences that are both social and accessible. Everyone has a mobile device where they can play any of our games with their friends remotely. Other entertainment experiences are limited to physical venues or serial content that needs to be developed with multiple people in a live environment.

What have you learned from other difficult times in the past? 

I’ve been through both the dotcom bust and the financial crisis of 2008. In both cases, fundraising was tough. We are fortunate at Jam City in that we’ve created a profitable company that doesn’t require us to raise money. We can also be opportunistic with acquisitions that can add multiples of value to the company. The other thing I’d say is that some of the best companies emerge from difficult economic times because business plans are more carefully vetted, and entrepreneurs are more thoughtful about how they spend their money.