John Vechey, 28; Brian Fiete, 29; and Jason Kapalka, 37
PopCap Games, Seattle
Projected 2007 Sales: More than $20 million
Description: Creator and provider of downloadable games
Level One: When game designer Jason Kapalka first met John Vechey and Brian Fiete in 1997, the two 19-year-olds had just been wooed from Indiana to work at Kapalka’s former employer, a gaming company. “We hit it off really well,” says Kapalka, who was impressed by an online game the two teens had created. “We kept in touch, and around 2000, we were all a little unhappy with our jobs. We thought, ‘Hey, we could start our own company.’”
Beyond the Bust: As it turned out, the years 2000 and 2001 weren’t kind to internet companies. “We didn’t have the best timing, but we survived because we didn’t have many expenses,” says Kapalka. The business’s first low-overhead stomping grounds were in the co-founders’ respective apartments. PopCap adapted to uncertain times by experimenting with direct game downloads from its website. The gamble paid off, and within a couple of years, the company moved to a real office in Seattle. It has since added offices in Chicago; San Francisco; Vancouver, British Columbia; and Dublin, Ireland.
High Score: “We’re just trying to keep a very simple business model: Make games. If people like them, they’ll buy them,” says Kapalka, adding that top sellers include Bejeweled, Bookworm, Chuzzle and Peggle–all games that are easy to learn but hard to master. People certainly love PopCap’s games: Their content generated around $75 million in sales of their content across all platforms and partners in 2006. A lot of that is because the games have more in common with Pac-Man and Tetris than with World of Warcraft. PopCap is helping to engineer a shift from complicated, hard-core gaming to casual gaming for general audiences. Says Kapalka, “We’re moving toward the democratization of video games.” And that’s a winning formula.
Follow Their Lead: No matter how fast your company grows, stay focused on keeping your product quality standards high. –Amanda C. Kooser
UPDATE( advice from Gurbaksh Chahal: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/10/24/LV8P13K9P3.DTL
UPDATE( more video and advice): http://abclocal.go.com/kgo/story?section=view_from_the_bay/everything_else&id=6459540
Kyle Maynard of Suwanee, Georgia, U.S. was born on March 24, 1986 with a rare disorder called congenital amputation. He has no elbows and no knees, yet he competed in the 2004 Georgia High School Wrestling Championships. He graduated from Collins Hill High School with a wrestling record of 35 wins, 16 losses and a 3.7 GPA.
He is the recipient of a 2004 ESPN Espy Award for the Best Athlete With A Disability and has been featured on many radio interviews, talk shows, and television programs. He has modeled for Abercrombie & Fitch. Currently he works as a speaker for the Washington Speaker’s Bureau, specializing in motivational speeches. He is also the author of the memoir No Excuses: The True Story of a Congenital Amputee Who Became a Champion in Wrestling and in Life (Regnery Publishing, 2005; ISBN 0-89526-011-5).
Kyle Maynard is attending the University of Georgia, continues to wrestle, and expects to graduate in 2008 with a B.A. in Broadcast News. Also, Kyle has recently began training in Mixed Martial Arts, and there is an upcoming doctumentary on his story entitled A Fighting Chance.