Million dollar Egg Baby
Winning over teenage girls and big investors with Nix Hydra's Lina Chen
Egg Baby, a game based on the traditional school assignment, has achieved over 9.4 million downloads without a dollar spent on marketing. Genius planning? Aggressive social media tactics? Not exactly...
"We never felt like it was at the place where we could market it, because it wasn't ready," admits one of the company founders Lisa Chen.
"It was just word of mouth. When we launched that game it was supposed to be a test so we could balance things out in the game. It was a really rough game and we were missing so many features but it took off organically."
Chen is one half of Nix Hydra's founding team, the other is Naomi Ladizinsky. The two met at Yale University and went on to work in the entertainment industry before deciding to create their own apps. Now they're sitting on $5.6 million in funding from the Foundry Group and a selection of supportive angel investors.
"We never felt like it was at the place where we could market it"
"The first funding round I ever did, the angel round, was super super hard. On a scale of 1-10 where ten is like super hard, it was a nine. It was really bad because me and my co-founder Naomi, we didn't know anybody in the startup industry, games industry, tech industry, we didn't have any credibility because we were young and we weren't VPs or anything. And we didn't know how to code either so we really had absolutely nothing. Our savings were running out. I'm a South African citizen so I had all these visa issues too."
Chen laughs remembering it all and says that the company, started in 2012, was created out of sheer willpower. Luckily as the success of Egg Baby grew the process of securing funding became easier.
"This round, because we already had the 9 million users and we've proven ourselves and we knew more people - our angel investors knew a lot of people," she says. In fact it was over dinner that one of their angel investors recommended them to the Foundry Group.
"Before we even went out to raise they found us, and it was just such a good fit. I thought if this saves me two months of going out to do the dog and pony VC show and you're going to make a fair deal - which they did - we'll just go with them. So that was a two on the scale."
The company already has big plans for the future. Chen and Ladizinsky want to create a central hub for Nix Hydra's products (which currently also includes the charming and irreverent Hot Guy Alarm Clock app) but Chen knows that will take time and, crucially, a larger work force.
"We want to start it next year if possible but it needs a lot more people than we have right now. It's a giant project and it's been our dream since the very beginning and now we finally have the resources to do it."
The company currently has around ten employees and Chen is definite, but secretive, about the sort of person they need to add to the team to grow Nix Hydra. Her wishlist currently includes a puzzle designer, but she says those that can't cope with the office's "goofy" atmosphere shouldn't apply.
"No egos in the office"
"We're hiring actively, that is my number one challenge and my most time-consuming thing right now. They can't be assholes, no egos in the office. There's certain things that we look for but I can't talk about because then they'd pretend to be those things, but definitely they should be excited about what we're doing and this demographic."
If Egg Baby can get 9.4 million downloads without polish it feels like Nix Hydra shouldn't be concerned about keeping the momentum going now it has $5 million tucked safely into its back pocket. But Chen is keeping a calm head in all the excitement.
"The stakes are higher, there's more to lose," she says.
"In the beginning we literally had nothing to lose. So in that's sense it's more stressful. And I feel like we have to move faster to because once you take VC funding you're supposed to be rocketshipping it."