These Founders Raised $500K With A Niche AI Tool For Video Game Publishers

Published: October 26th, 2022
Anna Zdorenko
Founder, INCYMO.AI
started July 2021
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Hi there! We are Alex M & Ann & Alex S. Together we launched INCYMO.AI – a B2B MLaaS recommendation system that automatically maximizes the LTV of games. We train deep tech algorithms to display the most relevant offer (including price, discount, description, boosters, etc.) at the most appropriate time for each player.

Recently we added a new up-sale product – SmartUA. Using a neural network, we find unique mini-games that perform in marketing with exceptional metrics for a specific product in the fastest and most cost-effective way. The product is based on a methodology based on 5 years of working experience in a creative agency and cases with extraordinary results that this work has produced. We are excited to implement our products because the market is suffering greatly. The combination of our two products allows us to understand what triggers players (SmartUA) and helps to make the user experience more personalized through the main product.

INCYMO.AI in numbers:

  1. Raised $500k from a business angel (in the gaming industry) last year. Now we are attracting $1.5m (closed $350k).

  2. Working with 3 games at a time and having more than $3m in revenue in the pipeline from potential customers waiting for our cases.

  3. Currently negotiating terms with >2 holdings (3M daily active users at one of their games).

  4. Increased ARPU from new users by up to 30% and conversion to payers by up to 10% for the first client.


What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

Alex M: I've been in the game industry for 18 years – exactly since I turned 18!

My first project was a browser game. It lasted 2 years and in that time I made $100,000.

Later, active contributors to the first project offered to invest in developing a new browser game. That was the way I created the second project in the gaming industry. As a result, the game was discontinued - there was little money for marketing, and browser games themselves were no longer that relevant. Then the games on social networks started to gain popularity.

After that project, I realized that it was no longer relevant to deal with browser games and I started to focus on games on social networks. I worked on a dozen projects, from the discovery/idea stage to post-release, and developed 5 game projects from the beginning. I was also involved in the development and operation of Hero Wars (that very 🦄). In particular, I developed a monetization system and iteratively increased LTV for years. Then I got a job in a big game company where I’ve been working for 10 years, many of these years – on mobile games at all stages: from development to operation.

INCYMO.AI showed up in my life through my friends – they simply introduced me to Anya. She told me about the current product and plans for its development. So I realized that the project is super-cool and very interesting! I then told Anya about my current projects and what I wanted to do in the future – we got a complete match! So that is the way I joined INCYMO.AI.

Ann: Actually, I have a lot of experience in startup development. In 2014, I launched the Engineer 2.0 program for Intel, which helped to turn engineers into tech entrepreneurs. In parallel, I met founders for my first startup – Animo, a Smart Feeder for pets, which I joined as co-founder and COO. Initially, we attracted investments and found the first customers and large strategic partners. But as often happens, a startup showed up before its time and we decided to close the project.

Despite the startup closing, we gained a lot of experience in startup development and opened our accelerator with partners, where I was an entrepreneur in residence - hundreds of startups went through me. I advised projects as an external business consultant: everyone got insights, most grew metrics, some closed because they realized with my help there was no need for the product, every 4 attracted investment, and 1 exited.

At the same time, I was always working on my main job – as a product owner in a large neobank, creating ML-based products and increasing revenue for companies. All the while, seeing the success of the startups I was working with and the result my projects were bringing to the bank, I could not help but think about my startup. And so, a year ago, I stumbled upon a niche in mobile gaming. Having worked in IT for a long time, I had good experience implementing various ML models that were making a lot of money for the company. Therefore, I realized an important problem in gaming: in one of the fastest-growing industries – these ML technologies are poorly deployed (I encountered personally the shortcomings of these models). Taking into account the experience I helped the startups with, and what mistakes they made, I realized that the most important thing for me is to build an excellent team and find the problem that exists and that people are willing to pay for. So, I conducted personal in-depth interviews with about 20 founders of small, medium, and large game studios and concluded that there is a need for machine learning. In parallel, I managed to find a fantastic team and raise the first round of investment in the first month. This is how INCYMO.AI was founded!

Alex S: I have 10 years of experience in IT and development in general. I work on Big Data (data engineering for organizing storage, processing Big Data, and solving various related problems) and ML (recommendations and personalization). I have worked in various international companies. For example, I developed systems for Kohl's and Amazon.

Later, we met through my friends. A friend of mine wrote me and told me about Anya & Vlad who were looking for a person with expertise like mine. I thought "why not?" and met with the guys. We talked and I realized they wanted to do a cool project - and I liked that initiative a lot. The thing I loved most – it was pretty simple from a legal standpoint because it did not directly involve personal data. A week after our first meeting I began to build a system for player profiling!

So, together we decided to create an ML startup because our idea was to create a system that would adapt and transfer along with the in-game changes. There are always changes in games and it is very important that the system can adapt to these changes without a person and get the best out of offers, ADs, and other personalized offers for the player.

Describe the process of launching the business.

Originally, we had the vision to create a set of tools that would allow game studios and game developers to create better games based on data.

But the launch was not about developing a product right away. First, Anya traveled to Cyprus to talk to game studio owners and game developers - having advised startups for many years, she had a broad and diverse network.

It turned out that Anya immediately got into conversation with business owners to identify their main problems and develop a product that solves them - sort of like deep customer interviews, based on communication with real people and business owners.

It became clear that there are many blind spots in gaming that can be closed. For example, in every game studio/company, regardless of its size, there are employees or entire departments dedicated to analytics – both do not always work effectively, and it is impossible to use all available growth tools at the same time. And in large companies, there are often large departments dealing with analytics that employ many people, and all of this is expensive to maintain. There was an idea to optimize this process!

Now, with our product, studios do not have to multitask, they collect data analytics, and when they work, they connect to our platform, and a lot of problems are taken away from them.

Our idea is to help companies make more money from users, and in return make users happy by enhancing the user experience.

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

Ann: I found the first client who had already tried AI in another company – he believed our product was useful and could be effective, so he trusted us. After working with him, we realized there was a demand for our service, so we started developing our project.

If you find a real business problem and real customers willing to pay or make an advance payment for the service you provide - congrats, you have found a worthwhile idea! Then build your dream team and move on.

The main conclusion from our experience – if you do your job great, everyone will come to you by word of mouth!

Alex S: For now we have a cool service that helps increase gaming revenue. This fact helps us attract and keep customers.

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

Ann: When I jumped into the world of games, I started communicating with game developers. I was pleasantly surprised by how open-minded people were, willing to communicate with me and give me feedback. So, in my work, I often come across the fact that it is very difficult for developers, especially beginners, to get the game off the ground. Even great clients have difficulty testing hypotheses and gaining new insights. Our goal is to help them spend more time and effort on content creation, and we suggest monetization.

Everyone seems to understand that personalization is the future. And we do just that, helping even at the buying stage to figure out where the desired audience is coming from and how to grow that audience more efficiently and quickly.

Alex M:

We introduced algorithms that automatically improve the monetization of game products – displaying offers in the in-game store, depending on the needs of the player in the game. Then we will automatize the logic of displaying offers using ML algorithms. Now we are doing the same for a specific project by hand – so this is the best time to integrate with us because of an individual approach! After that, we will pack a set of successful algorithms that have successfully proven themselves within a particular genre, and then, or even in parallel, we will enter other genres of mobile games and increase revenue for all who are ready and want it! We will also scale and optimize the accumulated experience to quickly connect new projects.

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

Ann: I initially knew a lot about startups and how to build them properly. After I started my startup, I learned firsthand how difficult it is to start your own business and how many problems/tasks you have to solve daily. So it's very important to be able to switch between problems and not forget to have time for personal life, hobbies, and entertainment.

Alex S: The most important and difficult thing in any startup is a team that needs to be assembled, united, and equipped with a single goal. In turn, in the startup team, the readiness for market changes, flexibility and adaptability are very important, such as Airbnb, which started out renting mattresses and then became an apartment rental service.

A startup is your child, which you need to keep a constant eye on and are responsible for its growth and development!

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

We use Google Calendar-Mail-Meets, and Slack to communicate with customers / inside the team. We also use Notion to create team to-do lists & Clockify as a time tracker, the documentation for the company is also kept there.

Ann: My favorite tool is Calendly. As I attend many GameDev conferences and travel around the world a lot, the service helps me to adapt my work schedule quickly to the needed time zone. Since we have many foreign clients, it is also convenient for them – in the calendar, a person interested in meeting with me can choose any convenient time slot for a meeting (for both of us).

Alex S: We use Superset as the main BI tool for data exploration and data visualization of our system for our clients.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

Alex M: I love Nassim Taleb very much - he writes about the likelihood of rare events that occur in our lives and change the world, about the predictability or unpredictability of such events. I liked his works “Black Swan”, “Skin in the Game”, and “Antifragile”.

Toyota Way to Lean Leadership by Gary L. Convis and Jeffrey K. Liker – about radical transformation through continuous incremental improvement.

I like this approach to work – little by little you can improve some ordinary object like a car. The process of continuous improvement is when every day you do something a little bit better. And then, after a while, you create such an awesome product that no one can replicate. Even if people copy such a product, without knowing the details of internal processes they will not be able to achieve such success as you.

I liked the book Blue Ocean Strategy by Renée Mauborgne and W. Chan Kim – it covers how to break out of the competitive environment & create your non-competitive market through the reconstruction of value.

Ann: Richard Branson's book Screw It, Let's Do It: Lessons in Life and Business with a pretty self-explanatory title. And I also remember the fireside chat between the investor and the startup founder (both are YC graduates), when the founder said that "building a startup is a game". There was a case when his competitors poached almost the entire development team in one day. And it was the attitude to the situation as a game that made it easier to deal with that issue, quickly regroup and defeat the main boss. I am convinced, that's true – there are always ups and downs in business and there is no end to it. You need to be able to cope with it and with this approach "startup as a game" it turns out much more fun.

Alex S: A friend once gave me a biography of Elon Musk - I recommend you read it. The book describes the various challenges he faced in building his startups. It also details how he founded a number of his startups, how he came up with ideas, and how they were implemented. There was a very cool story about Space X - he talks about the importance of building a cool team and how exactly he came up with the idea to start a project!

And there's a cool resource - Stanford lectures on startups: how to open a startup, what ideas to have, how to research and prepare to enter the market, and so on. Each lecture is read by a different founder - that's cool! Here is the link.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

Ann: Find out what you genuinely want to do! It’s a must – to understand what business problem your project is solving, and who are your customers. If you find a real business problem and real customers willing to pay or make an advance payment for the service you provide - congrats, you have found a worthwhile idea! Then build your dream team and move on.

Alex S: I don't think I can advise entrepreneurs, but the simplest thing is not to give up and always try; to be flexible and not be stubborn. It's okay to have your point of view, but sometimes someone from the team may do something different than you think is right, which can work out very well!

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

Yep, we are hiring!
We are looking for a Super-Hero a.k.a Junior Data Scientist.

Where can we go to learn more?