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Building the Electronic Arts of Casual Gaming: PlayFirst CEO John Welch (Part 1)

Posted on Monday, Jul 30th 2007

The Internet is changing the content business dramatically, and in this story, we will explore the casual gaming industry through the eyes of entrepreneur John Welch, a gaming industry veteran, who hopes to build a brand as high-impact as Electronic Arts in video gaming, through his venture PlayFirst. I met John a long time ago through the MIT alumni association, and his venture capitalist for PlayFirst is also a common friend of ours, Gus Tai, of Trinity Ventures, also an MIT alum. I promise though, that this will not be a MIT lovefest.

SM: Please describe your personal background.

JW: I grew up in suburban Western Massachusetts, which offered a lot of space as compared to the Bay Area. I was either running around outside or playing with Legos or video games. I loved to swim and ski on both water and snow. We lived in the halo of two world-class cities, Boston and New York. We never went to NYC when I was a kid, but loving the Red Sox and hating the Yankees was a way of life. The Red Sox 2004 World Series victory and the three Patriots Super Bowls were incredible for Massachusetts; we waited a long time to win at a sport we didn’t invent! (Basketball was invented a few miles from where I was born in Springfield, MA.)

My parents were huge proponents of education. Neither attended college, but they were at least as responsible for me getting into MIT as I was. I liked school well enough, but I hated homework with a passion. Actual learning was fun, but anything I considered rote memorization or busywork really ticked me off. My dad would tell me that he didn’t care if I went to college, but he was going to make sure that I had my pick of them when the time came to decide. It would be my choice to go or not, but I had to get the grades to get in or I’d feel his wrath. Going to MIT. shaped the rest of my life, so I am very thankful my parents pushed me to achieve all I could.

I became an entrepreneur at an early age, not entirely by choice. I found out later that the amount of money I made mowing neighbors’ lawns barely covered my dad’s costs on the equipment and upkeep, but he wanted me to learn to make and value money. As I reflect, I realize he also wanted me to realize how hard it is to earn money directly versus via a more leveraged model – and for that you need education.

(to be continued)

This segment is part 1 in the series : Building the Electronic Arts of Casual Gaming: PlayFirst CEO John Welch
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Building the Electronic Arts of Casual Gaming: PlayFirst CEO John Welch (Part 10) - Sramana Mitra on Strategy Wednesday, August 8, 2007 at 5:04 AM PT