BigDoor – Gamification Toolbar Provider

September 26th, 2011 by Jay Westerdal

BigDoor gamification Game ToolbarBigDoor is a startup in Seattle, WA with 33 employees. They make game toolbars that sit on websites and allow the users to make a game out of getting to know the website by making the users part of a community. This type of toolbar didn’t exist 5 years ago, it is a new form of internet marketing known as gamification (aka gaming something). Keith Smith the CEO discovered that involvement with website users improved 300% when websites installing what he calls “the holy grail of online monetization,” his BigDoor toolbar. Keith was originally looking to improve involvement by double digits however he was surprised and excited to see that he had achieved increased involvement by triple digits. The 300% increase was leaps and bounds better then a 10% or 15% improvement. BigDoor Game Toolbars are installed with one line of Javascript. Below is a sample of this toolbar that one might see on the bottom of a website:

BigDoor Toolbar

In 2009, Keith Smith and Jeff Malek formed BigDoor. The company was built to help online publisher’s add game mechanics to their websites in an effort to increase loyalty and engagement. The team built an open, flexible, easy to use API and went live in 2009. The company quickly iterated on their product and in October 2010 launched the first ever “Five Minute Gamification process” with the BigDoor MiniBar.

This isn’t the first time that Keith and Jeff have worked together, in 1997 they started an online advertising company called Zango with one simple goal of building an online technology platform that delivered the right ad to the right user at the right time. Keith and Jeff grew Zango to $78 million in annual revenue and $24 million in EBITDA, employing 300 people in six offices in four countries and multiple years was ranked among the Best Places to Work in Seattle. And then the financial crisis of 2008 hit and the bottom fell out.

Keith and Jeff took some time after Zango and regrouped to form BigDoor. Their goal was to drive social engagement and build a loyalty program through the use of game mechanics. Two years later and now BigDoor is the most widely used gamification and loyalty program, with over 300 companies actively using our platform. The company’s infrastructure supports the full spectrum of customers, from independent bloggers to enterprise partners like Major League Baseball and Dell.

Management Team:
Keith Smith CEO of BigDoorKeith Smith, BigDoor co-founder and CEO has been working on gamification well before the term was invented. An avid game fan, at the age of six he sold magazine subscriptions in an effort to buy the original Atari Pong console. Keith wore out five Atari consoles and used his love of games to work his way through college as a game play counselor at Nintendo. Gamification again had a place later when Keith was founder and CEO of Zango; a startup he grew to a multi-national company employing 300 people, with $78 million in annual revenue and $24 million in EBITDA. While at Zango, Keith spent two years building a game-based loyalty program and discovered his passion for gamification. Wanting to focus on game mechanics and gamification, Keith co-founded BigDoor with Jeff Malek in 2009.

Jeff Malek BigDoorJeff Malek, Co-Founder & CTO – Prior to starting BigDoor, Jeff co-founded the company that became Zango in 1999 and became the company’s Vice President of Engineering. Jeff held various roles within Zango including serving as Chief Client Architect and Vice President of Product Development. While the company was still in its infancy, Jeff authored and tested the first versions of the company’s desktop software, and aided in the development of the middle tier and backend systems that supported it. Since then, his responsibilities have included the direction of the Project Management, Web Development, Internal Systems Development, Quality Assurance, Desktop Applications Development, and Product Management teams. Jeff holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Colorado.

Ring Nishioka the COO BigDoorRing Nishioka, COO – Ring has built his career as a Human Resource Executive with corporate background balanced with high growth tech experience. Smith says he joined Zango during the early days and was a victim of the ups and downs. Ironically, this HR Exec was laid off on his birthday only to be hired back two years later…to the day. Smith says when he went to hire Ring for BigDoor it was on his birthday once again. As the former VP of Human Resources for Zango, Ring was responsible for scaling all aspects of HR and Facilities from 20 employees to over 300 and from $1 million to $78 million in revenue. Ring is focused on leveraging culture and performance management programs to create fast growing companies with an award winning culture 364 days a year. Apparently, he makes a point to always take his birthday off…just in case.

Matt Shobe Chief Design Officer BigDoorMatt Shobe, Chief Design Officer – Matt brings his extensive knowledge of user experience and design skills to BigDoor as Chief Design Officer. Matt was previously a Staff UX Designer at Google where he spearheaded the major advertising tools for publishers (including AdSense and Google DFP as well as the Google Apps Enterprise Marketplace). Prior to his work at Google, Matt was a Co-Founder of FeedBurner and led user experience design efforts with the popular service for blog publishers, podcasters, and commercial producers of syndicated content. Feedburner was acquired by Google in 2007. Matt earned his Graduate degree from the University of Washington’s Human Centered Design & Engineering department and earned his undergraduate B.A. from Purdue University.

Funding:
Series A: Close Date 10/09 $250k Founder’s Co-Op; $100k unattributed
Series B: Close Date 5/10 $5M Foundry Group led by Brad Feld

Revenue Model:
Bigdoor InfographicBigDoor works on a revenue share model. They only make money when their partners make money and are getting value from the platform. They call this an Engagement Economy and it is currently in private beta and will be launching in early November. The BigDoor Engagement Economy creates a layer on the website that can actually generate revenue. As they provide these actions that are valuable to other sites BigDoor and the publisher take a small revenue share on the transactions.

Key Stats and Product Information:
Users who participate in the loyalty program are 3X more likely to return to the site than those not in the loyalty program. BigDoor’s rewards program results in a 200% increase in sharing, and due to the innovative referral mechanism users who click on shared links are 7X more likely to register on the site. When a site implements BigDoor, their overall site engagement increases by 30%.

Competitive Landscape:
I asked Keith who his biggest competitors were. He thinks the a lot of companies have decided to build their own gamification add-ons with their own developers. It is sort of easy now days to use the Facebook API to get more information from users and alert their friends. It comes down to build vs. buy.  Actually BigDoor pays shares revenue with websites so the real question is build vs “get paid”. Their are a number of different providers out there like Badgeville and Bunchball who also offer gamification platforms. However Keith points out you need to pay them and you get locked into a contract. With BigDoor there are no contracts and no need to purchase.

Acquisition & Consolidation
Earlier this year year BigDoor acquired OneTrueFan to help accelerate product development resources. OneTrueFan made by Co-founders Todd Sampson and Eric Marcoullier which were also responsible for IGN.com (IPO in 2000, acquired by NewsCorp in 2005), MyBlogLog (acquired by Yahoo in ’07) and Gnip.

Hard at Work
It will be interesting to see where BigDoor goes next. When I dropped by BigDoor last week I caught Keith hard at work at 9:30pm at night. He wasn’t expecting me, I just walking by his company on my way back from a Poker game at TechStars and found him still working. With drive and determination like that, I think BigDoor is going to be a successful company with a lot of growth. I am still blown away they pay websites and they also increase the engagement as well. That is a win-win.

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