Lee Hobbs | Crain's Sacramento

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Lee Hobbs


AppA11y is an independent game studio based in El Dorado Hills with the goal of linking visually impaired and non-visually impaired individuals and communities through fun mobile app games.

The Mistake:

One of the early lessons we learned: Just because we like it doesn’t mean everyone is going to like it. As much as we were patting ourselves on the back for some of our earlier work, we quickly figured out that it wasn’t always what the users wanted.

For example, we spent a lot of time on a Battle Cats game, which is basically a word search. Our word searches are unique in that you can actually play head to head online. They’re very popular.

So we made a cats-themed one. They meowed when you found words; you could litterbox-bomb each other. We thought it was hilarious. But it really didn’t resonate with our users.

We’re a lot better at trying to get a lot of early feedback on what we’re working on before we actually put anything out now. And overall, what we learned was that you need to carefully plan out everything you do.

Just because we like it doesn’t mean everyone is going to like it.

The Lesson:

When we started, we thought all we needed was a great product and the rest would work itself out. What we quickly learned was the game app space is a fiercely competitive market. For example, just getting found on the App Store was a challenge in and of itself.

We were quickly forced out of our comfort zones. Because we are a small shop, we can’t afford to wait for our user base to organically grow, nor can we afford the typical mobile game ad campaigns.

Today we spend a much larger portion of our time trying to get the word out about our games. We promote AppA11y to anyone who will listen, by any means necessary – email, user forums, blogs, game review sites, friends, family, the random guy on the street and, of course, social media.

That last one is a transition for me. I have spent years avoiding social media, but now recognize it for the tool it is and actively use it to network and to promote our games.

Follow AppA11y on Twitter at @AppA11y.

Pictured is Lee Hobbs. | Photo courtesy of App11y Game Studio.

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