Scott Davis is the CEO and co-founder of QONQR (pronounced Conquer), a mobile gaming company focusing on location-based games. QONQR has been the winner of Startup Weekend, and finalist in the Minnesota Cup, SXSW Accelerator and MHTA Tekne awards. The company’s first title, also called QONQR, allows players to capture and control cities and towns in the real world, based on their smart phone’s GPS coordinates. To date, players in QONQR have captured a quarter of a million cities in over 150 countries. QONQR is available on iPhone and Windows Phone with Android availability coming soon. QONQR is currently the #2 game in the “Best Rated” category of the Windows Phone marketplace in the US.
What’s your background in regards your education and experience?
I have a Bachelors of Arts (Double major Math and Computer Science, minor in Engineering) and a Masters of Business Administration (MBA – concentration Entrepreneurship). I have been a software consultant since 1999, building business solutions for Fortune 500 companies, single founder start-ups, and everything in between. I grew up on a dairy farm, which I think was a very big influence on my work ethic.
If you could go back, what would you do better and what wouldn’t you do at all?
Regarding QONQR, I would not have attempted to raise investor funding. The search for funding was an enormous drain on our resources and was doomed to fail. We were an unproven gaming company in Minnesota. That formula just wasn’t going to work with investors. The investors who would invest in a company like ours, didn’t like that we were in Minnesota. Investors in Minnesota, didn’t understand gaming. Plus, the election, decline in console gaming, fiscal cliff, congressional tax uncertainty, and end of the year budgets were all against us. We should have focused on our product. The search for funding literally almost killed our company. Once we gave up on funding and focused on building an awesome game, things really began to move for us and we were profitable a few months later. We should have redirected our efforts to attract an investor into attracting more users from the start.
What were your biggest difficulties?
We are building a highly complex game. We could have simplified sooner, but I think every entrepreneur realizes this as they are building their product. For us we were always feeling like things had to move faster. But I don’t know any entrepreneur who hasn’t felt this way.
What do you think is the best habit which allows you to get the best results in your life/work?
Put your head down and work. I think too many entrepreneurs spend too much time thinking and talking. For some entrepreneurs, that is all they can do until someone else builds them a product. I’m very proud of the fact that I can do both. We can talk about what to do, make a decision and go do it. As we go, we discuss, we pivot, and we get better. Being part of a team of “do-ers” is fantastic. I tell people often it is the reason why we won the Startup Weekend competition. You get in a huddle, come up with a game plan, yell “Go” and everyone goes and builds the plan, adjusting along the way. The teams that are still mapping a plan on a whiteboard half way through the first day are never going to get a product done during Startup Weekend. That translates into any start up. Are you planning or are you doing? We don’t do fast and we don’t do perfect, but we do. As long as you and your customers can both see you are making progress, that is often all it takes. Don’t make deadlines you can’t make. Make estimates and projections and communicate often on how things are going. Communicate, communicate, communicate. Investors, team mates, and customers are often more upset because they assume the worst when they don’t know what is going on.
What would you suggest to the people who want to follow in your footsteps?
First, gaming is a really hard business to start. Make sure you have a plan for people to know about your game. Assume no one will find your game in the App Store. How will people find your product if you have to do all the work to build awareness. Include a social component to your app. Let people share it, like it, and forward it to a friend. Have a plan for distribution and test it early. For any tech start up, the founding team should be almost all tech before you have a product. Once you have a product and enough customers you will have many more non-technical people in your business than technical people. Know where your business is today and don’t fill with business people too early, and don’t let the geeks continue to run the house once things take off.
What is success for you?
Personal success for me is defined by the people who’s life I can impact. I am a college professor, I mentor start-ups, I speak at conferences. If someone thinks my advice can help them, I want to be able to share it. I hope some day to be considered a person who can offer help when some one needs it, or at least be able to connect them to the right person who can help. I take on projects that make a good story. People like to hear stories. Stories are an easy way to share learning. I’ve taken on many things that I knew would be a bad project, but I knew I would learn much, and it would make a good story, a story others would find valuable to hear.
What would you suggest to the people who want to start a company?
Know your space. For QONQR, my partners understood game theory and design, and we all knew how to build scalable, engaging, and mobile solutions. Understanding the problem isn’t enough. You need to understand the execution behind it too. I tell students who come right out of college thinking they will start a business to consider finding a job first. If you want to start a company to make better trumpets, go get a job in a trumpet factory first. Let someone else teach you everything they can. Don’t pay your own “life tuition” if you don’t have to. Once you think you are ready, quit, build a nest-egg while you let your no-compete expire, then start the better trumpet company. Many young people (and even old people for that matter) see the problem from the outside and think they can solve it. How can you solve the problems of a business, if you have never been in a business and see the problem from the inside? You can’t just envision the final product, you have to understand the operations and execution of the solution. Many non-technical entrepreneurs trying to start a tech start up fail in this area because they don’t understand how to manage the operations of their business.
How do you set your goals?
I make a list. I don’t put dates on things, I give them priority. I revisit and reorganize my list often.
What motivates you?
I love to work. It is all I want to do. I don’t like vacations (especially if the goal is to “relax”) very much and my family knows I will fill any empty minute with productivity. I am always wanting to build stuff and solve problems.
Who was or is your mentor?
I’ve never really had a personal mentor. I talk to many people openly and seek help quickly when I think doing so will get me to a solution faster than figuring it out myself.I feel very fortunate to have a big network of people I can reach out to when I need it. I’m always working to expand that network of people who I can both help and who might be able to help me some day.