Eric Schiermeyer had a lot of success as the cofounder of Zynga and the analytics that it brought to gaming. Now he’s got a new startup dubbed Carnivore that is making Clan HQ , a messaging app that gives mobile games a stronger social community.
Schiermeyer and Zynga veteran John Osvald started Carnivore in early 2017 to create a mobile messaging app that was targeted at mobile gamers who play in clans. Their first supported game is Marvel Contest of Champions, a Netmarble game which is a staple of the top 100 grossing games. The company has raised $3 million to date from Sequoia Capital. The app launched in late December.
“In this world of games, so much focus and attention is on the game itself that one of the critical pieces is overlooked,” Schiermeyer, chief strategy officer of Carnivore, said in an interview. “To be in any kind of social group, I had to join some kind of messaging app like Kik. But none of these messaging apps was designed for the specific case of clan players.”
Carnivore built an iOS and Google Play app that fit the needs of players who participate in alliances or guilds, where one person might manager a group of 300 players. Players sometimes use chat eight to 12 hours a day. Clan HQ is a text-chat system
“We thought that if we do this, we could be a great benefit to the game companies themselves,” Schiermeyer said. “These are incredibly important, as the groups retain the gamers for the game companies.”
But in contrast to rival ClanPlay, Clan HQ does not create officially sanctioned social platforms for game companies. That’s because some players don’t always completely trust the game companies with communication that is supposed to be secret. Another rival is PlexChat, which raised $7 million and has a different mobile chat solution. And if game companies try to do the social layer themselves, they usually don’t have enough spare resources to do it right, Schiermeyer said.
“I felt like this was the idea and opportunity I’d been waiting for my entire career,” said Osvald, CEO of Carnivore. “I’ve lived and breathed free-to-play games for years and focused on midcore for the last few, so this use case immediately made sense to me. Clan-based play has proven to be fun for players and effective for game developers — most of these games now require it to progress in the elder game. And as developers added more and more clan features, managing and communicating with clan mates has become more and more difficult to execute. This is a product players are screaming for.”
The idea is to focus on the problem that players have in communicating effectively with a dispersed group of people.
“If you are an officer in a clan, a lot is asked of you,” Schiermeyer said.
Schiermeyer said that his app focuses on generating better key performance indicators (KPIs) for game developers in a way that requires little effort on their part.
“The problem today is you spend $15 on user acquisition advertising to get a player who never comes back,” he said.
Players can use Clan HQ to manage their alliances, recruit new players, look for a new alliance to join, and participate in community chat rooms to discuss gameplay strategy.
I previously interviewed Schiermeyer a couple of startups ago, when he created Luminary and built Greedy Goblins, a mash-up of an endless runner combined with strategy. The company’s game didn’t catch on, and Schiermeyer moved on to other things.
“The game didn’t do very well, so I wound the company down,” Schiermeyer said. “It was my lesson in hubris.”
Schiermeyer, who was a founder of Intermix (which led to MySpace), was at the start of Zynga with co-founder Mark Pincus, the longtime chief executive who grew the company to more than 3,500 employees and a billion dollars in revenue. At the beginning of Zynga, Schiermeyer set up the analytics to track everything that happened in a social game such as Zynga Poker.
One of his key product managers at Zynga was Osvald, who became the cofounder of Clan HQ and serves as CEO. During his time at Zynga, Osvald was responsible for games such as Cafe World, FarmVille, FrontierVille, CastleVille, and Zynga Poker. He was also a cofounder of Shiver Entertainment, which former Zynga executive John Schappert started, and Osvald returned to Zynga from February 2016 to March 2017.
Regarding what he learned from Zynga, Osvald said, “I’ve found the only way to truly understand what players need is to combine the qualitative experience of actually becoming a highly engaged user and the quantitative work of sorting through the data and seeing what themes emerge. I take that learning with me for every product I work on and immerse myself in the experience – so in this case we are immersing ourselves in Clan HQ.”
When Zynga got to be huge, Schiermeyer decided he wasn’t having as much fun. He left Zynga to decompress and then get back to startups. Schiermeyer said that they called the company Carnivore as an homage to a reputation they had earlier.
“At Zynga, our head of HR once referred to Eric and I as ‘meat eaters,’ which was at least part compliment,” Osvald said. “I think she meant to say we got things done but in a rather ferocious way. We loved it and it’s indicative of the type of people we’ve hired to build the team.”
Rivals include Kik, We Chat, Groupme, Discord, PlexChat, and others. Carnivore ran a beta for two months last fall and then the first version debuted with Marvel Contest of Champions in late December. The Clan HQ app has thousands of users.
Carnivore has 14 employees now and it is hiring. Over time, the company will expand to groups for more games. And over time, the company is likely to add voice chat and a desktop client. Over time, game companies will be able to buy ads on Clan HQ.
“We will service any game with a large community around it,” Schiermeyer said.