Founders Series – Mark Robinson, Founder and CEO of deltaDNA

Mark Robinson
Mark Robinson

Mark Robinson, Chief Executive of deltaDNA set the firm up in 2010 with his neighbour, Chris Wright who is the CTO. The team at deltaDNA have worked with some of the world’s largest computer games publishers and developers.

What does DeltaDNA do?

deltaDNA helps game developers and publishers to optimise their game revenues by collecting and analysing event data, predicting behaviours and delivering in-game messaging to increase revenues, improve virality and increase retention rates.

DeltaDNA is the games industry’s first dedicated game personalisation and player insight platform, providing game publishers and developers with a powerful suite of tools and technology to help transform raw player data into actionable data intelligence for effective Customer Relationship Management (CRM).

We also provide consultancy to some of the worlds largest publishers and developers. We help them to optimise their games’ player experience and improve the balance between ads and in-app purchases – a vital part of free-to-play (F2P) games.

What do you do there / what is your role?

As Chief Executive of deltaDNA, I’m responsible for the overall effectiveness of the business. That covers everything from delivering against our strategy and roadmap to ensuring our products remain at the forefront of the market.

What was the aha moment that led to the company founding?

Before starting deltaDNA in 2010, I was heading up a data mining consultancy where I used to help brands like Heineken and Office Depot to harness their customer data and use it to create more personalised customer experiences.

At the same time, deltaDNA co-founder Chris Wright (CTO) – who is also my neighbour – was working in the games industry (where he has been for years) as European Director at a major mobile games publisher.

However, it was the launch of the iPhone and the App Store that was the real light bulb moment for us both. We knew that the mobile games market was set to explode and that the connected nature of games meant there was a huge opportunity for publishers and developers to collect and analyse from every single player.

Where did you get assistance when you started?

We were grateful to receive support from many sources including friends, ex-colleagues, games industry contacts and the local business community. We started with a powerpoint presentation and took it from there.

Give us a brief history of the growth of the company

We launched the business in 2010 with a team of 2 and some much-appreciated outside help.  Since then we’ve successfully launched our ad mediation platform SmartAds, opened an office in San Francisco – the beating heart of the games industry – and grown our team here in Edinburgh to 44 data scientists and game designers.

In terms of numbers, we’ve seen revenues grow by 70% over the last few years. We currently have over 100 million players active on the platform each month and we have close relationships with clients including major publishers such as TakeTwo Interactive, Square Enix Montreal, Nickelodeon, Bethesda, Bandai Namco and WarGaming.

Have you taken any external funding? If so from who and when?

To date we have secured $5 million in external funding and our investors include STV Group, Par Equity and Scottish Enterprise.

So what does it look like now with regard to staff and turnover?

We’re experiencing 70% growth year on year which is being driven in part by the demand from major publishers for our consultancy services.

By figuring out how to make games’ revenues more predictable, deltaDNA helps to make game development less risky.  Investors love this and that’s why they are coming back into the industry after a couple of years spent sitting on their hands. More importantly, the company has been pouring all this know-how into the platform – giving our clients not just great technology but also access to best practice so that there is clear return on investment.

What’s the difference between when you started and now in your marketplace?

Back in 2010, analytics were focused solely on game performance. Analytics dashboards would report what had happened in the game but with none of the clarity that would enable developers to know where any issues actually lay or how to solve them.

The next phase was all about using analytics to actually change the game at the design level. From the analytics, developers could see where the problem may lie but could only implement broad-brush and one-size-fits-all changes to the game.

Today, analytics have evolved to the point of being used by game makers to change the game for each specific player. Big Data capabilities — capturing large numbers of data points powered by incredibly fast database technology — enable game designers to personalise the gaming experience for individual players within player segments based on player engagement and playing style.

What is your target market –  Who is buying your product / service?

We mainly target mid to large publishers and developers of mobile free-to-play (F2P) games, but our client base comprises developers of all sizes.

Because our tech is cross-platform we do also work with console, PC and online games. Plus we have clients in the Real Money Gambling sector and continue to target large operators in that space.

What is your background?

My previous experience was focused on helping organisations achieve industry best practice for their CRM strategies from an analytics, marketing and technology perspective. I have a track record of delivering award winning technical implementations of integrated campaign management for blue chip organisations with large customer bases.

What are your goals for your business?

In 2018, deep data analytics are crucial to effective CRM in any field. We cut our teeth in games but the expertise and experience gained over the last 8 years is scalable far beyond that. As tech becomes more interactive and customers trackable across not only multiple games but multiple media, we will continue to innovate and augment CRM best practice so that users can expect unrivalled personalisation and targeting across all of their entertainment touch points.

What are your biggest current challenges?

Existing at the cutting edge in an industry that never stops developing provides many challenges, all of them good ones. Because we are constantly expanding our teams and upgrading our tech to meet the growing demand of our clients, we have to devote a lot of time to recruitment and internal development. Our reputation is one of our greatest assets and safeguarding that through rapid change is demanding but we wouldn’t have it any other way.

What has been the biggest challenge so far?

Time and focus are always the biggest challenges and these don’t go away.  We have been incredibly lucky that some people adopted us early and believed in our approach. I would put in a special mention for our friends at Nickelodeon, Reto Moto, 505 Games and Take Two who have been a great supporter of the business for several years.   

What do you do outside work?

I only sit still when I absolutely have to. I’m a keen cyclist, golfer and footballer on home turf but the nature of our industry means that I spend a lot of time overseas. When away from home, I take every opportunity I can to see what my host city has to offer in terms of live music and culture.

What do you know now that you wished you had known earlier?

Cracking the US market is tough but it is very possible – over 60% of our revenues come from the States now.  It takes persistence so you just have to concentrate on building a great reputation first and the big deal will come.

What’s the secret to good leadership?

I believe that you have to lead by example and, in analytics, no trait is more important than curiosity. I like to think that I have an appetite for learning and a deep-seated curiosity so, if it rubs off, that’s a good thing in my book.

Where do you see the company in five years?

At deltaDNA we have created something very unique.  No one else provides great real-time analytics and personalisation tech combined with the insights and best practices delivered by our consultancy team.  This means we make game success much more predictable. We see territory expansion into Asia as the first growth activity followed by the application our knowledge in other sectors such as entertainment and media.

How can the Scottish startup/entrepreneur landscape be improved to help more businesses start up and grow?

I think the landscape is pretty buoyant at the minute. The most valuable resource (apart from funding obviously) is advice and mentoring.  There are now several people in the business community that have valuable experience to direct companies at an early stage towards success.

Mark Robinson is founder and CEO of deltaDNA

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