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The DL - What Amazon's Bad At, COVID Activities, INC 5000 PNW, and How to Talk Like a Monopoly

Welcome to The DL, a weekly newsletter about tech, startups, and investing in the Pacific Northwest.
August 17 · Issue #61 · View online
The DL
Welcome to The DL, a weekly newsletter about tech, startups, and investing in the Pacific Northwest.

This week’s issue looks at Amazon’s attempt to enter the gaming market, two COVID activities for nerds, a couple of PNW companies featured in the INC 5000, and how to talk about yourself like a monopoly.

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Is Amazon Bad at Creativity?
Daily players in Amazon's new game, Crucible
Daily players in Amazon's new game, Crucible
Imagine spending ~$100M over five years to build and launch a “triple-A” video game. You give it away for free, but one month after launch you have <300 players. That’s what happened earlier this year with Crucible, Amazon’s first game. 😬

Last week, Protocol wrote a great article on what went wrong and why Amazon is so good at so many things, but so bad at games (at least so far). Here are the key takeaways:
  • Games are art, not software - Successful game studios try to protect the creatives from the nasty “finance guys.” Amazon’s culture of A/B testing, user surveys, and iterative critiques works well for product, but it’s “horrible for creative endeavors”
  • Games are treated differently than video - Amazon’s video division is run by entertainment industry veterans, and they report directly to Jeff Bezos. Amazon’s game business reports to Andy Jassy, the CEO of AWS, and AWS doesn’t have much experience selling games
  • Games are seen as a tool to sell cloud - Amazon wants to build computationally intensive games that show off the power of the cloud to their enterprise customers, and that creates the wrong incentives for building fun games

The article started out with the quote:
“We’re bringing a lot of Amazon practices to making games”
and it was an interesting take on the challenges of applying “Amazon practices” to creative work. Strengths come with weaknesses, and just because Amazon is entering a market doesn’t mean they will succeed. Well, at least they don’t have to pay 30% of any revenue to the App Store! (See: Fortnite news ICYMI last week)

COVID Activities
If you’re looking for a reason to head to Bend next month… Today at 1pm, the last Blockbuster is opening up the opportunity to book a sleepover inside their store:
Whether you want to stay up until sunrise or pass out on the couch, we’ve created the perfect space complete with a pull-out couch, bean bags and pillows for you to cozy up with “new releases” from the ‘90s.
Here’s the link to book it on Airbnb!

Or… if you have always been fascinated by Burning Man but don’t want to go live in the desert for a week, you can attend the digital version this month from the comfort of your own home. There are eight officially recognized “universes” in the Burning Man Multiverse that you can try out.

Inc 5000 PNW
^ Chom Chom Roller - 2nd fastest growing company in the PNW!
^ Chom Chom Roller - 2nd fastest growing company in the PNW!
Last week, Inc published their list of the 5,000 fastest growing companies in the country. There were ~190 PNW companies on the list, which feels low, but most of the companies aren’t really “startups,” so it’s not as West Coast focused as a typical startup list.

Anyway, here are a couple interesting stories from the list and some fun PNW highlights:
  • OneTrust - #1, based in Atlanta. They acquired Seattle-based Integris earlier this year. The company was founded in 2016, they did $70M+ of revenue last year (wow), and the CEO is like 32 years old
  • Hunt a Killer - #6, based in Baltimore, but the CEO lives in Seattle. He and his cofounder put together a murder mystery event, and it was so much fun, they turned it into a subscription box. Last year they sold $27M+ of their subscription box
  • DefinedCrowd - #27 fastest growing company in the country and #1 in PNW! Inc didn’t do a full write-up, but here’s Geekwire’s story about their $50M Series B
  • Chom Chom Roller - the second fastest growing company in the PNW. Might be helpful for all of the people who have been adopting dogs!

Other stuff Dan's talking about
🎨 MasterClass x WikiHow - If you haven’t paid for MasterClass, don’t worry, you can get it all for free here. MSCHF turned all of the MasterClass videos into hilarious WikiHow-style illustrations
🗺️ “Chart your own course” - Interesting profile on the mysterious Tim Cook and how he runs Apple. My favorite part was Apple gave the WSJ four people to talk to about Tim Cook, but two of them had never met him before
💼 Best remote work perk - How about $500/month to spend on freelancers on Upwork to do whatever you want? Other good ideas? Please share!
✍️ #Goals? - Here is Google’s internal doc on how to talk about yourself like you’re not a monopoly. Bad: “Get ahead of competitors.” Good: “Improve our product.” Bad: “Barriers to entry.” Good: “Challenges.”

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About me: I work as an investor at Madrona Venture Group, a Seattle-based venture capital firm that has been early partners with companies like Amazon, Smartsheet, Apptio, and Redfin.
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