0:00:01 – (Matt Widdoes): Welcome to another episode of Growth@Scale. I’m your host, Matt Widdoes and CEO of MAVAN.com. And today we are joined by Kimberly Corbett. Kim, welcome to the podcast.

0:00:10 – (Kimberly Corbett): What’s up, Matt? It’s good to hang out with you for a little bit.

0:00:14 – (Matt Widdoes): I know. I’m so excited. I’m always so excited to chat with you. And so it’s great today that we get to record it and share it. So for a quick bio, Kimberly is the Chief Publishing Officer at Fortis Games, with an extensive background in roles at Warner Bros Games, Zynga and Kabam. She’s contributed to increasing paid yields while managing large scale user acquisition strategies and operationalizing complex analytics frameworks. So there’s a lot to unpack there, and you’ve actually done so much more than that. So for people who don’t know you, can you tell us, like, who are you? Where have you been? What do you do?

0:00:47 – (Kimberly Corbett): I like that I feel like oftentimes they just think I work in video games and I’m like, uh huh, sure. I don’t make the games. I like to say that I’m not a cool game designer, but really it’s just, just bringing games to market and scaling them as widely as possible to as many users around the planet. And I’ve had the fortune of working on some of the biggest games on the planet. So it’s super. It’s super fun. And that entails a lot of teams that I think all growth marketers are familiar with. User acquisition, lifecycle marketing, publishing, analytics, all that good stuff, marketing art, all the creative and the testing. And my first job in games was actually conversion optimization, which was A/B testing.

0:01:29 – (Matt Widdoes): Yeah. Cool. And did you grow up playing games? Like, have you been a gamer or did you, were you drawn to it for other reasons? Did you kind of fall into it like many people did? Like, what was that path?

0:01:38 – (Kimberly Corbett): I did play games, actually. I faked sick to beat Zelda when I was a kid.

0:01:43 – (Matt Widdoes): That’s great.

0:01:44 – (Kimberly Corbett): But I was definitely say, my, my background in the games industry has been on more core games, and I’m not necessarily a core gamer myself. Like, I’ll play Mario Kart with my kid, or I love Candy Crush, things like that. I like runners. I’m not as into, like, the forex games that I’ve worked on or some of the fighting genres, but I like the money they make.

0:02:05 – (Matt Widdoes): Yeah, well, and you can appreciate it, and you can appreciate, like, anything. It’s like, oh, cool. I’m glad people like that stuff. But, like, there’s different, different strokes for different folks. I’m curious, having been in gaming and seen so much and really, from my perspective at least, have innovated in so many different ways at different companies at different times. Times you’ve seen a lot of change in what is a notoriously high change environment.

0:02:27 – (Matt Widdoes): And it’s highly competitive, but it’s shifting all of the time, not just because of the competition, but because the users are also your best friend and your worst enemy at the same time. Sometimes it feels like. But I’m curious, any kind of high level observations on the changes in gaming as of late and maybe even like forward looking stuff that you see coming just kind of, if there’s anything that you’re starting to see, kind of take hold that you’re interested in. Like one caveat is, I remember, you know, it seemed like three, four years ago, everybody thought AR was going to be like this huge thing that emerged and it didn’t. And VR has been kind of constantly on the edge of being huge. But I’m curious what you’ve seen in mobile specifically and more broadly the gaming industry?

0:03:12 – (Kimberly Corbett): I love that question. I think first, just acknowledging that change is what’s kept me in the games industry this long. It’s never boring. You know, I remember some people when I started in games, they were like, oh, I’ve already solved these problems, I’m gonna go do something else. And I’m like, I mean, just think of like the privacy laws that have come out or what different companies have decided there. Like that in itself has changed what we do for publishing games.

0:03:37 – (Kimberly Corbett): You know, in like a matter of a day, suddenly you can’t do what you, you used to do, like your whole infrastructure change. So things like that keep it really exciting. And then there’s platform considerations, like you just said. And I’ve worked across all mobile console and cross platform and I’ve seen those evolve over time. I think the biggest change agent is the hype word. But it’s not hype. I mean, it’s real, it’s AI. Right? So obviously I’m looking at how to implement AI through my publishing stack, which is really applicable because, you know, we do things like we localize ads in 30 languages and we have voiceover, we have things like that. So there’s whole portions of how we publish games that AI is applicable. And then on the game side, there’s a ton of investment going in there. And I’m talking to people that are making these games and it’s not like they can necessarily fully make a game today, but they kind of can. And certainly there’s parts of production that get vastly more efficient.

0:04:36 – (Matt Widdoes): Yeah.

0:04:37 – (Kimberly Corbett): So as a publisher, what I really, where I think the puck is headed is that you’re going to have this increasing content of games content happening in the next six months to two years. But none of these companies actually have publishing infrastructure built up because as you know, Matt, I mean, like from your days and what you do, it’s not cheap and it’s, it’s complex to build the publishing and analytics infrastructure to do that. So if you’re, if you’ve got like a small game team in your building leveraging AI and then you want to get it to market, I don’t think AI fully makes the publishing landscape.

0:05:11 – (Kimberly Corbett): I mean, it’s somewhat less complex, but you’re still going to need to figure those things out. So that’s what I see. And that makes it exciting for me.

0:05:19 – (Matt Widdoes): Yeah, well, and it’s, and it’s in some ways a like a Red Queens race where everybody’s moving at the same pace with that technology. And so there will be people that grab it early and hold onto it and master it and kind of tame it a little bit and kind of understand where and where it is or isn’t applicable sooner and have the context so that when it suddenly is applicable in that space, they’re like, oh, it’s ready and I’m ready to jump on it. Versus like, okay, let me kind of finally digest what is this thing?

0:05:46 – (Matt Widdoes): And then separately it can add, you know, I think time will tell and this will be true with like all sorts of products, but how AI eventually starts allowing for way more customized experience experiences absent coding or like offsetting some of the, I don’t know, maybe database stuff or some other things kind of behind the scenes that aren’t so obvious to a consumer. What are those like consumer facing things where it could be, it could even be like the characters and the storyline and the art. I mean, like, of course it could be those things. And almost now and then as you get better with generative and some of these other things, but you layer that onto UI UX, you layer that on to Liveops, you layer that onto dynamic pricing and offers and all this other stuff. Like it gets really interesting really quick and plays well with the frameworks that already have been well established in gaming, it seems.

0:06:34 – (Kimberly Corbett): Yeah. And I like how at the beginning of that statement you were talking about like the different types of people approaching AI because that’s what I see. Like there’s a ton of inertia at existing companies where they’re, you know, and rightfully so. They’re busy just trying to get their game made or their product made, whatever that is. Right. And so it feels like a pause button to then go explore AI and how you can implement that.

0:06:56 – (Kimberly Corbett): And that worries for me, right. It worries me with these companies because I’m like, hey, meanwhile the startup is completely leveraging it from the ground up and they’re so much more efficient with less people, and they’ll be able to beat you if you don’t take this moment to really figure it out. And that’s sort of the two camps I see. And then there’s the ones in the middle that are trying to like slide it in. And I just think it’s so foundational to everything that you have to hit that pause button if you’re already operating. Like if you’re not starting a company with AI at the forefront of what you’re doing, you need to be thinking about it for so much now.

0:07:34 – (Matt Widdoes): Yeah, I think too that like the, you see this in a lot of areas too. Particularly well in any large company that’s well established is they set this infrastructure in place, they’re inundated with it, it serves them really well. But then you fast forward ten years and it’s all out of date, and they didn’t make these. What would have been minor considerations in retrospect, where they’re like, man, if we had only earmarked those six months to go hard in that one area now to unwind all of this, it’s going to take us years.

0:08:06 – (Matt Widdoes): And by the time we’re catching up with where the people who are really good at that are, the system is going to look totally different and it’s this like complete mess to unravel. And you see this in data infrastructure, you see this in lots of different areas, but this is going to be another one. And so, yeah, it sounds like maybe what you’re saying is like you should either be all in or all out, but if, but you should really just be all in if you’re going to do it. Like get to understand it sooner than later because it is such an advantage, not just in necessarily costs and time savings, but it’s, it’s such a disadvantage when everyone else has it, maybe.

0:08:36 – (Kimberly Corbett): Yeah.

0:08:36 – (Matt Widdoes): And so it’s like, it’s almost table stuff, stakes at this point.

0:08:38 – (Kimberly Corbett): Table stakes. And at that point you’ve lost, you know, and I think it’s interesting because at bigger companies that can be gated by legal teams, which is ironic because large language models are made legal, really efficient. So I think it’s like, I loved your comment about like all this infrastructure gets built up. We see that a lot of times as companies scale. I try to be agnostic about pretty much everything and people get so dug into decisions that they made years ago and like trying to justify this tech that they bought or that they, it’s like forget about that. You got to move forward, you know, it doesn’t matter what happened in the past, it’s, it’s what you’re going to be doing in the future and what.

0:09:17 – (Matt Widdoes): That looks like, well, and that taps too into this kind of like almost like human element. It’s not a good, it’s not like a positive trait, but people getting married to these things that they made and being obsessed of like either the old way or like, but that’s my thing. Or this like sunken-cost fallacy of like, well that’s how we’ve always done it. And like, well why do we invest a billion into that if we’re just going to tear it up and use this other thing? It’s like at some point it’s like because this other thing is better and you just average out the costs and those two combined cost $2 billion, not this one costs one. And we didn’t have to. So therefore we should just ignore this whole other thing.

0:09:50 – (Matt Widdoes): You mentioned a second ago about all of the different functions that are going into and the functions that you’ve sat across and alongside in your work. And we know that sustainable growth at scale is almost largely only possible through really deep collaboration and working holistically together as teams to kind of build the business as you go, which would include things like AI and legal and all these other things.

0:10:16 – (Matt Widdoes): But I’m curious, like with that context and kind of baseline, how do you approach like nurturing cross functional collaboration and innovation within your teams, particularly in startup settings where you’re kind of setting that culture early or maybe you’re coming into something where that culture doesn’t exist. So you’re trying to kind of like build that as you go and then also like once it’s up and running, like how do you maintain that and nurture it?

0:10:42 – (Kimberly Corbett): Yeah, it makes me think of what you were just saying about the human element. Like, so much of what we do is quantitative and you can have a PhD and not be able to work cross-functionally and nothing will get done right. So I often tell people like the ability to work cross functionally and get like combined consensus and figure things out is the difference between directors and VP’s. Like, if you really want to grow in your career, you have got to be able to work across teams that might have different incentives and might have different opinions and things like that. And that, to me, when I think back about my own career and where I’ve been the most successful, it was that switch flip of, like, how do I start to partner with these people, understanding where they’re coming from to really drive towards a similar outcome?

0:11:31 – (Kimberly Corbett): And I think it’s startups. One thing that. That I’ve observed, and it’s smaller companies or as they grow, is sometimes they do have these different. It’s very basic, but different incentive structure. So, like, someone might be incentivized on top line revenue and someone else on profit. Those are at odds. So, like, you have to really solve for the basics again. Like, put the math over here. Like, we can talk about algorithms and.

0:11:53 – (Kimberly Corbett): And doing all that cool stuff, but it doesn’t matter if you’re. If you’re using that to do something different than on this team. Than this team. Right. So you have to really start there. And it’s just.

0:12:05 – (Matt Widdoes): Yeah, I was just gonna say that requires leadership in many different seats, but, like, the really tippy top of the leadership to make sure that they are aligned and along with the board and other constituents, but that they are aligned with the outcomes that we’re trying to drive. Right. Because if you can know the outcomes and you can know the elements that you would measure against that successful success, and I think this would be true in any company, but it’s even more true in a gaming company, where you have people that are essentially trying to game that reward system. Essentially to say, like, okay, well, then if I’m keyed off of this, then I’ll just go focus on that, and it’s fine. I think if you have people focused on and incentivized on different things that are towards the same end state, but it’s when those things are diametrically opposed, like, bottom line revenue, top line revenue, or just users versus revenue per user, very different things. Right. And so. And it requires really strong communication and consistency, not just with the senior leadership, but, like, all the way down so that people have an understanding of, like, what is it that we’re here and meant to do?

0:13:06 – (Matt Widdoes): How do I know if I’m doing an amazing job at it? And, of course, how am I rewarded for doing that? But that also comes down to people caring more about the baby than they do the function or whatever. And so for, again, for that same example of somebody being like, well, that’s my thing that I built and that’s why we’re doing it. It’s like that person just probably shouldn’t be in any. Because that’s such a, it’s so self serving and short sighted and so deeply, like, personal and filled with ego versus, like, okay, well, like, it’s okay that we, if we all agree that, like, this thing is going to be better, then who cares about. And, like, nobody’s too concerned about the additional cost. Like, what do I care? And you throw it all away. Like, can we repurpose that? Like, should we not even talk about that right now? Because you’re focused on the baby versus a legacy or some other thing that isn’t really in service of the baby.

0:13:53 – (Kimberly Corbett): Yeah, a thousand percent. And I think that that applies outside of gaming. Right. I think any product that’s trying to scale, defining what scale means, what success means, what are your growth vectors? Like, how are you really defining those things even up to a board level and being fairly, like, ruthless in your prioritization of achieving those things and making sure it’s proliferated across the entire, I think is you’d be surprised how many companies, like, anybody listening to this. I encourage you to think about your company and what we just discussed. Right. Like, is it very clear that everybody’s marching towards. And can you quantify that?

0:14:31 – (Matt Widdoes): Yeah.

0:14:32 – (Kimberly Corbett): Like, what does that mean? Not just we’re here to grow an apple. Like, grow to what? And is that growth? Is it profitable growth or is it user growth or whatever? Like, those definitions matter. And then making sure everybody is aligned in that also matters and removes a lot of the cross-functional stuff you just mentioned in terms of, like, tension.

0:14:54 – (Matt Widdoes): Well, and yeah, so much of that is also wrapped in culture and both of those things, many other things, but certainly those two things, if nothing else, are the function of the C-level team and more specifically the C-level CEO. And so if you don’t have a CEO that’s valuing that, you’re not going to have delegates of the CEO who value that. And that’s going to permeate throughout the business. So if the motions design person is meant to create really amazing motion and animation, it’s for sure the CEO’s role to make sure that you have clearly constructed goals and targets and let everyone else figure out how to get to that. But if you don’t have that clearly defined, and it’s so often skipped, I think, because it’s hard it’s hard to say, like, what is our singular focus in this world where we could do and should maybe be doing 100 things, but for all sorts of reasons, we can’t do them all? How do we find that focus? How do we create a roadmap so that we can deliver lacrosse those and stack winds versus constantly shifting from the left of the boat to the right of the boat, off the boat, onto a plane, back onto the boat, and that creates all this chaos and is not a place that most high performers want to work at.

0:15:52 – (Kimberly Corbett): Yeah, a thousand percent. Command was really good. That was my first company gave me command, was really good at this. It was a smash hit, and there was a definition around that, right? It was like, top five grossing, and that was theirs revenue, and there were profit guidelines, and they had, like, it to me, you ask anybody what they were trying to do, and it was build a smash hit. And they were also really good about if you didn’t meet that thing, you know, they were comfortable making decisions based on that. I think I’ve seen a lot of other companies fall down where failure doesn’t have to be a tragedy. Right. It can be a learning ecosystem for something else, and. But you have to be willing to take action on that failure.

0:16:35 – (Kimberly Corbett): And I’ll tell you, there’s less emotion if people know the consequences. Right? Like, look, if I don’t do x, this game’s not gonna happen, and you’re not. You know, it might be a disappointment, but you don’t take it personally. It either does or it doesn’t, you know?

0:16:50 – (Matt Widdoes): Yeah. You mentioned so much stuff there that is really worth unpacking. I think one thing that comes to mind is, and I don’t know that this exists anywhere. It’s just something I’m thinking of right now. But it’s almost like failure without insights is failure, but failure with insights is just learning. That’s part of it. So it doesn’t mean that we can’t ever fail and that if you fail, you’re a failure. But certainly if you fail and you have no idea why you failed, you have no lessons to move forward. You have no thing that says, okay, well, now that that failed, based on what we’ve observed then, now we’re going to try this, right? Like, failure is an absolutely necessary step of towards success.

0:17:25 – (Matt Widdoes): But it’s those who just are like, yeah, I don’t know. And they’re like, let’s just do the same thing again and see if that’ll change. But the. The other thing that was really interesting is you said, like, you could ask anybody and they could tell you, we’re trying to make a smash hit. That’s the biggest piece. So to your point, for anybody listening, if, and you’re wondering, how am I doing it? That, go ask people, what is our ten year vision? What’s our three year vision? What’s our one year vision? What’s the number one thing that we’re trying to achieve this year?

0:17:49 – (Matt Widdoes): How will we know if we did really great this year? Like, what would be an example of that? Everybody should be able to tell you because it should be regularly communicated, it should be easily understood and measured, and it should be rolled out across the, and so most people, I think, particularly as companies get bigger, they overestimate how much everybody is aligned with that. And in really good orgs, when they see things that are not in line with that big vision, people can raise their hand and say, is this getting us closer to that goal? Because this seems like a distraction right now.

0:18:18 – (Matt Widdoes): And like, let’s have. That’s a good point. Let me talk to my peers. And that’s a good point. It goes up the chain and somebody says, yeah, stop doing all that. Right. But it was some pet project or some, some distraction of somebody in between that lost side of that end goal.

0:18:31 – (Kimberly Corbett): Yeah, I love it. Again, like, so much of my career is spent in complex publishing, tech and data, but it’s these things that none of that matters. If you can have the most sophisticated infrastructure in the world for what if you don’t have that? And then your point about feeling, I realize I learned more from failures I’ve worked on than successes. Like, the successes are cool, and I have a story about what that feels like to get a smash hit because it’s not what you think.

0:19:02 – (Kimberly Corbett): And often had failures as you went. Right? But I take those failures with me and apply them through everything. And the comment I was gonna make about the smash hits is, like, you think when you get a game, like, I, I’ve worked on $6 billion games or franchises, right? So, like, I’ve seen that. I know what that feels like. It’s awesome. But I can tell you right now, by the time you get there, you are so worn out.

0:19:29 – (Kimberly Corbett): You’re like, yay. And I know game teams feel this more than anybody. You know it. Like, some of these games were in development, you know, for seven, eight years. Like, you are tired at the end of that. And I think, you know, it’s because it isn’t linear.

0:19:46 – (Matt Widdoes): Yes.

0:19:46 – (Kimberly Corbett): Like, I don’t know, maybe that type of experience exists. Maybe there’s a product that people can talk about where the growth is linear and it’s super easy, but that’s not been my experience.

0:19:56 – (Matt Widdoes): Well, and you’re optimizing across so many vectors and the tastes of the consumer are changing, and suddenly you’re blindsided by a competitor that came sooner than you thought or that you weren’t even aware of, and you are like, well, that’s demonstrably better, I guess. We’re going to, like, not launch. We’re going to pivot this. We’re going to scrap this whole other area. And, like, to your point, it’s super non linear, super chaotic. Not in a bad way. It’s just constantly changing. And the timing really matters, too. Right. And so there’s, like, games that were wildly successful that if they launched today wouldn’t be successful because the timing made sense in the market.

0:20:32 – (Kimberly Corbett): Yeah.

0:20:34 – (Matt Widdoes): Even things like, we were talking about this the other day, even the show Tiger King as an example. Like, would that have been- Covid? – Would that have been as popular? Everybody who wasn’t locked in? Maybe not. It was. Did you watch it? I mean, I watched every episode that was.

0:20:50 – (Kimberly Corbett): That was zeitgeist man!

0:20:50 – (Matt Widdoes): Yeah, of course.

0:20:51 – (Kimberly Corbett): Everyone was on their couch. We needed a distraction. It was more awful than what we were experiencing. It was wild beyond a pandemic.

0:21:00 – (Matt Widdoes): Yeah.

0:21:01 – (Kimberly Corbett): Yeah. If you released it today, it’d be like. I think it would be. Become something. But would it be.

0:21:06 – (Matt Widdoes): Yeah. Cultural, maybe not that, but that matters a lot. And so. And that’s true with any business. Right? Like, the timing always matters a little bit, but, yeah, it’s almost like in gaming, like, take Netflix. Like, whatever we produce, the content we put. We push it out. If it. If Tiger King is big or not, it’s fine. It’ll live. And maybe it has some big resurgence in, like two years. It gets discovered, it gets some press, and then all of a sudden it’s big. But that’s fine. It’s like, it’s done. It’s released. Games aren’t like that. It’s not like, cool. Like. Yeah, because you need these people to keep it going. And so, like, at the end of filming on Tiger King, whatever, those people just go home, they’re wrapped, it’s done.

0:21:40 – (Matt Widdoes): There’s still work to be done. But it’s like, whatever. It’s kind of like the tail is very short in gaming. It’s like if you launched with, like, a thud and you put $20 million into dev. Yeah. You’re just kind of like. You’re scrambling to get that out and that those can have totally different consequences. And at companies like WB and King and Zynga and other behemoths, like, if the game can’t make 4100 million a year, they don’t even pursue it.

0:22:02 – (Matt Widdoes): So that point on, like, smash hit, it’s like 100 million a year is not a smash hit for most startups. Like, that would be a kind of an okay, cool outcome in a 24-month timeline that like, hey, we can make $100 million a year in revenue.

0:22:14 – (Kimberly Corbett): Fantastic.

0:22:15 – (Matt Widdoes): Would fist pump over that. But in gaming, it’s so much more competitive and it feels a lot like Netflix. If you just look at, like, what’s in the catalog. What can I do today? Abundance of choice. But, like, behind every single one of those is a full time team still operating very different than the studio model of Hollywood.

0:22:32 – (Kimberly Corbett): Yeah, for sure. I mean, console looks more like that model. Yes, like the Hollywood model. But, you know, I think in applications, so mobile games or any other apps that are living and breathing, timing matters. But, you know, we scaled Game of Thrones: Conquest the most during season eight of Game of Thrones. We just wrote that wave and that game had been out for like a year and a half. And I think it. So, you know, if you’re a growth marketer on an app or at a startup, like, it’s a living, breathing thing, and you can continue to improve that and iterate on it and scale it when the metrics make sense. So there is the.

0:23:08 – (Kimberly Corbett): There is the cultural timing element, but in applications, I think that can be less so.

0:23:13 – (Matt Widdoes): Yeah, because there’s like. Because with gaming, you also have to layer on this, like taste thing too, right? Where it’s like somebody’s fault something’s falling out. If we were to release a Tiger King app today, it would not be a good app. Right. Timing really would matter. But, like, the taste matters versus. And other games, like Candy that aren’t tied to IP or other things.

0:23:30 – (Kimberly Corbett): Wait, let me write that down. Tiger King.

0:23:33 – (Matt Widdoes): It’s like Tiger King but for Uber. And so anyways, but yeah, there’s a few more dimensions to it. And I think. I’ve never written this, but I’ve always thought about putting together an article about how, like, something along the lines of how, like, the gaming industry is anything but, but games. Like, it is the most serious industry I’ve ever been involved in. Like, behind the door, behind the scenes. And granted, great people, it’s fun. Culturally, it’s cool.

0:23:56 – (Matt Widdoes): Cake and cookies and Nerf guns, whatever. But, like, it is such a serious business. And I think that people oftentimes who sit outside the industry can’t fully appreciate how data rich it is, how data intense and how much work goes in behind the scenes, not just into things like predictive analytics and just the analytics generally on what we’re observing, but things like game economy and all these other like, rich, deep things that really lead to a great user experience that to the user is imperceptible, but that’s like part of the magic that’s happening there.

0:24:27 – (Matt Widdoes): I’m curious, like with some of these, you know, when you look at your experience in, in gaming more broadly and, you know, some of the elements that are kind of true across the board, there, are there any parallels that are relevant that you think just like generally to startup leaders or, or growth teams maybe more generally, that just kind of apply universally that are, that are, that you can take from, you know, lessons in gaming?

0:24:52 – (Kimberly Corbett): Yeah, for sure. And to your point, like the games industry is what influenced how you buy on Meta or, you know, Google. Like they were, we were the alpha partners for these products you use today. Yeah, right. Like we were building what, that meta’s products. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Like it’s so funny, I was in a meeting with Google a couple weeks ago and they had these slides up about their UAC product, like exposure, explaining what it is. And I was like, hey, go Google. The press release you guys put out for UAC, it was about seven years ago. My name’s in it.

0:25:30 – (Kimberly Corbett): It’s like so foundational to what that whole ecosystem looks like. And I think that’s one part of how it’s applicable. The other is just these frameworks for how you measure things, like how many users cost per user, the revenue, the recoup. Look, if you have a subscription app or if you have you, it’s ecommerce and you’re making money on a user. The way that you think about those relationships like they intersect, there’s a cost per user and revenue that doesn’t differ if it’s games or something or anything else. Right?

0:26:05 – (Matt Widdoes): Yeah, well, and I think all the testing too, that goes into gaming from my experience, it’s like you’re testing constantly in so many areas with players internally, you’re testing, you have everybody checking out the new flow and onboarding and calling out like, hey, this bugged out or this did this for me. You have like, there’s everybody, even like especially non-technicals running through that and you have teams on Product that are talking to the User Acquisition teams about stuff that they want to run. And if they think if the UA teams think that that will resonate or if they’ve observed anything or, you know, it’s like, it’s just so everybody’s kind of in the same kitchen and it’s like this fast-paced thing that’s moving and people are back, like behind and like, it feels and operates much like I would imagine, um, a really busy, like, high-end restaurant might, um, function, which is, again, super stressful.

0:26:52 – (Matt Widdoes): You know, we ran out of fishes, the fish didn’t get cut, didn’t come in. Change the special, like, any number of things that are just. It’s like, I think actually for, for bring it back to gaming. It’s like real time strategy businesses like that generally, but it’s this, like, really intense. And all the while you have, unlike many, like, let’s say, SaaS companies, right? Like, take Snowflake, something really big. SaaS company, right. Plenty of competitors to Snowflake.

0:27:19 – (Matt Widdoes): It’s still fairly limited. The competitive set is like five to ten companies, right. In gaming, it’s like you can get blindsided anytime and it’s zero sum. So I can only play one game at a time on this screen, right. I can listen to YouTube and play a game, but I can’t play two games at the same time. And so the share of the screen is, is really, really important and which is very different than, again, a SaaS product where I might have like 15 things in my stack.

0:27:41 – (Matt Widdoes): That’s fine. I can use all of them. They live together. And so there’s this, like, competitiveness within gaming that I think creates a sharper sword or creates a more higher level of intensity around these metrics in a really meaningful way.

0:27:55 – (Kimberly Corbett): Yeah, that’s well said. Like, it is why we were so, and have been so sophisticated in our growth strategies. We had to be. Right. Like, you weren’t, especially. So the thing that I specialize in, like, obviously I’ve worked cross premium games and cross platform, but it’s mostly a free thing I’m asking you to do and then make money on that thing. Right. So you can’t do that by blasting, you know, major brand marketing campaigns. Like, that’s not going to work. And you’re competing against thousands of other games and that do a similar thing, right?

0:28:29 – (Matt Widdoes): Yeah. That are all fighting for a very finite amount of attention, not to even mention the wallet. Um, yeah. I’m curious, like, are there any in your mind, like, when you look out just generally with early stage startups, like pre maybe like Series B and lower ones that maybe have reached some market fit, maybe ones that haven’t. I don’t know, I don’t, I don’t necessarily need to limit it, but like, when attempting to balance organic growth or product led growth with paid digital kind of efforts, like, any big mistakes or misconceptions you see there that you think worth talking about.

0:29:02 – (Kimberly Corbett): Eric Stouffer recently said the best way to get like a viral product is to have a good product or something along those lines. I’m probably misquoting him, but I say that because a lot of times people fixate on like these viral hooks in their, their apps or organic growth and hacking that and like that is just so, I think if you’re referencing like Farmville on Facebook, those are like generational hacks that are really hard to replicate. And like forever chasing that is a noble quest. So like, sure, always try to do that thing, but like the ability to do that thing is lightning in a bottle.

0:29:41 – (Kimberly Corbett): I personally think, like, you can, you should always try, like that’s like not really like a framework you can put in place and replicate. So I think that to your question, like when you think about organics and paid marketing, overemphasizing this like virality or this hope that you’ll create this lightning in a ball, like sure, make the best product possible and that’s going to make that all really easy because like Farmville was also an awesome game, right, that people wanted to play and engage with. So like start there in terms of balancing them.

0:30:13 – (Kimberly Corbett): I mean, you can get as sophisticated as understanding marginal utility. And where you started to eat into the organics, you would have naturally got with paid marketing and having, you know, probabilistic marketing mix models and deterministic attribution and really digging in there. So, like you can go the gamut of like how you’re measuring and thinking about that. If you’re spending a lot of money, I highly recommend making sure that you have these models built up. So you do understand those questions. Because look, if you’re spending hundreds of millions of dollars a year, which we’ve both been at companies that do that, the difference between that incremental, what would have been organic and paid is like a lot, right? So like that, if you’re 5% off like that, that matters to the bottom line.

0:30:59 – (Kimberly Corbett): So I think it’s a matter of like, how big and when you want to think about those things. And then it depends on the product. Like, some products aren’t as like mobile games trying to get organic installs like today. Good luck. That’s really, really hard and that’s a function of a lot of things that have driven that. But yeah, I think, I think it’s a really complex question that just depends on where you are, what kind of product you have and how sophisticated. That sophisticated stuff I reference isn’t cheap, you know.

0:31:30 – (Matt Widdoes): Of course. Yeah, well that’s the challenge is like people would benefit from it. But there’s a point where your spend is too low to even warrant the approach because either the, the savings and value isn’t there or the signal is not strong enough to do anything in an MMM or something.

0:31:46 – (Kimberly Corbett): Right.

0:31:47 – (Matt Widdoes): Like confidence in the outcome. On the topic though of, and it’s a good point is on the topic of kind of like data analytics and user acquisition, are there any like as of today where, and you’ve seen this landscape change a ton and we’ve seen even the metrics we measure have changed and continue to change over time. But any analytics tools or platforms you recommend or you really like, I mean I don’t think that there’s like a one size fits all, but from like stance of just analyzing user data and improving strategies generally outside, especially in this kind of more privacy-driven mindset.

0:32:22 – (Kimberly Corbett): Yeah, I mean, I think first it depends on what you’re doing. So if we’re talking mobile applications, like selecting an MMP that handles privacy in a way that you’re comfortable with and that can differ depending on the company you’re at. Like you have like stated rules by Apple, then you have what they actually enforce and like where you’re at and like how comfortable you are with those things. I think really digging into that is important.

0:32:47 – (Kimberly Corbett): Then again, depending on your size and structure and what you need, a lot of it can be proprietary. So if you’re at bigger companies, I probably don’t need to tell you this, but building your own looker dashes and things like that and views for people that you need is really, really necessary. And I’ve managed all the way to having MMM’s that filter down into dashes at the campaign level. So the total amount of sophistication you can imagine. But for me, I think any day you could look at Tableau or like any data visualization tools and having that sort of your like bedrock of how you’re ingesting data and what partners you’re working with there. I think really digging into like what you want and it just depends on the size of your company. I’m pretty agnostic though. Like look, you can, you can pick an email service provider and they, they all are pretty good and it just depends on, like, what you’re trying to do and if you want to build in customization or you don’t.

0:33:43 – (Kimberly Corbett): Um, but I feel like there’s a million good partners that you can use that are. They’re somewhat ubiquitous. Um, sure.

0:33:50 – (Matt Widdoes): Yeah, yeah. And I. And people come in, I’m in the same mindset of being, um, kind of agnostic because it’s like, the tool just needs to do. It’s actually harder. Well, not harder, necessarily, but, like, it matters more about what you want to measure and that you have a good signal and that you trust the data. We ask people all the time, like, skills of one to ten, how much do you trust your data? And I’ve never heard of ten.

0:34:11 – (Matt Widdoes): And usually, and usually when you hear, when you see people, when you ask that to a room where you ask people individually, you’ll get wildly different answers. Or you’ll have everybody this kind of, like, pregnant pause where nobody wants to say their number because they’re like, it’s a two, but we all pretend it’s a six. And that’s another thing that can get so unwieldy as you grow. In fact, I think it’s like, the more successful you are, early, I have a theory that the more oftentimes, like, by and large, the more rat’s nests you have within the. And scar tissue that you have, because you have, like, money coming in hand over fist, early, you’re like, oh, my gosh, we need to, like, track this thing. And so somebody’s like, okay, stand that up. And then somebody else in a different apartment wants to track the same thing, but they don’t know we already stood something up, so they stand something up, and then, like, a decade goes by and these guys go to this group, and this guy’s. Yeah, group, and we have tools that are doing this, and then you have, like, so you have all this, like, bloat, and then they’re like, oh, well, that number, we actually, if it comes from Facebook, between 2017 and March of 2019, we divide that by two because that used to double report and then it doesn’t anymore. So that’s why you’re seeing that you have to divide that by two.

0:35:18 – (Kimberly Corbett): Yeah, and like, yeah, I just feel like. And then, like, to your point about being agnostic, it’s like, look, like if you’re at a startup, like, some of the best data analysis I did was queries and in Excel, because it was a startup at KBAM, and then it grew into other things. And so I think for me, like, Excel is amazing and often forgotten in gdocs, like, I don’t know, sheets. It ain’t the same, Matt. It ain’t the same.

0:35:44 – (Kimberly Corbett): But I mean, now we live in a world where a lot of that is productionalized and you get it in a tidy dash, which I think is a little bit of, and that obviously becomes more productionalized with prompt engineering. Like, you’re going to need to do less and less of those things. But again, if your data’s crap, the output doesn’t matter. Which is why in my orgs, as you know, I try to have really technical people to understand if something looks wrong or not, because I’ve noticed this trend in growth marketing over the past ten years where it’s almost become like a lot of people, especially like the director and above level, they just want to go around to conferences and they’re not that technical.

0:36:21 – (Kimberly Corbett): And so they’re more like relationship managers with the traffic sources as opposed to like partnering with analytics and building these things. And so you run into problems there.

0:36:31 – (Matt Widdoes): Yeah, that makes sense. And yeah, we’ve seen that kind of. It’s funny, there’s this divergence too, or maybe an emergence of people that are way more data savvy, technically savvy, that are emerging in CMO seats that are born over the last, you know, five, six, six years through that. And then you have other leaders who are maybe more in that relationship driven or more brand focused. And there’s not to say that, like, one is better than the other because you can always augment with where they’re weak.

0:36:58 – (Kimberly Corbett): Is it though?

0:36:59 – (Matt Widdoes): Well, I was gonna say it depends on, well, I was gonna have a caveat that’s like, although maybe that’s not true, but, but I. Yeah, because the challenges is that, like, you have, you can backfill either way. But yes, if you could. But all things being equal, if you could choose a CMO who, if you could choose every seat really in the, that is at least data comfortable. They don’t need to be running custom queries and whatever, but they, but they need to be comfortable enough that they can ask somebody to pull what they’re trying to get done and they can kind of communicate and ask for it versus like, it’s brand, baby.

0:37:30 – (Matt Widdoes): And like, we get eyeballs and like, yes. And what we measure, you’ll notice, yeah.

0:37:35 – (Kimberly Corbett): Notice my title is not CMO on purpose. Yeah, I am not a CMO. Like, you know, I, I offer very little in terms of brand marketing and I don’t necessarily know that, especially, you know, like that’s something I manage but that is just not, I think, where the future is headed. I always say, I always quote Bain, I was born in the darkness, right? Like I grew up in mobile games and like the machine zone days and like scale the game against that. Like, I’m not a CMO.

0:38:04 – (Matt Widdoes): Well, and so to that point though, in the defense of non data driven cmos, they can, and somebody like yourself who’s heavily data driven and super capable of not only owning but certainly directing that and rolling up your sleeves and getting in the data and running your own, you know, I always joke that like you can measure how, how good somebody is at Excel by, if they use their mouse. It’s like the gangsters on Excel and just like, it’s like they’re playing a piano and you’re just like, oh my God, like, versus somebody who’s like click, click search. Right?

0:38:34 – (Matt Widdoes): And you were definitely one of the piano players. But the, but you can augment somebody who, like, I think that’s my thought though is like you need, you need to augment. So for your background, right? You are not deep on brand and soft love your stuff, there are situations where that stuff is really helpful. And I don’t mean to undermine brand because it has a place and it has a place in a lot of mixes, but it’s in support of a broader effort. Like, if we were to say brand is our path to success, certainly in a mobile game is like good luck. Like that’s going to drive all these organics, right, because it’s just untrackable or whatever. It’s like, it’s not, these are just.

0:39:07 – (Kimberly Corbett): Well, I mean, and I worked a ton with like Chinese devs and like they have so many gamers that they off, they often conflate like brand with like just the fact that billions of people play games in their market. And so I think I agree with you. Like, brand has a time and a place, clearly. Like I’ve worked on console games and brand is so, so foundation and I worked with brilliant brand markers at Warner Brothers that offer things that I don’t, I’m not any good at and they’re, God, the way they tell a story and bring a product to market is incredible. Right? Like, I honor that.

0:39:41 – (Kimberly Corbett): I think it’s different in mobile games and, you know, the time, the place is very specific to a bunch of other stuff that you’re doing.

0:39:48 – (Matt Widdoes): Yep, agreed. And I think it, and like all of these things are necessary in certain doses at certain times in certain situations. So it’s also, like, customizable. And, like, at the end of the day, we should be able to measure everything based on the revenue. And, like, the beauty is that with data, we can just. We should be able to demonstrate, like, call our shots. Like, what do we think is going to happen?

0:40:11 – (Matt Widdoes): What? It’s like, scientific method. It’s like, what do we think is going to happen? Let’s test it. Do we have a clean test so that we can observe the effect? What effect did we observe? Is that different? Or how does that vary from our hypothesis? And then, like, what do we want to do next? But it all comes down to being able to measure that outcome, and the outcome is driven by so many different players from engineering and just performance. Like, does the app load fast enough? Somebody has to be asking that question. It’s probably not going to be the CMO. It’s probably going to be somebody in the technical suite.

0:40:40 – (Matt Widdoes): But those two should be talking.

0:40:42 – (Kimberly Corbett): I’m asking it.

0:40:42 – (Matt Widdoes): Well, yeah, but you’re an exception for exceptional leaders.

0:40:47 – (Kimberly Corbett): You know, I’m looking at that, Matt.

0:40:48 – (Matt Widdoes): Of course, but that also helps. So you’re. And you’re able to do that because this is like, goes back to that kind of core piece of growth side, because you’re surrounded by people who have those answers, are willing to get those answers, and are not if they don’t have them already, and who are giving, who are coming to you with their own questions, that you’re like, that’s a good question. Let me explain that to you. And whatever, because you’re all focused on the baby versus the inverse of that, who somebody’s like, how about you worry about the marketing stuff and I’ll worry about the tech stuff, which you see at these really dysfunctional orgs all the time. And it’s like, if you’re in that type of thing and you’re already in silos and everybody’s like, that’s my thing.

0:41:24 – (Matt Widdoes): Don’t look at my thing. I won’t worry about your thing. You stay in your lane, I’ll stay in mine. It’s like, what are you doing? Do you have equity in this company? Like, what do you not want this thing to soar? Like, what, what is your. What is the purpose there? And so that gets into a whole other sub kind of conversation that we could go on probably for a while on is like, what do we look for in great people?

0:41:44 – (Matt Widdoes): Maybe that’s like, what, maybe that’s a good place to end is like, what do you look for in great people? Because those are the bedrock to who’s going to be in the. And there’s, you know, beyond, you know, maybe they have some great paper trail of stuff that they’ve done and, and they come recommended, you know, but, like, you can have great people that don’t play well together and you can have people who’ve been really successful in the past that won’t be successful in this. Like what, how do you kind of, what’s your mental checklist there as you, as you look to hire and scale your teams?

0:42:11 – (Kimberly Corbett): It’s funny, you know, as you know, I’ve worked with some awesome people over the years and I can tell within like five minutes of talking to someone. So to me, it’s much more about that excitement. Like, do they like to learn? So I focus. You know, we get into, if it’s, if it’s a senior role and we really want, you know, this is really technical. Like, we’ll get there. But to me, like, it’s, do you like to learn?

0:42:39 – (Kimberly Corbett): It’s so basic. Like, and do you, like, do you, wait, are you excited about what you do or what you want to do? Those qualities transcend so many things because the ability to learn and be open to that and have the right attitude. Like, again, I’ll get into the more technical questions, but you’d be surprised, like, how many people don’t start from there. And it makes me think, my son had this thing when he was, he’s eight, but when he was like five, he would say, ‘Nick, a son.’

0:43:07 – (Kimberly Corbett): It’s just that nick of enthusiasm, you know, like, just they’ve got that something to them that I enjoy in my day to day because we’re going to be working together oftentimes, too, that ends up looking like people. You know, my teams are diverse just by that. If you just base it on that, people that live all over the place and look different, and it’s just because that’s what I care about more than even like, a specific background.

0:43:32 – (Kimberly Corbett): Right. And it’s funny when you kind of base it on that. Like, those are going to be your really exceptional quants, too, because, you know, you can be data-driven, but if you can’t communicate and you’re not excited about it, we’re not going to solve cool problems together.

0:43:49 – (Matt Widdoes): Well, it’s so great. And I think that that really boils down so much into those because that willingness to learn and the attitude and excitement and passion that people bring will carry you through a lot of things. It will also, it’s usually kind of like a leading indicator. The willingness to learn, for me, is huge. I mean, luckily, that was a huge value at Red Bull, which was my first role out of college. And it was, like, instilled in us.

0:44:15 – (Matt Widdoes): We called it lifelong learner, but we would look for people that would like, just mash the button on Wikipedia 20 years ago and just keep reading random articles because they’re just genuinely curious. And so that curiosity, Will, Will is a leading indicator on many things. One typically is a signal of a lack of ego because they’re not afraid to say, I don’t know something. In fact, they’re like, well, tell me all about that thing that you know a lot about. I think that’s really interesting.

0:44:36 – (Matt Widdoes): And I’m not afraid to say that I don’t know something which comes in handy when somebody comes across a problem they don’t know how to solve and their ego allows them to say, I don’t know how to solve this, I need a lot of help, versus somebody who’s like, I’m solving it. I’m solving it. And there’s like, you’re not solving it, but you’re also not telling anybody you’re not solving it and you’re suffering silently, which is something we always look to avoid, which is, like, highly communicative people.

0:44:56 – (Matt Widdoes): But then that energy and that excitement of being interested in things outside of work. Right? Like, what are their passions? Like, you have to be passionate about something, and it can be knitting even at, like, Red Bull. It’s like, I don’t need you to be a windsurfer, but, like, tell me you have interests outside of work because work’s only going to take us so far. And work sometimes can be really hard.

0:45:15 – (Matt Widdoes): And, like, we need to have other things that we can bring to the table and talk about to keep life interesting and to keep our own spirits up when things are hard. And then when we’re winning and crushing it, we want to be doing that around people we like to be around. And so, so much of that is just wrapped up in those two things of, I think another thing I would add is doing what you said you would do, but you need to understand what’s expected of you in order to say you’ll do it, and then you need to do it. And, and if you can do that, you can also say, like, I don’t think I can do that, or I don’t think I can do that within that time frame, but I can tell you when I’ll do it.

0:45:45 – (Matt Widdoes): And you may not want to hear that because you really wanted it in two weeks and I’m going to be four. But when we walk away, you know you’re going to get it in four weeks. And there’s so much value in just knowing somebody’s going to do what they said they would do. But it requires people to ask enough questions and a good understanding of themselves to be able to commit to what they actually can do or can’t do within a given timeframe. So those things all add up.

0:46:05 – (Kimberly Corbett): I love that. And I think lastly, if it’s a senior role, I want to know that you’ve done it. You know, like tell me that smash hit you worked on. Because there are so many people that don’t know what the other side of success looks like or how to get there. Especially in really big industries with a lot of money, like gaming, you have someone that’s never, you know. I want to know. Right. Like, tell me.

0:46:25 – (Kimberly Corbett): Tell me what that looks like. I know what it looks like to know. I think for senior roles that’s important. But Matt, it was awesome to hang out with you today.

0:46:32 – (Matt Widdoes): Yeah, great to hang out with you as well. I appreciate you taking the time and we’ll have to do another one and go deeper in an area of your choice. But always so great catching up with you and I can’t wait to share this. Okay, cool. See you again.

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