The BizSpark startup of the day is Curse, based in the US. You will find below an interview with Hubert Thieblot, Founder and CEO of Curse. All the best to them and congrats for being the startup of the day!
Interview with Hubert Thieblot, Founder and CEO of Curse
Tell us who you are and your role in the company:
I am the founder and CEO of Curse, Inc and am focused on strategy and business development.
What did you do before creating your company?
Before founding Curse I never had a full-time job. I was playing a lot of MMO (Massively Multiplayer Online) games including World of Warcraft. As the guild master of one of the largest guilds in Europe, I was keenly aware of the needs of the MMO community which inspired Curse’s beginning.
How do you feel being the most promising ‘Startup of the Day’ per Microsoft BizSpark?
I feel very happy about it. We are very excited to have Microsoft as a partner to help us in our growth from a small company to a large one. In addition, we are passionate about what we do here and want to share that passion with others.
What is your company’s mission?
Simply put, we are here to help gamers succeed in online worlds. Curse is an integral part of the MMO experience, providing the tools and expertise core gamers need to take their gaming to the next level.
How did you get the idea for your company?
I was frustrated by the fact that you had to go to so many different locations to download add-ons for World of Warcraft. So, I put them all together, first on an FTP server, and then a website. After two months we already had more than 400,000 people visiting the website. It was great! Our growth has continued exponentially and we now reach more than 6.7 million unique visitors worldwide.
Tell us about your funding history. Are you currently looking for funding? If so, how much?
No, we are not currently looking for funding. We secured $11M in two rounds of financing. In the first round we raised $5M from AGF Private Equity, a private equity firm owned by the German financial company Allianz. The second round was lead by VenTech Capital in Paris. It was a $6M round and included current investors along with Jeff Clavier from SoftTech VC, a well-know investor in Silicon Valley.
How many employees do you have? How many developers?
We have 30 employees, 10 of which are developers.
Are you hiring? If yes, what are you hiring and where?
We are constantly looking for high quality talent who are a good fit for any of our departments; both in San Francisco, California and Huntsville, Alabama.
Which platform are you building on? Why?
Curse.com, the Curse Client and all of our upcoming projects are developed entirely on Microsoft technology. We utilize Visual Studio 2008 and 2010 for our development tools, and we rely on Windows 2008 Server, IIS7, and SQL Server 2008 for our hosting environment. Prior to our migration to the Microsoft platform, we had a very large LAMP server cluster. Despite the number of servers, we experienced constant site outages and we were unable to remain online under the heavy load of World of Warcraft patch days. In April 2008 work began on a new version of Curse.com, using ASP.NET web forms. By August we had a beta completed, and in late September we launched. Since the .NET version of Curse.com replaced the LAMP version, we have not had a single site outage and we have met every single World of Warcraft patch with confidence. We now utilize less than 1/3 of the server hardware, and have over three-times the amount of scalability.
In 2010, we’ll be continuing to use Microsoft technology exclusively. We’ve recently completed a next-generation version of the Curse Client, which was developed using Windows Presentation Foundation on the frontend and Windows Communication Foundation on the backend. We also have a guild-hosting service launching in Q2 of this year, which is being developed in ASP.NET MVC. Our decision to rely on Microsoft technology has had a profound impact on our business; allowing us to scale to incredible levels with little hardware investment, and a relatively small development team.
Where do you see opportunities today in the Software/internet area?
I think there are a lot of opportunities in consumer websites that save people time or help them discover new things in new ways. Services which make your life easier or help you manage your life better are always in demand.
What do you think about the BizSpark Program?
It’s a great program and very helpful for young start-ups. Getting access to Microsoft Technologies without upfront costs is amazing. We are excited to show the world how you can use these technologies to grow your business and take over the world.
Do you have any advice for young Software entrepreneurs?
One thing I learned in 5 years is, if you have a useful service it doesn’t need to be perfect. People are going to be using it even if it is not perfect. Make sure you always stay ahead of the curve when you release your software. If you have a good idea, make sure it is released quickly and you get the word out fast. Being the first to market is always important.
Who’s your role model?
I know it has been said before, but, as a businessman, Bill Gates is super smart. He made a lot of right decisions as a visionary.
What’s the ONE THING you would like readers to take away from this interview?
I think what has been great with Curse is I was able to build a business out of a passion. And if you can be passionate about what you are working on it makes your life happier and more rewarding. And, your enthusiasm is infectious. Getting people excited about what you are doing in the company is important.