Small business: Kiwi entrepreneurs - Chris White

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Chris White, founder of Drumleaf, which has develped the game, Star86, a virtual world where kids can make music and movies with other children

Chris White, founder of Drumleaf. Photo / Morgo Conferences
Chris White, founder of Drumleaf. Photo / Morgo Conferences

Drumleaf is about using web and mobile games to help kids lead successful lives. White is the first New Zealander to be working with US accelerator, YetiZen, the premier game studio incubator. He currently divides his time between New Zealand and San Francisco and was one of the speakers at last week's Morgo conference for entrepreneurs.

What makes you an entrepreneur?

I've never really held down a job, I have trained to be an architect and started a degree in medicine, completing it as a psychology degree in the end. Drumleaf is the first funded business I have had. I had another business, Test-Tube.TV where I developed the Star86 product. I have a passion about innovation and entertainment, and I wrote the patent for my first invention around collaborative music-making across an internet network. I have many ideas and would love to do them all but recognise that to succeed you have to focus on one thing at a time - unless you're Elon Musk.

Why would you come to a conference like Morgo?

Morgo is an opportunity to meet people who I would not usually meet. Sir Ken Stevens, the founder of Glidepath, was quite inspiring. I enjoyed his longer story about brand expansion. Also Jonny Hendriksen's matter of fact description of listing on the Nikkei was an inspiration. And Ian Wright's description of life after Tesla as well as Shaun Ryan's experience of listing on the NZX with his business SLI Systems.

Do you see yourself going in different directions during your career?

With Drumleaf, there are a lot of opportunities to go in different directions, the US$5.5 billion eduTech market as well as the vast gaming (US$80 billion) and television (US$150 billion) industries.

Is there anything about being an entrepreneur that affects your lifestyle?

I spend two weeks in New Zealand and two weeks in San Francisco so I never know what time it is! I haven't been able to buy a house yet but I don't see that as a sacrifice. My partner works for the company too which helps. It would be difficult to hold down a relationship otherwise.

Do you enjoy pitching your ideas as an entrepreneur?

I am used to doing pitches. I won seed funding from Sparkbox, K1W1, Seed Co-Investment Fund (SCIF) and they have come in on following rounds. Other Drumleaf funders include ICE Angels, MIG Angels (Manawatu Investment Group), AngelHQ and Enterprise Angels.

What has being at the game developer incubator YetiZen done for you?

It's very international. They are on their sixth round of companies and 40 per cent would be offshore. Being based in San Francisco, YetiZen's real strength is its location, with San Francisco being such a hotbed of game talent for the English speaking world. The incubator has 150 mentors and we see two a day who give us feedback on what we are doing and how to raise finance. Gaming represents more than 80 per cent of the revenue generated on mobile devices in 2012.

Are you trying to raise funds at the moment and what is your business model?

We begin fundraising again next month. Currently we sell directly to consumers, parents and kids, by monthly subscription fees and one-off payments. We will be expanding this model in the coming months as new products come online. Watch this space.


Next week: And speaking of never being too old to start a business, proud son, Tim Lightbourne, co-founder of Invivo Wines, got in touch recently to let me know about his Dad's business. It seems his work life is busier than ever even though he has passed retirement age. I'd love to hear your stories of businesses you have set up post-retirement, a time when you can really pursue your dreams with no worries about the mortgage hopefully.

- NZ Herald

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