Marcus Howard is the CEO of ProjectMQ, a multimedia search engine exclusively for independent (i.e. “indie”) video games, which was PayPal’s top digital service of their 2018 business contest. He’s also the President of Tampa Association of Gaming and Global Coalition of Gaming, nonprofits dedicated to growing the gaming industry and supporting STEM youth programs. Marcus got Super Mario Bros. 3 for Christmas when he was six, and he’s been playing video games ever since. He has a Bachelor’s Degree in Information Technology, with a minor in Management, from Georgia Southern University. Marcus sees tremendous potential for indie games in esports: 75% of Steam’s video games are made by indie studios, and nearly 30% of the top esports titles in 2018 were created by indie devs. He understands that the gaming industry, with $140B of revenue and 2.7B gamers worldwide, is how blockchain/crypto adoption will go mainstream.
Q. What inspired you to launch your company?
A. Video games inspired me to launch ProjectMQ, just like they inspired me to pursue a technology degree and career. Malcolm and I got “Super Mario Bros. 3” for Christmas when we were six, and we’ve been playing video games ever since. During our 9th grade year at Magnet School, we learned that our TI-83+ graphing calculators could play video games. Suddenly, we connected the dots between software development and video games: games are apps, just like Facebook and Uber, except their purpose is entertainment and engagement.
Fast forward about 10 years: Malcolm and I both had our undergrad degrees (Computer Science and Information Technology, respectively). Though we still loved playing video games, we didn’t have a way to easily share awesome video games with our friends. We figured that someone else would eventually come up with a way to connect people with games, the way that Facebook connected people with other people. After several months (and eventually, years) passed, we got tired of looking for a solution, and finally decided to try and build one ourselves.
We originally wanted ProjectMQ to be for both big-budget (i.e. AAA) and independent (i.e. indie) video games. However, we pivoted the idea, after a trip to the 2014 Electronics Entertainment Expo (E3) in Los Angeles. There, we learned that most AAA studios weren’t interested in the platform we were building. They already had established audiences for their games, and marketing resources to promote those games. Though, indie studios loved the concept, because they didn’t have established audiences or marketing resources. That’s when we redefined ProjectMQ: all platforms, all genres, only indie games.
Q. Where do you see your company headed next?
A. Our goals for ProjectMQ in 2019 are to expand the functionality of the platform, expand the platform’s digital distribution, and expand ProjectMQ’s brand. To improve the site’s functionality, Malcolm plans to implement an API, so that we can make ProjectMQ’s catalog of excellent indie games available to third party sites. Next, we plan to use that API to complete our mobile application in the Unity game development engine. This will allow us to publish the ProjectMQ mobile app to all computers, laptops, mobile devices, gaming consoles, and smart TVs. Finally, as iHeartMEDIA’s official Esports partner, we’ll continue building out their gaming events in their 150+ markets nationwide. That should help us establish ProjectMQ’s physical brand footprint, in addition to our digital one.
Q. Give us a tactical piece of advice that you’d share with another founder just starting out.
A. Aim small, miss small, fail fast, learn, and then repeat. Whatever product, feature, or strategy you have in mind, you should try to figure out a way to test it with 5% of the time and money you had planned. We’ve burned two of the last 5 years, investing resources on initiatives that didn’t work out, when we should have prototyped them first. When you’re short on time and money, a quickly failed prototype is the best gift you can get.
To learn more about this exciting Tampa Bay startup, visit the Embarc Collective
"We're making a real impact in the gaming industry, and that keeps me motivated to keep working every day."-Marcus Howard