09 December 2015
Watch: Roj Niyogi Answers Community Questions
As a follow up to the recent blog post and forum response following Corona Labs acquisition, we sat down with Perk Founder and President, Roj Niyogi to answer questions from the Corona community. Roj addressed questions like, who is Perk, what is the future of Corona SDK, and how will Corona be leveraged to build Perk’s business and grow Corona SDK as a platform.
Watch the full interview and be sure to ask any questions in the forums.
Here is a full transcript of the interview:
Charles McKeever: Alright, welcome to back to a special edition of Corona Geek where we talk all about cross platform app development using Corona SDK. I’m your host Charles McKeever and today I’m joining you from the office of Perk.com in the beautiful downtown Austin, Texas. Joining me is Roj Niyogi, founder and president of Perk.com. So thank you for joining me Roj, I appreciate it.
Roj Niyogi: Thanks, thanks for coming over here, I appreciate it.
Charles: Excellent! So Perk.com purchased Corona Labs.
Charles: It kind of caught the community by surprise and has raised a lot of questions so we’re hoping to get some answers today from you.
Roj: Let’s do it.
Charles: And we got questions, everything from who the heck is Perk to what’s the future of Corona?
Roj: Yep, it makes sense.
Charles: So let’s jump right into it, ok? Who the heck is Perk?
Roj: So, if you think about Perk over the years, we started off as…if you google search Perk you can see a whole bunch of stuff about how we worked on a desktop web browser that rewarded you for using it. You’d actually search the web and earn points, shop the web and earn points and even fill out offers and earn points. And this is all built in a desktop web browser that we created for Mac and Windows using the Chromium platform, so that was a couple of years ago.
And then we actually made the traversal into mobile and did the same thing; we built a mobile app, mobile web browser now, so it was a desktop browser to mobile browser and did the same things. You would search the web and earn points, we had a sort of a relationship with Yahoo that allowed us to do that, you would incentivize web searches and had a whole set of relationships with ecommerce retailers, if you shopped them, you would earn points and ultimately found out that that was a complete failure. It was a giant failure. And what we had to do was think about, ok, what do we have to do next?
In just true reiteration fashion find out that the best thing to do would be to unbundle these apps and just seeing this trend with Facebook, you’re having a messenger app and a social networking app and a moments app. Apps are typically single purpose, you know, you typically look at an app and you say, oh, what does that app do? It’s a messaging app or a social networking app or it’s a news app or it’s a game or you do this. The more things you pack into the app, if it’s just overblown, it kind of, the value proposition goes away.
So we naturally took Perk and then unbundled it into a bunch of little apps. We have an app where you can watch videos and earn points , we have a search and win app where you can actually search the web and earn points for doing that and that actually took off. Because once you actually create a much simple value proposition to the developers, sorry, to users, they finally got it, they finally understand. Like, oh, ok, I can do this one thing and I earn points.
The truth is, Perk can’t build every app under the sun, it’s virtually impossible for us to take Perk points and try to go out there and blank the entire universe of apps. So the natural next step was for us to go and build Appsaholic. Appsaholic was actually a monetization solution for developers to build basically any app and say add some rewards to your app and ultimately, when we think of Corona, we think of extending the landscape. Now we can get developers out there as they’re creating apps, not as they already have apps and give them tools to put Perk in them sooner and be part of the process.
Charles: Okay, good, I’m glad you got to that point. Let’s talk about that for a moment. One of the questions that people have been asking us, you know, why? Why is Perk so excited about Corona, why did they go to the lengths of actually buying Corona labs?
Roj: That’s a great question, Charles. The answer is multifold. First of all, it’s just cool to own a platform, alright? There’s just no other way around it. It’s fundamentally…and it’s even cooler when you have a platform that has a vibrant community of developers that actually build apps and build games and are passionate about game development and it’s a testament to the fact that we…And we’re doing it ourselves, we actually use Corona ourselves and it’s kind of this thing, when the opportunity to look at Corona and acquiring Corona came up, it was serendipitous with another story where we actually heard from the developer who said to us, hey, you know what? You guys are building this game that’s actually a 2d game using Unity, why are you doing that? You should be using Corona for something like this.
And at the time, we had no idea what he was talking about, what’s Corona? And we actually said…and then actually he took the liberty over the weekend to construct a game that had taken months for us to build and did it within days. This is a company that actually has experience in Corona and so he was able to do that really quickly. That was kind of the writing on the wall that said, wow, we’re just using the wrong toolset here.
Charles: It’s interesting that you say that because have heard that story over and over again, right? That somebody used Toolx and spent six months or so trying to build something, someone said, hey, why don’t you use Corona and in a weekend or a week, they’re like, hey, we have something that’s a minimum buyable product that we could go with, right? And that always kind of amazed people so it’s interesting.
Roj: Yeah, I mean, I think that’s the idea. If you think about us learning that for ourselves and then appreciating Corona for what’s possible, we have a firsthand experience of what it takes to get the “aha moment” to more developers out there and that’s our goal, to actually get people out there who are thinking about game development, who are using default tools of the trade, to get that “aha moment” to them as well and have them thinking about Corona as well. There’s a big opportunity there.
Charles: Well ok, so that being said, the one question that comes up from the community is, ok, that sounds good, but you know, Fuse was an ad company, Perk’s and ad company, what’s going to be different this time?
Roj: Reality is that we use advertising to monetize our apps. You know, when we started building Perk apps, we called it our own and operating Perk apps that monetized with advertising and if we’re an ad company, then any publisher out there that puts ads in their apps is an ad company. But the truth is that the advertising is just a component of the product, is a component of who we are.
In the same respect that Facebook and Google have ad business attached to their primary product – Google has a search engine, they have advertising, they have AdWords for advertisers to latch on and do something interesting with. Facebook has the same concept with their ads program, they bought LiveRail. At the end of the day, when you think of Facebook, you think of them as a social network. I can see how there would be a kind of a conception that Perk is an add company, the reality is that we’re not. We’re actually a collection of things, a unification of a concept that people’s time on their phones is a valuable asset, you know?
Advertisers are willing to go out and pay handsomely for the attention of someone actually choosing an app, one app versus another app and publishers need to do more to stand out with their app versus another app consumer can use by doing something interesting. At some point, as I mentioned earlier, there are tons of calculator apps, there are tons of utility apps and if there’s Candy Crush, there are five other clones out there and there are hundreds bubble shooters, what are you doing to be different? So there’s an opportunity to solve a more interesting problem which is how do you make the equation of what’s interesting for developers, for publishers, for advertisers and consumers all fit together and appropriately coexist?
Charles: Ok. So, the other question that comes up, and this is really addressed, sort of in a Walter’s blog post on the Corona apps blog, but I want to kind of get your take on it. You know, Walter is the founder of Corona, the previous CEO, he’s sort of the poster child, he’s really well known in the community and stuff like that. So what is Walters taking a step back or taking an advisory role, what does that really mean to the community and what does it mean to you?
Roj: Walter stepping back, in my mind, in one respect means absolutely nothing in terms of what happens next and I think that Walters has done an amazing job in taking and shepherding the platform in what it is today. If you think about…it’s a mature platform, there’s a lot of stuff that’s happening, there’s a lot of stuff that you can build. Top apps have been build on a Corona platform, which means that, when you think about the work that he has done over the years, he’s actually taking it to, what I think, a successful platform, right?
Successful platform in terms of community developers, apps that can be built on a platform, plug-ins…in my mind, beginning of a thriving plug-in eco system and both of us when we first talked, I think couple of months ago, both shared a strong vision of what the future for Corona could be. So as it might seem that he has just disappeared and vanished to the ether, he’s very much and adviser of the company and had been advising folks in the company in a more active way in the last 8 to 10 months.
So the Walter that was actually fiercely coding, you know, years and years ago and actually working on the pieces of the business, was actually coaching and saying, let me see if this baton internally engineers that are making the product work. Can it work with me sitting here and watching folks work on the platform, then if I’m actually coding on the platform myself? I think he saw success there and I think that that has had an impact and in terms of really helping his own confidence in what would happen if I actually, kind of retreated into the darkness and watch the platform actually evolving and I think it’s actually working just fine.
This isn’t a startup that he’s been working on for 12 months, this is something he’s worked on for 6 years. 6 years of time into the platform and I think the entire community and myself should really appreciate and kind of give him a round of applause virtually, for what he’s done to take this platform to where it is and actually enable developers to do so much interesting things in terms of livelihood of building games on this platform that was a vision and something that he created. So to answer your question in kind of more succinct terms, Walter is still around and we talk very often, he’s participating in the forums, he posts on the forums, but I’m talking to him regularly, I talked to him day before yesterday, I’m going to meet him next week when I’m in Corona, in Palo Alto office, meeting the Corona team again and he’s already forwarding emails from folks that are interested in working, teaming up with Corona on various initiatives.
Charles: I’m not really sure when he sleeps.
Roj: Yeah, so I wonder that, right? And I am curious and I’m excited about what he does next. But as far as the development community having a feel about Walter and what he’s going to do next, he’s very much with the community; he’s very much talking to us on a regular basis and will be helpful in the future. So he’s not gone, he’s here, there’s nothing to worry about, life goes on, we’re all good.
Charles: Ok, excellent. Ok, so let’s talk a little bit more about Perk then. Perk is a publicly traded company, what does that mean?
Roj: That’s a good question. It’s a good thing in terms of what it can mean for what the future looks like and shareholders and investors expect big things, they expect big ideas, they invest in the future.
Charles: Ok, so let’s talk about what that means in terms of Corona. What happens if six months from now Corona is not profitable, there’s been some banter about that.
Roj: That’s a fair question by anybody who’s asking that, but I have to go back to the whole notion that Perk uses Corona. For us it actually matters that there’s twofold reason in terms of why Corona was purchased. On one hand, there’s a platform opportunity. There’s the idea that there’s a platform and we want to grow the platform and get it really large. But a precursor to that, the responsible thing to do is to say, hey look, this platform is good for us, it’s good for what we can do with the platform.
So the way I like to think about it is, if there were no developers tomorrow and we were making thousands and thousands dollars a day off the platform, an investor would expect, almost demand that we have a way to protect our business by having the platform and doing everything we can do to really protect the chance of success or protect your business. And they would say it’s a smartest decision that you can make if you own a platform that generates revenue for the company. My job in the future is to really shepherd and work on getting that platform and taking that platform to the next level. That’s my personal goal. The company’s large, but I have taken upon myself to really work on this into the future. And referring back to Walter, relying and working and bugging Walter where I can on behalf of everybody else to make sure that he can help where I need his help to make this possible.
Charles: Ok, you just mentioned team size.
Charles: How big is Perk, how are things kind of split up, how many offices are there and that kind of stuff?
Roj: Alright. So the Perk team currently…it’s growing fast. Last count, if I remember correctly, when I say this, it’s pretty wide range, 160 – 180 people. So 160 – 180 people right now and we’re spread across a few offices. We’ve got our office and headquarters here in Austin, Texas, which you know, hook ‘em, which is headquarters for us and we love calling this home, we also have a big office in our Bangalore office in India which is a second office we launched and we have about 80 people in that office today and the office is a very multifaceted office, it’s not an outsourcing department.
I actually flew out there and we had people working for us before we actually had an office based there and now we have, I don’t know, an entire building of people that are working and doing anything from content management to design to programming to backend, PHP, web programming front end programming, IOS, we actually have Unity developers, we have Cocos2d-x developers, and most recently and most excitingly we have Corona developers. We have, I think, about a half a dozen programmers right now that are working on these games that the product managers are designing and working with to really kind of take them to completion and launch them.
Charles: I want to stop you and really reemphasize what you said earlier for anybody who may have missed that. You said that you have Cocos2d, you have Unity developers and stuff like that, but still you felt that it was a business decision, a good, solid business decision to own a platform that you can use to build out the business. I think that’s a very important point.
Roj: Also, to reiterate the fact, we are now converting a lot of our developers, that were once using Cocos2d-x and Unity and Native code to start using Corona, to standardize on Corona as our primary platform. Further to that, when I think about, you know, Corona, it has been proven…we’re actually going to import our games that were built in other platforms over to Corona, because it makes a lot of sense. A lot of modularity, a lot of reasons it makes sense. There’s a lot of dimensions to the acquisition that may not be apparent to everybody but I think it’s important mentioning and I appreciate you doing that.
Charles: I think it’s important for the community to put their business hat on and think about, ok, if I were Perk… And some of these questions come out of that, like what happens if it doesn’t make money…But when you frame it in that respect, look, this is a business decision, in the long term play, this is what we’re about, we’re not going to switch teams tomorrow, that kind of thing. I think that’s important. So let’s talk about Fuse, moving forward, we’re talking about the future, we’re talking about moving forward, things like that. Fuse plug-in, what happens to it? what happens to it now?
Roj: It sticks around, it’s not going anywhere. John and I’ve been…John Walsh who was a CEO of Fuse Powered and I have been talking. We talked yesterday and he committed to Fuse plug-in being an important part of their business and we were also supportive of the fact that developers who had spent the time and the energy to put that in, it makes sense. It makes sense, it makes good sense for the Fuse plug-in to be available to the developers. So as far as I’m concerned, the plug-in is around. I don’t think it changes. I think there have already been success stories of developers who have seen the revenue kind of be…the expectations were met and they’re making money with the plug-in and that’s a good thing and we should be supportive of the fact that if developers are able to earn revenue from their apps with a solution that works, why stop it?
Charles: So that’s good. Let’s talk about third party plug-ins.
Charles: Third party app providers, are those going to be allowed?
Charles: Ok, that’s pretty simple.
Roj: I think that the important thing is, again, developers are looking for an extensive platform that does as much as they need it to do and they’re making decisions before they build an app, as they’re building their app, as they’re maintaining their app, as they see success with their app and I think plug-ins allow that, allow more opportunities than less and in fact, one of our commitments is to build more plug-ins and work with other companies in the mobile space to get their SDK’s turned into plug-ins and make them available to the developers in the community.
Charles: Ok. That goes right along with the question of will the developers be forced to use Perk, right? It’s kind of one and the same question.
Roj: And to answer that question as simply as last one – no. They’re not forced to use Perk at all. I think that the idea here is largely karma driven. As a platform do what you think is best in terms on how you want to operate your mobile app. Our thought is that, at some point, we’re excited about what we can bring to the table in the future. Perk can actually help you with user acquisition at some point. User acquisition is a big deal. You build an app, you spend two years or two months building an app, depending on the complexity of the app and now you release it and you wonder where are those users going to come from.
Now, big companies have big budgets and they spend money on advertising and user acquisition, but sometimes developers don’t have that, you know? So we can actually help with the right magical components in the mobile apps to drive users to your apps, right? Because if they’re into, and let’s go back to the whole Perk story, if they’re earning Perk points in an app and they’re trying to get their Amazon gift card and they’re tired of unlocking their phone or playing a quiz app, they’re like, where else can I go, what else can I do earn these Perk points? So there’s this idea that at some point, for some developers, they’ll try it out, they’ll see how it does for them and we’re glad to except and work with developers that want to do that.
Charles: Ok. So, branding wise, are we talking about Perk ads, are we talking about Corona ads? In your blog post you said something about Corona ads?
Roj: That’s a great question. Corona ads is, you know, our idea of a graceful…closest thing to a one stop solution, one click, press here, get this code, we’ll put this one line at the top of your code and kind of tell your program you want to show an ad here and it just working. And it’s not for everybody and I don’t think that we think that Corona ad is the only way someone can monetize their app, so it’s largely going to coexist with other plug-ins that are out there. I think there are varying shades and varying kind of phases and stages a developer might be in. Any developers, developers that might have seen success are now going to talk to other monetization partners and try to get the highest yield cpn’s and things like that. And we want to have a solution for everybody, right?
Charles: Let’s talk about this, it sounds like a weird question, but will Corona ever be open sourced?
Roj: It’s a legitimate question whether Corona could be open-sourced and the answer is, it’s not out of the question. I think there’s always a possibility that…we see a lot of trends, like with Swift just going open sourced. Swift yesterday is just open sourced. And I think that the idea, the claim has always been, if I open-source my product, suddenly everybody’s going to start using it and it’s not necessarily true. I think there’s always a question of…The idea if…it’s almost like an insurance policy on the possibility that if something went out of business that the open source community would take it and do something with it, but in this case, because we use the product ourselves… So there is definitely a fresh new possibility that it can happen so it’s not out of the question.
Charles: Let’s kind of wrap things up here. In your blog post, you mentioned an asset store, Coronacon, things like that. Freestyle for it, tell us your vision.
Roj: I really, really want Corona to be…it should be a default if you’re not building a shoot them up or Fifa soccer type 3d kind of a game. If you’re not doing that, there’s no reason to not use Corona. That’s the idea. And my idea of success out of Corona, outside of us using it and doing what we’re doing with Corona at Perk, is get it to be the part of the conversation of any developer when they’re considering a platform. And I now that you look at other platforms, like Unity, that are considered default, and it’s almost by default to a fault, it’s not supposed to be used in some cases.
We were guilty of that as well ourselves as company. We used Unity because it seemed like the right thing to do, because we were ill-informed and we didn’t go out there looking for anything else because if you do, you open a Pandora’s Box of all these other platforms. So there’s a deep sense of mission around getting the word out there and talking to more developers. There’s a developer community in all parts of the world from India to South America, to Europe, to Australia, to Korea that are already using Corona in some ways and that’s just the beginning.
And 2016 for us is going to be an interesting year because we’re actually going to take Corona with us to all the conferences we’re going to be attending, from Game Development conference to Casual Connect, to Apps World to Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. So there’s a lot of things we’re going to do to spread the gospel of what Corona can do. And the reason why, again, it works is because we’re going to be at the conference anyhow. So now, Corona is represented at a conference. So that’s one of the really big things that I think is important, for us to get Corona out there in a big way.
Charles: Alright Roj, I appreciate it. I really appreciate you spending some time with us, answering these questions. You know, these questions have come from the community, you guys have asked these things. So if you have other questions for Roj, I would encourage you to go to coronalabs.com, click on the resources, go to the forum, you can ask him any questions directly, he’s already been there, answering people’s questions. So basically, go to coronalabs.com, download Corona SDK, try it yourself, if you have any questions about what’s going on, where we’re headed, hit the forums and ask those questions and Roj will be happy to give you some feedback. Alright, I appreciate it Roj.
Roj: Thank you very much.
Charles: You guys take care and we’ll talk to you next time.