The members of Social Bomb, ITP alumi Adam Simon, Mike Dory and Scott Varland, were our speakers for Applications this week. Here are my notes...

Social Bomb

The members of Social Bomb, ITP alumni Adam Simon, Mike Dory and Scott Varland, were our speakers for Applications this week. Here are my notes:

Social Bomb makes games based on social data found online;



  • Met at ITP
  • Mike was journalist and worked in PR;
  • Adam worked for CBS, interactive marketing;
  • Scott started a theater company in Chicago, worked at hedge fund/ivestment bank;
  • All took Networked Objects with Igoe



  • Original social bomb game was clone of HS cafeteria.
  • Box has “coolnss score,” which is based on proximity; penalized for being anti-social (uncool)
  • All started from proximity sensors Igoe had;
  • Company name came from design of product…that looked like bombs;
  • Spent a lot of time prototyping software/hardware
  • Wanted to make 20 to start (by hand!);
  • After built, started user testing;
  • Got to see how people used, many tried to game system. Others used to track popularity;
  • Some people thought it might have research purposes (strapping to monkeys), others thought might be good for autistic children (horrible idea) to monitor interaction;
  • Were also working on other ITP projects;
  • Game presented for first time at Spring Show 2007, where they needed a one sentence way to describe the game;



  • Met an alumnus who worked at MTV and asked them to come up with some ideas about things that operated on same principles.
  • T-shirt generator based on potical ideas and others; (Apathetic Apparel)
  • Adam worked at area/code (big games, weird games) – Shark Runner game with GPS sharks
  • Mike worked at Unified Field on large scale installations
  • Scott went to Europe (slacker!);



  • Many projects based on asterisk
  • Scott – Read friend’s Facebook feed as telePrompter ad went straight to YouTube (FaceCast)
  • All worked on ARG called “Three Houses” with 9 people;
  • During this, Stern Biz Plan came up;



  • Ended up overwriting everything;
  • Started with where they were with MTV, but realized the had to chage a lot;
  • iPhone came out during this;
  • Interested in idea of where you are, and how you can make games for that;
  • Observed what people are doing in the game, then feed it back into the game is their appraoch to game design;
  • Submitted to Where 2.0 and invited to present social bomb at e-tech;
  • Showed at conflux, dorkbot, ETech, bent festival, oscon
  • Re-buit hardware devices and showed at eTech and got a lot of feedback
  • Ran games of 30 people and saw people doing what they wanted – interesting user behavior;
  • Positive press feedback (Gizmodo, Boingboing, Make, Cnet, Kotaku, Neoteo, convinced them they had something;
  • In final round, got to pitch idea;
  • WON! (but had to finish thesis first):



  • Adam – social heroes twitter game
  • Scott – metaconnector
  • Mike – ambient amplifiers





  • Transition from social bomb the game to social bomb the company
  • How do you structure a company,keep track of expenses, divide work


Things that helped:

  • got office space at david rose’s tech incubator
  • had to create wire frames and design documents to explain to other people and get things done
  • money! (see David Rose)


2 sources: Strategic Angeles and Early Stage VCs

lots of them, invest $50-100K, not so deep pockets, east to meet, entrepreneur friendly, hurt b economy

Early Stage VCs:
few true early stage, invest $100K-$500K, very deep pockets, hard to meet, depends, more stable

What they’re looking for: integrity, passion, experience, knowledge, skill, leadership, commitment, vision, realism, coach-ability (NONE of these say “idea”)

What they’re (really) looking for: MONEY

What to do about it: find a business model, do something hard, start at the beginning, do not fear

A business starts not with an idea, but with a market.

Do something not what your competitors CAN’T do, but what they WON’T do.

What they will say: No thanks, I’m going to pass, you’re too early/late strategy for us, come back when you have some traction, I don’t really know your industry.


The next steps should be meet partner/fly to CA/demo/flip coin, I’ll give you $50K right now 
And when they say no..learn and move on.

Either way, do not fear or feel defeated.



  • Lots of sources of data (Twitter, Delicious, Facebook). End up with no mobile filtering.
  • Their hope is to tie in to all these things. Feed game to Facebook, feed Twitter to game. Make games aware of other games. What you do in one game FX the other game.
  • Want to make an interface for your social life.
  • Less world of warcraft, more social interaction.