MEET Marshall: music lover, social media user and game-changing guy
Do you ever want more out of your relationship with the internet and social media? So does Marshall, but he isn’t waiting around for someone to give it to him. MEET Marshall, a music loving, social media using entrepreneur who is hoping to change the quality of games you play online. While most game folks promote fancy graphics or crazy story lines, Marshall and his team promote creativity and positive social interaction. We sat down to uncover what it takes to change the gaming industry.
Tell us about your project:
Mowgli is a social gaming company founded on the concept of connecting people through real social creation. I looked around at the gaming industry and saw what folks like Zynga were doing with Farmville, and it seemed like for as much money as they were making, people were not getting something of much value in return. I have been a musician my entire life and have a passion for creativity. What if people could spend all this time playing games and make something that isn’t a fake farm but is real, something you could take home with you. What if you could make music that you could download or share with a friend?
What challenges have you faced in creating this project?
We’ve faced everything from financing crunches to personnel issues, but probably to biggest challenge has been self doubt. We’ve been working on this concept for a year now, and we didn’t have our first real user feedback until this October when 500 people played our demo version at the SIEGE game conference. Before that, we were on a roller coaster of emotions that often resulted in “what the hell are we doing?!?!” It has been vital for us to continually encourage each other and remind ourselves that this can work.
What inspires you to do this work?
My inspiration is in watching people realize for the first time that they can create cool songs regardless of musical ability. I’ve found that people who don’t consider themselves musical are scared of doing something that is framed as “music creation.” But anyone can play a game. So we’re using our game Songster to show people that writing songs isn’t as hard as they might think. As a musician, my life mantra has always been “Create. Connect.” But it was very much an internalized feeling of wanting to write songs myself to connect with people. Then a year ago I had this moment where it became clear to me that I was supposed to use this mantra to enable anyone, anywhere, regardless of musicianship to create music they can use to connect with others. I’ve been lucky enough to see the excitement and fulfillment people get when they realize they can do this with Songster, and that’s inspiration that will last me for as long as I can imagine.
Who are you collaborating with?
Our team at Mowgli has grown to about 10 people including co-founders Adam Kunz and Mike VanBeneden. It just worked out that when I thought about the team I needed to build in order to bring Songster to fruition, I realized many of my friends had the skill sets necessary to make it happen. I’m truly blessed to be able to work not only with good friends of mine, but also some of the most talented people I’ve ever met.
Would you like to see your project expanded or replicated?
Absolutely. Songster will initially only be available as a Facebook game, but I would love to expand to other platforms, especially mobile, in the near future. I truly believe that we’re building a really cool, fun new way of creating and interacting with music that others will be able to build upon. Right now, if you look at the way people consume music, it ranges from the passive activity of listening to songs while doing something else (i.e. driving, working, etc.) to active interactions like concerts. Songster falls in between by giving people a more active experience with music in a context where they may only have previously passively listened to music. I think the more that companies can provide people with active music experiences online, the more fulfillment people will get from their music.
What kind of help do you need to see this happen?
We need to be able to continue to attract incredible talent to our team in order to make Songster the best app it can be. In tandem with that we need strategic investors who can not only help finance the development and expansion of Songster, but also help us realize our strategic visions.
What are some key issues facing Atlanta?
I think the biggest issue facing Atlanta is recognition. Atlanta has incredible technology and creative talent, but I don’t think as many people outside of Atlanta recognize that as they should. Organizations like the ATDC and GA Department of Economic Development are doing a great job of supporting Atlanta creatives and entrepreneurs and getting the word out there, but we still have a ways to go. Turner doesn’t need to be the only company in Atlanta employing our creative talent
What are some of your favorite organizations around the city?
Wow, there’s so many. Rob Kischuk has a great company called Badgy that is helping brands create deeper connections with their customers through gamification. And I’ve really been impressed with what Jeff Shinabarger at Plywood People and Blake Canterbury at BeRemedy are doing in the social change space. I also love Jesse Maddox’s vision for TripLingo. My friends Glenn and Lynwood who run MapLarge are doing some amazing things with mapping massive amounts of data. I just love meeting people who are so passionate about an idea that they have no choice but to commit themselves to seeing it through. When people are that passionate about what they do, you know it’s a good idea and going to have a great impact.
Where can interested readers find you?
They can find me at www.facebook.com/marswastaken or on Twitter at @marswastaken. We’re also promoting Songster at the following sites: www.facebook.com/playsongster, @playsongster, and www.mowgligames.com.
What FEEDs your soul?