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There are not so many success stories from Eastern Europe that made it big globally. Many of those who did succeed: XS Software, Nordeus, Alawar Entertainment, Cut The Rope – are in the gaming space. eRepublik is a successful browser-based online game, or what is known as MMOG, and a Romanian company. I learned that its founder George Lemnaru has left his executive position with the business, looking to do something new, so I connected with him via Skype to learn more about eRepublik.
George Lemnaru, a Romanian internet entrepreneur came up with the idea of eRepublik somewhere around 2006. At the time he was running online health shop which he founded in 2003, and was in discussions with Alexis Bonte about financing his internet business. At that point he already had a concept of eRepublik, a geo-political online simulation game, where players from each country influence political decisions of their virtual countries. The countries develop trade agreements, form international alliances and run presidential and congress elections amongst others.
Bonte and Lemnaru reached a decision about building the game within 3 hours. Seed funding of Euro 200,000 was committed in February 2007 and Euro 550,000 came in in June 2008. The games was first launched in October 2008. What followed was a combination of a brilliant product and viral spread.
The citizens of the virtual countries wanted other countrymen to participate in the game, so they went as far as place paid advertisements in their countries to grow the number of citizens in their countries, Lemnaru told me. The larger the country, the larger is its economy, and the more powerful it becomes.
The growth did not happen entirely virally. First of all in 2009 the company raised another Euro 2 million from AGF Private Equity. And only in 2010-2011 the company began to see the hockey stick growth. Almost 3 million players entered eRepublik community since its launch and over 200,000 spend active time in it every month.
There were hiccups on the way, no doubt. For example, because of a lengthy sign up process eRepublik has been losing 50 percent of the users during the signup (following the Facebook example the issue has been solved in 2010).
The founders have also managed to get an experienced Internet entrepreneur Toby Rowland on the board. Rowland has earlier co-founded a casual gaming company King.com and has grown uDate.com into the number one and number two dating site in the US and UK respectively.
Interestingly, the game even addressed a sensitive political issue of Kosovo independence. The gamers were asked to vote about the Kosovo independence, and thus it remained a part of Serbia within the game, a decision that has apparently shaken the eRepublik alliances.
Now the game is played in 69 countries, the management team is solid and the company is stable, so Lemnaru decided to leave the business to begin working on his next project in social games space. So if the investors are looking to back experienced Internet entrepreneurs in the Eastern Europe, they should connect.
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