Gary Hoover Enters the iPad Game Business

Reporter with Silicon Hills News

Gary Hoover at the RISE closing ceremonies, photo by ©2013, Scott Van Osdol,

Gary Hoover at the RISE closing ceremonies, photo by ©2013, Scott Van Osdol,

Serial entrepreneur and entrepreneurial guru Gary Hoover has an old electric shaver box that his father gave him when he was a boy. Inside it is a crudely drawn game board with businesses on it: Neiman Marcus, Marshall Field. When he was seven years old, he started playing this game of building, selling and buying businesses. In college the game was movies. He and his friends would create movies, hire screenwriters, go on location. If you wanted to hire Paul Newman, you had to be ready to cough up $1.7 million.
This game has run, like a theme, through all Hoover’s businesses, grown more complex, wound up on complicated spreadsheets. And this game of Big Wigs is Hoover’s next business venture.
It will be played interactively on whatever the device of the day is, right now that’s iPads. It will be based on and model his indepth research on the various industries—up to 30 industries by the year 2020—beginning with the restaurant industry. Players can choose whether to be a fine dining establishment, a diner or a fast food joint. They can choose a location in a real place, hire staff, purchase food. Then, say the game adds a retail industry component, mall owner players can negotiate with restaurant owner players. There will be investors, partnerships, IPOS, a court component….
The game will be free to $10 for consumers.
“There are at least 25 companies that sell games to MBA programs but they don’t really model the industry,” Hoover told a packed room at his RISE session at Capital Factory Friday. “The bottom line is everybody deals with businesses every day and virtually no one understands how they work.”
A game he plays with students is having them make predictions about businesses and profits.
Hoover has a thousand ideas for new businesses, he said, though the title of his talk only mentioned 235.
“When it’s time for me to start another company, my system, the first thing I ask is am I passionate about it. I don’t care about ‘This is hot. That’s where you make the most money.’”
He looked into healthcare, he said, because the number of healthcare companies among top ranking businesses has exploded over the last several years. So he bought $200 worth of books on healthcare. He couldn’t get through them. He was bored.
“If I’m going to start a business,” he said, “I gotta love it. I gotta stay up all night and jump buildings in a single bound and all those things entrepreneurs do.”
If you read about an industry for 10 minutes and check the clock, he said, that’s not the business for you. If you look up and realize the sun’s coming up and you’ve been at it for eight hours, you’re on the right track.
That’s the first criteria. The other is “Are people going to love it?”
Sometimes, he said, it’s hard to find market validation. “It’s great to go around and ask 100 customers what they think of your idea,” he said, “but the more bold and brazen your idea is, the less likely you can do that. Nobody was walking around saying ‘I can’t make it another day without Federal Express.’”
This is the first time he’s ever gone into an industry that was a gold rush, Hoover said. Most of his other ideas were unique. And game experts tell him he can’t possibly get to profitability with $500,000. Games are too expensive.
On the other hand, game experts all agree that Monopoly is a terrible game. No industry, including the real estate industry Monopoly was modeled on, has a “last man standing” model.
The world that grew up on Monopoly doesn’t seem bothered by that. That’s because, he said, Monopoly speaks to the fact that people and businesses all run on the same principles that have been around since the 1900s and which he said Whole Foods embodies: If you love what you’re doing, you win.
“Do you love your customers? Do you love your product? Do you communicate that love? Whole Foods is like ‘We love olives. Olives are great. Olives are cool. Do you love olives? You should! They just love food and they love what they’re doing. And you can’t beat that.”

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