Cyrus David makes play pay
“Casual gamers often feel bad about the time and money they spend playing games online,” says Cyrus David ’07. “These games help remove that guilt, improve the world and enhance the business of gaming all at once.”
That’s the idea behind WeTopia. As vice president of product development for SoJo Studios (SoJo is short for Social Joy), David led the team that built the free game and brought it to market on Facebook. Players build a community and earn “joy,” which they can spend on projects such as providing hot meals to children in Haiti and caring for homeless children in the United States. When a player spends joy, the transaction isn’t confined to the virtual world. SoJo funds real projects to help children with education, food, clothing and healthcare. Launched last fall, WeTopia has surpassed 2 million installations and is supporting many projects.
“This is a win-win,” David says. “In free-to-play games that rely on virtual currency as a business model, a cause can actually enhance business metrics. Players spend more time and money because they feel empowered to make a difference just by playing.”
Named one of the top 20 startups for 2011 by Business Insider, SoJo will be launching more products this year, but without David, who recently left SoJo to work on other projects. The opportunity to be part of a startup is the biggest reason that David joined SoJo after spending four years at Google.
“When I found out about SoJo, it was really early stage,” David says. “I met with the founder and when he talked about the vision, I thought it was incredible. My first day at SoJo was the first day the New York office was open in October 2010. The team was small at the time, but has since grown to more than 30 people across three offices. SoJo has an ambitious vision, and I am excited about its future.”