Location: Potomac Falls
Funding: The company received $100,000 from the Virginia Center for Innovative Technology's Growth Acceleration Program in May and is now trying to raise $2 million to $5 million in a Series A institutional round of venture capital financing. Friends and family members donated $125,000 in seed money.
Big idea: Mpowerplayer's product allows consumers to find and try out games and applications for their mobile phones before they buy them. "Its like an iTunes for mobile games," said Guillermo Sohnlein, chief executive. The company has a demo catalogue of 12 games but hopes to expand that number quickly as it rolls out features, including 3-D capabilities, over the next three weeks and completes a full product launch by September. "We will have more features, more titles in catalogue and more distribution partners in place" by then, Sohnlein said.
How it works: Users download to their computers a free software application that serves as a demo engine for mobile phone games and applications. They then use their keyboard or number pad to test out the games on the computer screen. Once they decide they like a game, they can use Mpowerplayer's software to purchase and download it to their phone through an SMS (short message service) text message or Bluetooth wireless connection.
Where the idea was hatched: Michael Powers, company founder and chief technology officer, developed mobile games on his own but thought there was a bigger market in serving as a platform for games than as a game publisher, Sohnlein said. "Developing games is very much a hits business," he . "You've gotta crank out 10 or 12 games and hope that one of them will be a big hit."
Price: The application will be a free download, though gamers can expect to pay from $4.50 to $5.50 for each game. "We can have subscriptions or one-time fees," Sohnlein said. "We have a lot of flexibility, depending on what the publishers want and what we think will sell."
Most popular game: "Prince of Persia: Warrior Within," a fantasy and adventure game.
Founded: April 2004
Who's in charge: Guillermo Sohnlein, chief executive; and Michael Powers, founder and chief technology officer.
Web site: www.mpowerplayer.com
Partners: Mpowerplayer has a co-marketing agreement with Sun Microsystems Inc.
What the name means: "It's basically about mobile playing and the power of playing on mobile," Sohnlein said. "It's a play on words: 'empowering the mobile player.' It's not 'MPower' for 'Michael Powers', even though that's our founder's name."
Quote: "Two years ago no one would have wanted to demo their games on a desktop because they were so simple and black and white, not even color," Sohnlein said. "Today, not only are the publishers eager to showcase their games, they're eager to tap into consumers who never knew you could have this on your mobile phone."
-- Andrea Caumont