A leading casual game development studio with offices in New York City, Ukraine, and Canada, Arkadium was founded in 2001 by game enthusiasts and married couple Jessica Rovello and Kenny Rosenblatt. When the pair began dating more than 10 years ago, they got talking about the games they used to play in arcades but couldn’t find anymore. Their conversations inspired them to start a development studio that made those classic arcade games for online play. Thus, they launched Arkadium with $15,000 from 401(k) accounts and gave themselves six months.
Armed with a business plan, Rovello and Rosenblatt sought funding from mentors and advisors but were told that they had zero valuation and would “get eaten alive by the terms.” So they began building a business, deciding they would develop a game or two before trying to raise money again. But then the dot-com bubble burst and 9/11 happened, leaving Arkadium in a deadlock.
Rovello and Rosenblatt stuck with their company while creating websites on the side. They didn’t take salaries but continued to pay employees and develop products. By 2003, Arkadium still wasn’t making money, and the couple gave themselves another six months before one of them had to go get a job. Then R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company called to ask if they had any casino games for the company’s website. Arkadium whipped up a poker game proposal and won the bid.
Today, Arkadium makes games for both businesses and consumers. The company’s hundreds of games reach more than 10 million unique gamers per month across multiple channels such as Facebook, Windows 8, ESPN, CNN, Discovery, AARP, and Lifetime. Rovello and Rosenblatt never raised any outside capital and own about 75 percent of Arkadium; the rest is divided among family, friends, and a few early angel investors.
“A lot of 20-somethings who think about starting a company are trying to make a bazillion dollars quickly and be the next Mark Zuckerberg. But not taking any financing and growing organically means you get to maintain control of your business,” says Rovello.