TechCrunch: How The Huang Brothers Bootstrapped Guitar Hero To A Billion Dollar Business

Living in Silicon Valley, TechCrunch is one of those “must read” tech blogs to find out what’s going on in the Valley and the tech scene overall, especially related to tech startups. A week ago or so, Startup Grind (“a community of founders, entrepreneurs, and wantrapreneurs”) did a terrific guest blog post and video interview with Charles Huang, co-founder of Red Octane – the creators of Guitar Hero. The video interview is over an hour, but it is fantastic. The blog post does a nice summary, and here is a very brief excerpt from the blog post of Red Octane’s amazing up-and-down story:

 “To pay for the inventory, Red Octane tried to raise money again. And while they had done $9MM in revenue the year before [from a different business], they were unable to raise $3MM. “It wasn’t like we were a startup that was burning cash, we were already profitable. At the time, videogames were just considered an uninvestable category by VCs. So, in order to get the game out, my brother and I took out second mortgages and took on credit card debt and to buy inventory for the launch of Guitar Hero.”

The game launched in November 2005. Best Buy forecast the game would sell 30K units between November and the end of January. The day it launched they sold 3,000 units in the first two hours. Best Buy called that day and wanted 80K more units the next week. Because of the hardware the games were built and shipped from China. That shipping delay turned Guitar Hero into the hardest game to find that Christmas season. They sold $45MM worth of Guitar Hero in the first 11-months and then they were acquired by Activision for north of $100MM.”

Huang was born in Taiwan, but came to the United States as a young child and he and his family relocated from the East Coast to the Bay Area when he was a teenager. Believe it or not, Huang was a history major at UC Berkeley. After college, he wound up working for a short while in the family import-export business.

This being the San Francisco Bay Area and in tech, the world is small. I actually have met Huang a few times – we happen to have three mutual  friends / acquaintances and I recently met him for a work-related meeting. Huang is now working on his latest startup idea, Green Throttle – turning your Android smartphone into a game console, selling a Bluetooth connected game controller for your smartphone as well as platform and ecosystem of  games. Looks like Huang may have another winner?

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About John

I'm a Taiwanese-American and was born & raised in Western Massachusetts, went to college in upstate New York, worked in Connecticut, went to grad school in North Carolina and then moved out to the Bay Area in 1999 and have been living here ever since - love the weather and almost everything about the area (except the high cost of housing...)
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