STARTUPS TO WATCH: Pretzil

Peter
Peter Kovessy
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As CEO of the award-winning Magmic Games and founder of Rove, John Criswick saw the new challenges arising from the explosion in the number of mobile apps on the market.

Pretzil CEO John Criswick. (file photo)

“There is a large amount of content in the app stores and app worlds, so much so that it has become difficult to find the content,” says Mr. Criswick.

“Another social-networking layer is needed so people can promote what types of games or applications they are using, and developers can gain more visibility for their games or apps.”

Along with enabling users to market mobile apps themselves, Mr. Criswick saw an opportunity to connect players in the growing social gaming realm.

He calls Pretzil a check-in network, not that much different from the popular mobile app foursquare, which lets users share their physical location with friends by “checking in” to stores, landmarks and other venues.

By connecting to the Pretzil platform, users share what games or apps they are using with their networks in real time. It shows when their friends are, for example, playing Magmic’s new Texas Hold’em game and join the same virtual card table.

Users accumulate points when they connect to Pretzil that can be used to purchase virtual goods, such as avatar images.

“Point systems are games in themselves,” says Mr. Criswick.

He hopes the point system will eventually be a revenue conduit for the company as developers purchase points from Pretzil and offer those points to their users to encourage them to upgrade to a higher-priced product, or use a product for a longer period of time.

It’s comparable to Aeroplan, he says, which sells its “miles” to companies such as car rental firms Avis and Hertz that in turn use the reward points to attract customers.

For the moment, however, Pretzil is putting off any monetization schemes until it attracts a critical mass of developers.

People have a need to form their identity on social networks. We offer virtual goods like avatar images to manifest that. CEO John Criswick

While users can check in with any mobile app, Mr. Criswick says the real value is in developers directly integrating Pretzil into their apps to reward users and cross-promote their product.

Pretzil is currently pitching its business plan to venture capitalists and intends to scale its infrastructure over the next year to accommodate a projected growth in users from one million currently to five to 10 million.

Year founded: 2010

Local head count: 7

Funding to date: Angel and self-financed

Product: Incentive system for users of mobile applications

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