Social media gave rise to a new type of celebrity — the influencer — and changed how billions of people connect, express themselves, shop, and even learn. It’s become so entrenched in our daily lives that it’s easy to forget how new social media actually is. But it still has a lot of room for growth.
Overplay is bringing the video game experience to social media. It lets users turn videos into games — complete with trophies and badges — and post them on social media for others to play. We reached out to Chief Operating Officer and co-founder Caroline Strzalka to hear about how she met her co-founder and her ideas for improving venture investing.
Note: This interview was conducted over phone and email. It has been lightly edited for clarity and length.
In your own words, how would you describe your company?
Overplay is a platform that lets anyone turn their videos into games and share them with the world — in minutes, for free, and without code.
What inspired you to take the leap and start this company?
Overplay is the coolest, most readily applicable user-generated application that I’ve come across in my media career. I knew I had to be a part of it! I could envision every content creator — from movie studios to music labels to sports teams to TikTok creators — using Overplay to make deeper experiences for their fans. When I worked at Sesame Street, we always wished we could quickly and cheaply make games and create a long tail for our videos. Overplay is the turnkey solution for just that. I just so happened to know the visionary mind behind Overplay and be smart enough to join him for the ride!
Who is on your team and how did you come together?
My co-founder, Dan Projansky, is the mastermind behind Overplay. We worked hand-in-hand for years at Sesame Street creating awesome interactive products for kids on Xbox, PlayStation, and Nintendo and apps for iPhone and Android. I ran business development, and Dan and his team would make the product. Together, we made products that had tens of millions of downloads and hundreds of millions in sales. I was always looking for the opportunity to work with Dan again.
Our chief financial officer and head of design cut their teeth founding and working at startups, so they also have the entrepreneurial bug! We met them through Techstars and the Startup Leadership Program.
Our head of games and amazing developers we met through an international talent recruiter who has the uncanny ability to pinpoint the right person for the right job. We are a fully distributed team and believe that great talent can be found everywhere!
How is Overplay transforming the social media and hyper-casual gaming industries?
Overplay is the catalyst merging social media and hyper-casual games. For the first time, anyone can make a game out of video quickly and easily. Since everyone is already taking videos, it’s not a huge mental leap to understand that everyone will now also be making those same videos interactive in order to delight family, friends, and fans. Overplay gives them the tools and the platform to do it… and drive huge audiences.
What does the competitive landscape look like, and how do you differentiate?
We are a first mover with patented technology, so no one within the user-generated content space is truly doing what Overplay is doing.There are platforms, like Roblox and Minecraft, in which users can make games, but the process is time-consuming and complex. They also do not have video as their DNA like Overplay does.
On the snackable, user-generated video side, users can publish on TikTok, YouTube, Snapchat, and Instagram. However, they cannot publish games on these platforms or create deeper interactive experiences for fans.
Overplay is doing something entirely new — turning video content creators into game makers. We’re literally changing the landscape for user-generated content and social media by creating a whole new category. It’s super exciting!
When do you plan to officially release the Overplay app with the video game creation tools? How do you plan to monetize the app?
We plan to release the Overplay beta in the first quarter of 2023. We will monetize our platform through interactive ads (all of our ads will also be games!) and in-app purchases.
We will also be releasing an application programming interface (API) for content owners to use on their own websites and apps (e.g. Formula One having a suite of games on formula1.com and the Official F1 App powered by Overplay). We envision that thousands of brands will make use of our API, and Overplay will become ubiquitous. We have already partnered with GoPro and spoken with sports teams and leagues, music labels, and movie and TV studios who are excited to work with Overplay.
What would give social media influencers/creators and users an incentive to use Overplay?
Influencers and creators will want to use Overplay because, for just a few more minutes of their time, they can feed their fanbase with more fun, interactive, replayable content and reward them with trophies and badges. Our research has found that a single piece of content that is turned into an Overplay is five times more replayable than the video clip because users are playing to achieve a perfect score, so a creators’ content can be more valuable and fun. Furthermore, the cost per mille for interactive ads is much higher than video ads, so influencers/creators will get paid more for having their content on Overplay.
How do you intend to use the money you raise this round to scale the business?
We will be using this round to further improve the app, build the API, hire talent, and strengthen sales and marketing efforts.
What do you want potential investors to know about you and/or your company?
Response from creators and alpha testers has been overwhelmingly positive. Sometimes a product comes to the market that you didn’t realize you needed and then seamlessly becomes a part of your life. This is what we’re seeing happen with Overplay. There is tremendous demand to make and play games made from videos. We’ve already had 1 million games played on our alpha, and there are more than 7,000 creators on our waitlist to make games.
As you think about the business five to 10 years down the road, what do you see exit opportunities looking like? Have you set any future goals for the company?
We are eyeing a multibillion-dollar exit with Overplay within the next couple of years, most likely being acquired by a public media-related company. However, Overplay does have enough legs to potentially have an initial public offering, making itself a big media company!
As a woman founder, what difficulties have you encountered working on your company? What advice would you give to women founders?
The biggest challenge that we have encountered can also be stated more broadly for all female founders — closing on investment. The ugly truth is that women receive less than 2% of venture capital (VC) funding, and that number hasn’t moved in years despite promises from VCs to break the mold of what founders they think are “investable.” It’s still a fraternity.
The challenge I offer up to women is this: “How do we make venture investing a sorority?” (And I’m not talking RushTok!) Can we create a venture sisterhood where we put our money together and invest not just in women but in all sorts of underrepresented founders? This is a huge goal and one in which we have to convince well-off women to start venture investing.
The advice that I would give to female founders is to grow your network to be as wide as humanly possible. Have no fear in cold emailing investors and angels over LinkedIn. Work insatiably to fundraise and build concurrently to hit milestones and give proof of that to investors. Gravitate toward investors that seem to “get” you. Most importantly — keep building and figure it out. One day, when you have a successful exit, you can pay it forward.
We look forward to seeing where Caroline and her team take the company. Overplay is currently raising on Wefunder.