Prita Uppal on Mobile Tech, Fantasy Apps & the Founder's Lonely Path
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Prita Uppal is the founder and CEO of Hooked Media Inc., a leading app discovery platform which uses algorithms and a prediction engine to analyse the games which users have already installed to recommend other games they might like.
Hooked has been downloaded 4.5 million times and users install an average of 12 games a week. Hooked also provides monetization solutions for mobile app developers through a suite of products and services.
Prita has been an entrepreneur for the last 10 years and has rare expertise in gaming, distribution, and monetization, including app stores and app discovery. With an Engineering Masters Degree from Stanford and an MBA from Harvard, Prita was recently named in Inc Magazine’s 10 Women to Watch in Tech in 2013
We spoke to Prita about her favourite app; her predictions for the mobile tech industry; and the exciting new tech she discovered at SXSW!
TNW: How did you come up with the idea for Hooked and then arrive at the decision to turn your idea into a reality?
PU: I have been an entrepreneur for the last 10 years, specifically focused on consumer technology. I am an avid engager in mindless entertainment - reality TV, games, etc so I knew that I wanted to start and lead a company that was focused on areas on my passion.
I was fascinated with the growth in casual gaming, online and on mobile and the more I immersed myself in the space, it was clear how the whole eco-system was broken.
Which meant a very exciting opportunity, hence Hooked was born.
TNW: Hooked is your third business. If you could distil your entrepreneurial journey so far into three key lessons, what would they be?
PU: I don't want to sound clichéd in my answer here, as so much gets written on advice from entrepreneurs. But my #1, 2, and 3 lessons are all the same: NEVER give up!
The journey is extremely tough, full of ups and downs, incredible days, horrendous days and for a founder/CEO the journey is very, very lonely.
Nobody will care as much, feel the pain as much, or have to deal with as much. This means you have to be SO tough and ready for the fight.
At least 2-3 times a week I meet people eager to start their own company, star-eyed as to how amazing it will be to have their own business. And then the minute something goes wrong, they panic and don't know what to do. You have to be ready for the journey, take it as it comes, and keep fighting - no matter how hard it gets.
TNW: What are your top five favourite apps and why?
- AirDroid – This app provides a way to control my phone through my computer. Great when I have to send detailed text messages and am working from my computer. A great sidekick for my mobile device.
- 4 in a row – Love this game, basically connect 4.
- SnapChat – I love this app. I found it through all the positive reviews and press they have received. It’s such a social chatting experience that my friends and I love. Not too intrusive and just perfect.
- Picture Perfect – Wow, the amount of time I have spent on this app is just crazy! Basically you can insert a picture of an animal in any photo you take. All you need is a glass of water and magic, you can make it into a full aquarium
- Spotify - great music app!
TNW: If you could invent an app to do absolutely anything, what would it be?
I would love an app to plan both the non-critical and work parts of my life.
This Includes: make travel reservations from a couple of simple voice commands. Securely pay and check my bills. Arrange all my personal meetings. There are many different apps out there that claim to do this but an integrated app that needs minimal input from me would be great.
TNW: What are your predictions for the mobile tech market in the next year? The next five years?
PU: I’m going to echo all the pundits now and say that the Mobile industry will continue its massive growth over the next few years. You will see the line between portable computers and phones getting smaller and smaller due to:
1 – The increasing ability to remotely store cloud data to have access to vast amounts of computing power where ever you are.
2 – The increasingly sophisticated UI of phones.
Voice recognition will continue to get better so features like Siri will only get more advanced and sophisticated to where they will be able to basically mimic actions that you need from humans.
TNW: What was the most useful lesson you learned during your MBA and how have you gone on to apply it to launching and running Hooked?
PU: Hard work and determination in everything pays off - I have to apply this day in and day out.
TNW: What has been the biggest challenge in the history of your company so far and how are you tackling it?
PU: I think the hardest challenge you face as the CEO is building the right team. People that will give 150%, share your passion, vision, commitment, and drive. This is no question the hardest part of building a company.
I had to kiss a lot of toads I would say to find each prince... but now have the absolute best team out there!
TNW: Tech is a notoriously male dominated field. How (and how much) does this affect your working life, both on a daily and a long-term basis?
PU: Very true that tech is mostly make dominated, but for me, I have always been in male dominated spaces, I was one of just a few women as a math major, then same when I was pursuing my masters at Stanford in Engineering - I love it when I get to meet another women in tech, but doesn't affect my working life in any way.
TNW: Have you come across any exciting new technology recently? What did you like about it?
PU: SXSW had some great new technologies....one I saw was where you can transform your computer into more of a touch screen where you use your hands instead of a mouse. Made playing games super fun!
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