Before Pokémon Go, there was Parallel Kingdom — a location-based, augmented-reality game that preceded the Pokémon phenomenon by eight years. It’s the first game that Justin Beck BS2009 and Forrest Woolworth BS2009 created at PerBlue, their mobile-gaming company. PerBlue makes role-playing and strategy games for iOS and Android devices that are played by more than 15 million people around the world. Some of the company’s top games include Titan Empires, Greed for Glory, and DragonSoul, which was recently sold to Gree International Entertainment. The sale is expected to give the game significant worldwide exposure.
From bootstrapping roots that began in their college apartments in 2008, PerBlue has grown to become one of the leading independent mobile-gaming studios in the country. “We started small,” recalls Beck, “a team of six squeezed into every inch of my 700-square-foot apartment.” Today the company employs 40 full-time employees in downtown Madison.
For 2013 Forward under 40 Award winners Beck and Woolworth, though, the game they’re really in to win is the entrepreneurial one. And both owe their business ambitions to UW–Madison.
For Beck, who’s always had a passion for entrepreneurship, going to the UW gave him the opportunity to intern at Google and Microsoft, which led to a job offer immediately after graduation. But he opted to forgo what he described as a very attractive job on the West Coast to build his own firm in Madison.
Woolworth, on the other hand, had always pictured himself working for a large tech firm in Silicon Valley — until he attended the UW. “Going to UW–Madison was an all-encompassing experience that literally changed my life,” he says. “I met my wife freshman year, and [I] ultimately met the people who would set me off on my current entrepreneurial endeavors.”
Along with his duties as COO at PerBlue, Woolworth also cofounded Capital Entrepreneurs, which brings entrepreneurs together to create new connections and build a community around the startups. The organization now boasts more than 400 members.