How Christensen rode out the storm in 2012
In 2012, Andreas Christensen was a man under pressure. A Norwegian businessman in Malta, he had obtained licenses from the Malta Gaming Authority to develop and perfect SMS Jackpot, a lottery game for mobiles dating back five years.
“We had a firm agreement with a US listed German based investor group that came into jeopardy. The investment firm made big losses on other projects and did not perform at all. At the same time, the international financial turmoil of that period - ignited by the collapse of Lehman Brothers - prevented us from attracting new investors,” says Andreas.
A further challenge was that Apple launched the App Store and disrupted the whole mobile gaming industry. “Java Mobile games were just not useable anymore,” says Andreas. “Given the fact that we had based our model on licensing and money games, we were not even close to getting our game ported into the Apple app store.”
Faced with these challenges, Mowjow was forced to let the licenses expire by not serving the license fees. This is something companies that are low on funds often, quite legally, choose to do. But Andreas was in for a shock. For reasons unknown to Mowjow, the Malta Gaming Authority issued a press release stating that the licenses and the management team had been reported to the police, which was not the case.
There had been no crime and nothing had been reported to the police. The Head of the Financial Crime Section at the Malta Police Authority confirmed this in correspondence with Mowjow shortly afterwards. The press release, however, had already been sent to the world and the reputational damage had been done. Mowjow was put in the freezer.
The fatal press release was issued late on a Friday afternoon. Early the next day, a Saturday morning, a Mowjow key official was contacted by the case officer at the Malta Gaming Authority with a proposal to sell the licenses to one of his personal contacts, according to Christensen.
“We obviously refrained from engaging in such suspicious activities but anticipated the motivations behind the untruthful allegations and aggression,” says Christensen.
“These events combined with my father passing away made me return to Norway to concentrate on some real estate projects and Mowjow was put on hold for a while,” says Andreas.
Entrepreneurs never give up. They adapt, they go back to the drawing board, and they persist until they finally reach their goal. Andreas Christensen, the founder, principal investor and driving force behind Mowjow, is no exception.
He has steered Mowjow from a straightforward text-message jackpot game to a new-generation mobile quiz app with global appeal.
“We aquired the world's first mobile SMS lottery game and moved the operation to Malta, whilst also rethinking the game and the technology behind it, working with Java Mobile (J2ME),” says Andreas.
With his family roots in international shipping, Andreas knew Malta exceptionally well. His father had been a long time business partner with a local shipowner and instrumental in establishing the fast ferry route between Malta and Sicily.
By 2008, Andreas had set up Mowjow Gaming Limited and Mowjow Technology Limited in Malta, working with two licenses from the Malta Gaming Authority, a Class 1 operator license and a Class 4 platform license respectively. Gambling licenses inherently bring with them regulatory risk because laws can change and regulations on gambling vary in different jurisdictions. But Malta was the right place for Mowjow at the time, offering flexibility and a supportive regulatory environment
A few years later, Andreas and his team were caught in a perfect storm. Mowjow sensed a breakthrough later, when the mobile gaming market finally took off.
By 2013, Andreas had already gone back to the drawing board to start planning for a new Mowjow. The new venture was set up to capitalize on new opportunities created by the app economy, which was entering a boom. Andreas invested one million euros of his own money and raised another million from investors. The goal was to create the ultimate picture quiz and launch Mowjow as the one and only trivia platform offering real prizes. As a game based on skill rather than luck, this also did away with the need for gambling licenses which had created problems in the past.
In 2016, Mowjow the new mobile apps was launched as the first trivia platform to offer real prizes and stunning image-based gameplay, distributed globally in the AppStore and on Google Play.
Game of skill
The journey has been an exciting one with many twists and turns. Like other successful gaming companies, the product has taken time to develop, fine-tune and perfect. A game of skill, today’s Mowjow combines gripping picture quiz play, noise-free advertising and irresistible prizes. But Mowjow started as a game of luck and with that came struggles over gambling licenses.
“Based on the tightening license regime in general and challenges we had encountered in the past, I developed a new gaming model where skill was the predominant factor and no gaming licenses were required. This new version of Mowjow is also a ‘smarter’ game and appeals to a different and much larger audience,” says Andreas, who also points to the value of the lessons learned in Malta.
“We know we have a history, we tried with another gaming model, but failed for some very good reasons. That’s experience and one of the reasons I strongly emphasize to have an operation more or less completely independent upon single factors like licenses."
In 2013, the Mowjow picture quiz was entered into a phase of intense development. By 2014, the Mowjow web app had been finished and the first-generation Mowjow featuring single player games was created. The second version saw a major redesign and multiplayer games were successfully added in 2015.
The game was successfully launched and became available in app stores in 2016. Boasting in-app engagement rates of more than 80%, Mowjow is currently played in over 100 countries.
Using his innovative mind and network of contacts, Andreas has built an investor community that currently numbers more than 630. New investors are coming onboard and so far, over €3 million has been raised. It puts Mowjow as the number one crowdfunded company in the Nordics, in the top three in Europe and amongst thirty-something on a global scale.
The attraction to investors is clear. Mowjow has unique, value-enhancing features and is entering a mobile gaming sector which is booming on a global scale. Gaming company Supercell, for example, has gone to become a $10bn behemoth in just a few years. King Digital Entertainment, the company behind Candy Crush Saga, has a player community of over half a billion.
The global mobile gaming sector is currently valued at more than a massive €30 billion. The mobile advertising sector – which Mowjow is entering with unique branding opportunities - is even bigger. It’s worth a staggering €90 billion.
Another indication of the potential is that there are 400 million mobile quizzers in the world today. Trailblazers like QuizUp, QuizClash and Trivia Crack have established beyond doubt the enduring appeal of mobile quizzes. With greatly enhanced gameplay and real prizes on offer, Mowjow has been perfected to give mobile quizzers a superior competitive experience.
Mowjow has built on Andreas’ valuable experiences in Malta and has since found a better home in London. The UK capital offers Mowjow lower administrative burdens and smoother intragroup transactions. Crucially, London gives Mowjow enhanced access to capital markets and broadens its potential investor base.
Mowjow is entering 2017 with a major growth phase as it pursues the 1 million player milestone. The persistence of Andreas – who once upon a time felt compelled to leave Malta and put Mowjow on ice – is paying off at the right time.
The original version of this feature article was published on December 20, 2016.