Do you get the picture? 'Draw Something' developer sold for $180m

App developer bought just seven weeks after its drawing game goes viral

It started with an idea. Seven weeks later that idea was worth $180m.

On 1 February, Dan Porter and his team of obscure New York games developers launched their latest smartphone app, Draw Something. It soared to the top of the download charts, and seven weeks and 35 million downloads later the company has been bought for more than £113m by one of the biggest players in the industry.

Mr Porter’s company, OMGPOP, was founded six years ago but its previous offerings had enjoyed only minor success. Now he has led his 40-strong team to a major windfall after their efforts were noticed by Zynga, the social gaming giant behind the smash-hit app Farmville.

Draw Something is best described as an online version of Pictionary. Users find a partner, are given a choice of three things to draw, then make a stab at it using their smartphone. Their partner then has to guess what it shows in as short a time as possible. Simple, but very addictive.

“It is amazing, I had not heard of Draw Something until around four weeks ago and then, suddenly, everyone seemed to be talking about it,” said Martin Bryant, managing editor of technology website The Next Web.

“The company is not unknown by any means; it has had a few solid hits under its belt but it was far from being a household name, even in technology circles. People who keep up with social gaming would have known about it, but it’s not a name that was on the lips of every technology industry watcher before Draw Something came along.”

OMGPOP was founded in 2006 by Charles Forman and Dan Albritton. Originally a dating site called iminlikewithyou, it later turned to gaming.

Mr Albritton left the company the next year and Mr Porter, previously a senior vice-president in the North American division of Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, came in to take the role of chief executive. Last year, Mr Forman stepped down from day-to-day involvement with the company but remained on the board.

Under Mr Porter’s stewardship, the company raised around £11m in funding and expanded the staff from seven to 40, which he said was instrumental in creating the runaway success of Draw Something, which now makes more than £150,000 a day in revenue.

By the end of Draw Something’s first day, it had been downloaded 30,000 times. Its creators began to hope that eventually it would reach one million. Soon afterwards it reached 100,000 and then broke into Apple’s Top 25 rankings, providing a huge boost in visibility.

It was then, said Mr Porter, that it really began to take off. “My wife started texting me: ‘You’re at 22! You’re at 16! You’re at 8!’ Then we knew we had something special,” he told technology website Pocket Gamer.

That “something special” is the main reason Zynga, which produces socially minded games for people to play via their Facebook accounts, agreed to pay the type of fee announced this week and take all of OMGPOP’s staff on, appointing Mr Porter a vice-president and general manager of its New York operation in the process.

Mr Bryant said: “Zynga is buying an audience. It is buying access to people who are willing to buy products while using the app – and that is incredibly valuable.”

Not as easy as it looks...

I’ve never liked games that involve drawing. I can’t draw.

But, in the name of journalistic research, I downloaded the runaway success on the download charts: Draw Something.

After signing up and picking someone at random to play against, I was presented with three choices: buffalo, sink or singer. I chose the bovine path.

The hind quarters started well and there was a recognisable shape to the back legs. I had one go, clumsily erased it, and tried again, before settling for something that had horns and eyes. The picture I produced looked more like something a child might stick to a fridge than an accurate representation of this fine animal. I pressed the send button. My partner had already left the game.

Kevin Rawlinson

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Characters in the new series are based on real people, say its creators, unlike Arya and Clegane the Dog in ‘Game of Thrones’
tv'The Last Kingdom' embraces politics, religion, warfare, courage, love and loyalty, say creators
Sport
Sergio Romero saves Wesley Sneijder's penalty
world cup 2014But after defeating the Dutch, Lionel Messi and Argentina will walk out at the Maracana on Sunday as underdogs against Germany
Sport
Scoreboard at the end of the semi-final World Cup match between Brazil and Germany at The Mineirao Stadium in Belo Horizonte
Sport
'Saddest man in Brazil' takes defeat with good grace, handing replica trophy to German fans
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
News
peopleThe Game of Thrones author said speculation about his health and death was 'offensive'
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman and Lauren O'Neil in Jamie Lloyd's Richard III
theatreReview: The monarch's malign magnetism and diabolic effrontery aren’t felt
News
Glamour magazine hosts a yoga class with Yogalosophy author Mandy Ingber on June 10, 2013 in New York City.
newsFather Padraig O'Baoill said the exercise was 'unsavoury' in a weekly parish newsletter
Extras
indybest
News
people'She is unstoppable', says Jean Paul Gaultier at Paris show
Sport
Alexis Sanchez and apparently his barber Carlos Moles in Barcelona today
football
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has her magic LSD brain stolen in this crazy video produced with The Flaming Lips
video
Arts and Entertainment
In his own words: Oscar Wilde in 1882
theatreNew play by the Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials - and what they reveal about the man
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Unless films such as Guardians of the Galaxy, pictured, can buck the trend, this summer could be the first in 13 years that not a single Hollywood blockbuster takes $300m
filmWith US films earning record-breaking amounts at the Chinese box office, Hollywood is more than happy to take its lead from its new-found Asian audience
News
The garage was up for sale in Canning Place Mews for £500,000
newsGarage for sale for £500,000
Life and Style
tech
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Mobile App/IOS Developer (C#, ASP.NET, .NET, MVC)

    £50000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Mobile App/IOS...

    Front End Developer-JavaScript, Angular J.S, HTML, CSS, ASP.NET

    £40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Front End Deve...

    C# Web App Developer (ASP.NET, TDD, MVC, ASP.NET, JavaScript)

    £50000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Web App Dev...

    BI Developer/Analyst (SQL, SSIS, SSAS, Data-Warehouse) London

    £60000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: BI Developer/A...

    Day In a Page

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    The German people demand an end to the fighting
    New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

    New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

    For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
    Can scientists save the world's sea life from

    Can scientists save our sea life?

    By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
    Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

    Richard III review

    Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice
    Hollywood targets Asian audiences as US films enjoy record-breaking run at Chinese box office

    Hollywood targets Asian audiences

    The world's second biggest movie market is fast becoming the Hollywood studios' most crucial
    Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app - and my mum keeps trying to hook me up!'

    Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app'

    Five years on from its launch and Grindr is the world's most popular dating app for gay men. Its founder Joel Simkhai answers his critics, describes his isolation as a child
    Autocorrect has its uses but it can go rogue with embarrassing results - so is it time to ditch it?

    Is it time to ditch autocorrect?

    Matthew J X Malady persuaded friends to message manually instead, but failed to factor in fat fingers and drunk texting
    10 best girls' summer dresses

    Frock chick: 10 best girls' summer dresses

    Get them ready for the holidays with these cool and pretty options 
    Westminster’s dark secret: Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together

    Westminster’s dark secret

    Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Dulce et decorum est - a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Dulce et decorum est: a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality
    Google tells popular music website to censor album cover art in 'sexually explicit content' ban

    Naked censorship?

    The strange case of Google, the music website and the nudity take-down requests
    Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

    Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

    As England take on India at Trent Bridge, here is our pick of the high-performing bats to help you up your run-count this summer 
    Brazil vs Germany World Cup 2014 comment: David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

    David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

    Captain appears to give up as shocking 7-1 World Cup semi-final defeat threatens ramifications in Brazil