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April 10, 2008
 
 
 

GAMING THE SYSTEM


Thanks for over 100 nominations in our search for the top "35 Under 35" entrepreneurs. We're delighted that Deloitte has joined forces with us, law firm Greenberg Traurig, and our partner Fortune Magazine. Through Deloitte's annual Fast 50 and Fast 500 awards programs, in addition to its Tech Venture Center, it's a key adviser to fast-growth companies, as is Greenberg Traurig. Stay tuned!

 

Goozex sounds like something you might look for in the medicine cabinet when you're sick. Actually, four ambitious U of Maryland grads made the name up to stand for "Goods Exchanged." It's a company they created in 2006 to cut out the middleman in a $1 billion used video game market. In less than two years, the startup's traded over 100,000 games, been rated the #1 video game trading site by Electronic Gaming Monthly, and become the largest video game trading platform on the Internet.

 
 

We went out to see them in their modest incubator digs last week at the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship where they all met. (Funny story, actually: Jon Dugan, a senior at the time, entered his idea for an online video game exchange in a school contest, and lost. But one of the grad school judges, Valerio Zanini, eventually became his co-founder and CEO.)  CMO Mark Nebesky, above, told us that gamers trying to sell used items used to have a hard time finding buyers; a video game shop would only give them a few bucks, then resell for three times the price the next day. Goozex's solution is a points system that values games based on market factors such as MSRP and age of game. Members trade their games in for points, which they use to get more games, saving middleman markups. Goozex charges only $1 per trade, and also makes money through targeted advertising. At that price, traders feel the wrath of Ganon before feeling pain in their wallets. (Note: Hiring younger staff here at Bisnow may have lowered our average years of experience, but you can't put a price on being able to make a Legend of Zelda reference like that.)

 

 

Asher Epstein, left, Dingman Center Managing Director, is reading a gaming magazine, but clearly wondering why Mark gets to read one with a centerfold. Mark says Goozex was also recently named Best Game Trading Website, with 78% of the fan vote, by Cheap Ass Gamer.  (Our Bisnow historian confirms this is the first time anybody we've profiled has received an award from Cheap Ass Gamer, though many a spouse has used the term behind their backs.)  Such strong fan approval is no surprise; some Goozex users help build the site as much as use it. The Goozex API allows anyone to write apps to improve the site's utility, such as a Mac widget one student did.

 

 

Goozex CEO Valerio Zanini joined us by speaker phone from his new home in Jacksonville, Florida, where he and his family moved when his wife was deployed to Mayport Naval Station. With Zanini in Florida, CTO Flavio Del Greco in Italy, and Nebesky and Dugan in Maryland, all company meetings are conducted using Skype. But when it comes time for face-to-face retreats, holding the meeting in Jacksonville is a no-brainer. Zanini's son, Matteo, chose to interrupt last September's meeting with his birth. The constant attention demanded by a child and a start-up (aren't those synonyms?) has forced Zanini to neglect another hobby, his carpentry. One piece of furniture has sat unfinished in his living room for the past nine months. For Matteo's sake, we hope it wasn't the crib.

 

 

 
 
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