founder

Resolve Networks Founder Mario Blandini on Gamifying Good

Summary

Mobile gaming — already a strong industry — has only grown more popular during the COVID-19 pandemic. But what if users could game for good causes, earning money for charities as they play? That’s the concept behind Resolve Networks, a game platform that seeks to connect non-profits with gamers in order to create good in the world.

We sat down with founder Mario Blandini to learn more about this intriguing concept and how he wants to gamify good.

Note: This interview was conducted over phone and email. It has been lightly edited for clarity and length.

Olivia Strobl
Can you give us a brief elevator pitch for your company?
Mario Blandini

Resolve Networks is a purpose company. We have developed an IRL (in real life) game platform where players do good deeds and raise money for charity.

Bootstrapped to date, we have two proof of concept apps available for Android & iOS, as part of an integrated campaign “Operation Comeback.”

Olivia Strobl
What inspired you to take the leap and build this company?
Mario Blandini

While the desire for more purpose was a factor, my original inspiration came from volunteering with veteran non-profit organizations. All of them shared a common problem set, which I later found was common across virtually all non-profits: fundraising and sourcing volunteers.

I envisioned a “virtuous circle” within a 3-way marketplace based on three beliefs: 1) Members of any affinity group want to do good deeds and make an impact; 2) brands want to invest in proving their purpose and social impact; and 3) charities would benefit from proving the impact they make toward the purpose they share with people and brands (even if they don’t yet believe it).

Olivia Strobl
What past experiences prepared you to start, build, and lead your company?
Mario Blandini

I served one enlistment in the United States Marine Corps, after having worked garage sales, delivered newspapers, washed dishes, and waited tables. Serving everyday people has been a personally rewarding experience throughout my life, chocked full of lessons from my youth and professional career. I see being an older than average first-time founder as a strength.

I have always enjoyed video games, though I am not a hardcore gamer. My hands-on experience in technology focused on data is a factor, though I’d say executive roles leading marketing teams in startups and larger tech companies has prepared me the most to build and lead this company.

Olivia Strobl
What is your vision for the future of the industry you are operating in?
Mario Blandini

Not yet an industry of its own, the realm of IRL gaming has yet to be fully explored since the wildly popular release of Pokemon Go in 2016. AR and Esports are part of its future. “Gamifying Good” though can intersect many industries, and I envision purpose gaining gravity in all brand marketing. My most optimistic vision is for the nonprofit sector, where they come to use the same data technologies for-profit companies use to optimize their services.

Olivia Strobl
Who is on your team and how did you come together?
Mario Blandini

We started three years ago with five people on the team. I was the founder with the idea, but not initially the CEO. Timing then was not right for capitalization or bootstrapping, and life for three people on the team took them in different directions. I was able to begin self-funding and go all-in on the venture earlier this year as the pandemic struck, along with my friend and brother Tedd Darr. 

Ted and I were in the same company in Marine Corps bootcamp, shared our first two training assignments, and a deployment in Okinawa, Japan. We reconnected many years later, remained in touch, and the idea I shared with him resonated. I expect we can assemble an extended team of passionate people looking for more purpose in their work.

Olivia Strobl
Do you have any competition, if so, how do you differentiate?
Mario Blandini

Objectively, game titles on the Resolve Networks platform compete for players’ time and energy rather than other companies. As the wildly popular Netflix documentary The Social Dilemma points out, people are spending upwards of 2,000 hours a year on their phones generating revenue for tech giants. 

Games on the Resolve Networks platform will give people the choice to do something productive on their devices with some of this time. With proof, I expect and welcome competition as part of market validation. We wish to support hundreds of game titles developed using our SDK, as well as partnerships in the industry who have the players but do not wish to build their own infrastructure to turn good into cash in their own games.

Olivia Strobl
What does your business model look like?
Mario Blandini

Resolve Networks connects players, brands, and nonprofits in a virtuous circle. At the proof of concept stage, as player coins are sponsored by brands, Resolve Networks receives donation processing fees for facilitating the transactions it enabled. Our first business priority is to prove that players engage for good and choose to redirect time otherwise invested in distraction and short-term gratification. Further monetization will follow well-proven models.

Olivia Strobl
What brought you to equity crowdfunding and how do you intend to use the money you raise this round to scale the business?
Mario Blandini

In short, Angel Investors. Gone are the days of my early career where seeds were used to turn ideas into products. Moving upmarket is part of business evolution. In my experience, VCs today invest more like banks had, Angels more like VCs, and equity crowdfunding is the new seed round du jour for those who are not blessed with the right friends and family. 

Crowdfunding is actually a great fit for this venture. As individuals create value from their good deeds playing our MVP games, any individual can own a part of this company starting at $99. Coming out of an election year, we were reminded that “small donors” are the backbone of any movement. Crowdfunding is also very compatible with integrated marketing campaigns targeting consumers.

The majority of seed equity will go to product development, alongside the majority of early revenues. We intend to use the remainder for very lean, sweat equity, guerilla activities in channel enablement, building a developer community, marketing, geographic expansion, and additional game titles.

Olivia Strobl
What do you want potential investors to know about you and/or your company?
Mario Blandini

The higher a person’s cognitive aptitude, the more likely they are to see the company as being a non-profit venture. Profit is still very possible in a business that prioritizes purpose and people above profit. The proof is naturally in the profit, and I want potential investors to know that this venture will use purpose and people as differentiation to maximize shareholder value. The purpose being worthy of donation is icing on the cake.

As for myself, I hope to be judged on my work and aptitude. I have seen firsthand that veterans (particularly junior enlisted Marines) get broadly characterized as being tenaciously tougher than they are smart. I left my service off my resume early in my career, and only added it back once my track record proved I was as smart a civilian as my peers. My tenacity and toughness are icing on the cake.

Olivia Strobl
As you think about the business 5-10 years down the road, what do you see exit opportunities looking like? have you set any future goals for the company?
Mario Blandini

If an exit were to create an opportunity to deliver more social impact and shareholder value, I’d gladly put my vote behind maximizing purpose. Resolve Networks if successful will have more value as a data company than a gaming platform. Both sectors have public companies and healthy M&A activity. I have 20+ good working years ahead of me, and these days private companies have found positive ways to deliver shareholder value without an exit. 

I have the goal of making data available for free to any party that can use it exclusively to create good. If any party also makes a profit while creating good, licensing data will add to our monetization mix. “Stronger Together” as our mantra, this idea reaches its highest potential powering affinity groups. Our purpose is to create good, while earning a fair profit to reinvest in people and purpose.

We at KingsCrowd are excited to see where Mario and his team take the company. Resolve Networks is currently raising on NetCapital.

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About: Olivia Strobl

Olivia comes to KingsCrowd with a background in venture capital and technology. She spent time at Glasswing Ventures, an AI-focused venture fund in Boston, before joining the KingsCrowd team. There she helped develop machine learning algorithms for the opportunity qualification of preseed and seed-stage startup companies. Prior to her time at Glasswing, Olivia worked in a lab studying the neural correlates of attention. She holds a degree in Neuroscience from Wellesley College.

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