Focus on Founders with Kyle Smith

By Stephanie von Behr | Interview

Meet Kyle Smith, Co-Founder & CEO of Play Forge, currently in stealth mode. At age 18, he started working in the gaming industry, learning the ins and outs of the biz from the ground up. He is a proud lefty who thinks stand-up comedians are the smartest people in the world and that Berlin is the best city on the planet.

What is the name of your company?

Play Forge

What is your role?

CEO / Co-founder – I am focused on the product and handle the business side of things, but when it comes to content, I will focus on the strategy, market research, and competitive analysis. I like to find gaps in the market.  

How many co-founders do you have? 

There’s two of us. Nick Carr is my Co-founder. He is focused on marketing, and has a functional performance marketing and publishing background. 

Where are you from?

Vancouver, Canada. I moved to Berlin ten years ago.

How did you get into working in the gaming industry?

I started working in quality assurance at EA (Electronic Arts) when I was 18 years old. I pitched Playground then got promoted to AP to work on it. it sold well enough where I got to keep my job and then I worked on some new IP and sports stuff. After that, I went on to focus on design as a lead designer for 7 years. 

How long ago did you start your company? When did the idea come to you?

A few years ago I was hanging out with a few folks at a bar in Silverlake, LA. They were working on a hugely successful game with a really player friendly business model. I asked what their monetisation conversion rate was and it was just through the roof compared to what we were used to on our side of the industry. It floored me and I couldn’t stop thinking about it. 

Why or what made you want to start a company?

The day to day can be really tough but it’s the big outcomes that are exciting and worth it. There’s a lot of iterative, redundant work and that’s how you make cool stuff. 

What are some lessons you have learned so far in your entrepreneurial journey?

Take your time for the big decisions. Do lots of research but they should also just make sense in your gut. Make sure you’re the right person to do something. Hire people that counter your weaknesses. Get out of the way of your team’s success. Work on stuff people haven’t done yet. Solve real problems people actually have that add obvious value.

Who are some of your mentors? 

There’s a few folks in the games industry I keep up with that coached me when I was still a kid at EA. But, I’m mostly inspired by film directors and stand-up comedians. They’re the smartest people in the world and take the biggest risks.

If you could invite any 6 people to a dinner party who would they be? 

Steven Spielberg, Bill Murray, Shigeru Miyamoto, Tina Fey, Dr. Dre, and Richard Branson.

Kyle on stage at Games Week Berlin

What role does failure play in being a successful entrepreneur?

Failure should be experienced multiple times a day as an important part of moving forward in the right direction

What are the common qualities of successful entrepreneurs?

Perseverance and good talent scouts

What book are you reading right now?

Venture Deals: Be Smarter Than Your Lawyer and Venture Capitalist, 4th edition. I haven’t read since the 2nd.

Favorite new music? 

New SG Lewis album – lo-fi funk techno, but very vocal, it’s fun. 

Watch or listen to anything you would like to recommend? 

Watch the Defiant Ones. It’s a Netflix Documentary about Dre and Jimmy Iovine starting Aftermath and Interscope. Incredible. It is perfectly obscenely high quality and well done. 

Are you an introvert or an extrovert and why/how? 

“Extroverted Introvert”. Very comfortable in social situations but required to go recharge alone.

What is your superpower? 

Pretty resilient I guess, not too concerned about failure, what others think (maybe to a fault) and I’ll push obsessively on certain things until I/we get it right (if the work is worth doing).

Can you recall a story from childhood that you feel foreshadowed your current entrepreneurial journey?

Yah, very much so. Played Mario 3 with my family in a snowstorm when I was five. Without exaggeration, straight line from that night to working at EA.

Pick a genre of music that describes your life as a founder.

Last startup, Metal. This one, hip-hop.

If you weren’t founding a company, what would you be doing?

Film Producer.

Kyle Smith, CEO & Co-Founder of Play Forge

What gets you out of bed in the morning?

My legs.

How do you define a ‘good day’ as a founder?

Good day: Completing a meaningful project. Something tangible like mockups, hiring someone, prototype, closing a deal. Something that objectively pushes us forward. 

How did you come up with the name for your company? What were the runner up names? 

I love naming things so it was just fun. Pilot season was a runner up.

What’s your ideal relaxation activity?


What was your first job ever?

Pizza Cook.

What is something fun/ unique/ embarrassing about you?

Proud Lefty. I lost 100 pounds in ten months. Although I love making and playing games I absolutely suck at all of them. Except MarioKart.

How do you attract diverse outlooks and backgrounds to your startup? 

There is kind of the obvious answer: you have to as a person be genuinely open to diversity. You have to believe in it, because if you don’t and you are bullshiting, the cracks will turn into ruptures. I am lucky I was raised a certain way around a diverse community. Surround yourself with a bunch of interesting people and interesting things will happen. 

What does conscious business mean to you? 

Make good and right decisions that you will be comfortable with on your deathbed. 

What do you think is unique about Berlin and starting a business here? 

It is my favorite city in the world. Every district feels like a different city from a different country. It’s impossible to get bored of this city if you just keep looking around. With that said, it comes down to attracting talent. In our industry creative talent is critical. And of course half your team are artists. Creative folks are already interested in coming to Berlin so it’s a bonus. It’s incredibly economical for them, too. The cost of living in Berlin is so much lower than other big cities. Why not leverage that and bring incredible talents here from around the world.

We are going to be fully remote so it doesn’t matter where folks live. Base camp is here, but we are not limiting ourselves, geographically. To work really well creatively, you need a lot of alone time. Eventually I love the idea of having a hub, which is more like an art studio, a very collaborative space. So if you want to do deep work, work at home, or we will get you a co-working space where you can focus. 

To learn more about jobs at Play Forge check out some openings here.

Kyle Smith is funded by the Berlin Founders Fund.