Introducing my next chapter: Dragon Army

photo (3)

from left: David Cummings, Ryan Tuttle, yours truly

Chapter one was Spunlogic, which we sold to Engauge in March 2008. Chapter two was Engauge, which we sold to Publicis in August 2013. And in the immortal words of Monty Python’s Flying Circus, and now for something completely different

For those that know me, you know I’ve long been enamored with mobile technology and apps, particularly as they relate to consumers. While I’ve loved working in digital marketing, I’ve always wanted to try my hand at building software for actual people rather than for companies. And I’ve been dying to get my hands back into a true startup.

Today the Atlanta Business Chronicle ran an article about the new company, Dragon Army, that David Cummings, Ryan Tuttle and I are starting. Dragon Army will be based out of Atlanta Tech Village (freaking pumped about that) and we’ll be focusing on mobile games and apps for consumers. We don’t officially launch for a few more weeks and you can be sure I’ll be updating with more information on what we’re up to, but for you can read the article below to get more of the scoop and you can sign up for our beta program!


Here is the article from today’s Atlanta Business Chronicle by Urvaksh Karkaria:

Atlanta has historically been a business-to-business software town — famous for building the computer programs that keep corporate America humming. Now, the city’s most buzzed-about techpreneur thinks Atlanta has the chops to also build sustainable business-to-consumer mobile startups.

David Cummings, who last year sold his marketing automation startup for $95 million, will launch a “mobile app studio.” The entrepreneur hopes to tap into surging interest in mobile computing, driven by the proliferation of smartphones.

Mobility is going to be critical to technology going forward, said Cummings, who juggles three kids and five Web-focused startups.

“Just as the Internet infused everything from a technology perspective for the past 10 years, the next five or 10 years is all going to be about mobility,” Cummings said.

As smartphones become more powerful, consumers are doing more computing on their iPads and iPhones — making those platforms lucrative markets. “Nowadays, everybody has a phone in their pocket, or a tablet in their purse,” Cummings said.

The number of Internet-connected mobile devices (smartphone or tablet) has grown an average of nearly 60 percent annually in the past five years, according to IBISWorld. The Los Angeles-based market research firm estimates that growth rate to hit nearly12 percent annually over the next five years.

Atlanta’s telecom industry roots —­ the city is home to AT&T Mobility — makes it a natural site for mobile app development. A cluster of media and marketing companies, including Turner Broadcasting System Inc. and The Coca-Cola Co., attract graphic design, animation and digital media talent to the city.

“Atlanta has the largest number of digital agency workers per capita,” Cummings said.

The region’s schools, including the Savannah College of Art and Design, Art Institute of Atlanta and Creative Circus, churn out new talent.

Cummings will house the mobile app studio in about 10,000 square feet at Atlanta Tech Village, a $20 million tech startup hub he’s developing in Buckhead.

By clustering the startups, Cummings hopes to create serendipitous interaction and cross-pollination of ideas, best practices and talent among the fledgling companies. The mobile app studio will also offer tenants programming, including iOS and Android workshops, mentoring and coaching.

While Atlanta has B2C “operational talent” — evident by the city’s cluster of major media and marketing companies — it lacks B2C “entrepreneurial talent,” Cummings said.

“We just need more successful B2C companies to take advantage of the talent,” he said.

One inhibiting factor is Atlanta’s community of angel investors and venture capital firms, many of whom have little experience with B2C startups.

Backed by his $5 million Atlanta Ventures fund, Cummings hopes to “de-risk” such investments.

By providing very early — or seed-stage — capital, Cummings hopes to give the B2C startups the breathing room to achieve financial milestones that would make them more palatable to investors higher up the food chain.

“If we place a bunch of $20,000 bets, it lets the startups marinate for three to six months, so they can show a prototype, show some early user adoption,” Cummings said.

Dragon Army launches

To launch the mobile venture, Cummings is collaborating with Jeff Hilimire, co-founder of digital marketing agency Engauge Marketing.

On Aug. 14, Paris-based advertising conglomerate Publicis Groupe announced plans to acquire Engauge for a reported $62 million.

Hilimire and Cummings have invested $1 million in Dragon Army, a casual gaming startup that will develop franchise-like mobile games such as Angry Birds and casual games. Dragon Army plans to raise an additional $1 million.

Metro Atlanta is in its formative years as a game development hub. Georgia has more than 70 game studios, including CCP Games, Hi-Rez Studios, Kaneva and Thrust Interactive. More than 4,000 Georgia college students pursue game-related degrees.

Mobile gaming’s market potential drew Hilimire’s interest.

“It’s the beginning of a new era,” he said. “More and more people are going to be gaming on their tablets or phones than on their computers and consoles. It’s handy, it’s right with you.”

Mobile gaming revenues are expected to grow 8 percent annually over the next five years, while console gaming revenue should accelerate about 4 percent annually during that period, IBISWorld analyst Dale Schmidt said.

“The mobile gaming industry is definitely in its growth phase,” Schmidt said.

Smartphone games are targeting the casual gaming market, which has been mostly untapped by the console and PC game industry, the analyst said.

Casual gamers who were using consoles are increasingly switching over to mobile gaming because it’s less expensive.

Mobile games are mostly free, or cost a few dollars. Console games typically require a several hundred dollar investment in hardware, plus $50 to $60 for individual game titles, Schmidt said.

As a startup, Dragon Army must compete for consumer attention among a slew of bigger and deeper-pocketed competitors. Figuring out a sustainable monetization strategy — paid downloads, in-app purchases or ad-supported — will be another challenge.

“Only a very small percentage of these end up being profitable,” Schmidt said. The industry is filled with a few wild success stories (such as Angry Birds), while the majority of mobile game developers struggle to turn a profit, he said.

Hilimire said he plans to use digital marketing techniques to raise consumer awareness and develop new distribution and monetization models for Dragon Army’s titles.


  1. Drew Hawkins on August 30, 2013 at 9:00 am

    Sounds awesome man, we’ll be neighbors (sort of). Congrats and good luck on chapter three!

  2. Amy on August 30, 2013 at 9:21 am

    I. Want. A. T-shirt. :) That is all.

  3. Mona Harty on August 30, 2013 at 9:50 am

    This is absolutely awesome, Jeff! Put me on the list for a t-shirt!!!

  4. Dave Robertson on August 30, 2013 at 9:57 am

    Ok, do not like to sound repetitive but… I would like a t-shirt also. :) All joking aside it sounds like a great venture for you.. pretty cool.

  5. […] Read Jeff’s great post on Dragon Army. […]

  6. rchoudhury on August 30, 2013 at 10:48 pm

    Jeff, best of luck with the new venture. Go all in my friend, I know you’ll kill it. Oh, send me a t-shirt as well:-)

  7. EJ on August 31, 2013 at 7:26 am

    Congratulations Jeff! Look forward to seeing compelling product from Dragon Army.

  8. hennainam on August 31, 2013 at 8:42 am

    Congratulations Jeff! Sounds like a wonderful adventure.

  9. Rob on August 31, 2013 at 4:19 pm

    I think I’ve earned a t shirt……

  10. Joe Koufman on August 31, 2013 at 9:45 pm

  11. Danny Davis on August 31, 2013 at 10:23 pm

    Super Exciting, congrats Jeff and team. Good luck!

  12. Jeff Hilimire on September 1, 2013 at 10:13 am

    I’m sure we can arrange something ;)

  13. Jeff Hilimire on September 1, 2013 at 10:13 am

    Thanks dude, you’ll have to come visit us at the Village once we get set up!

  14. Vlad Gorenshteyn on September 3, 2013 at 9:37 am

    just caught wind of this development, congrats! I’m sure this is not a coincidence that you launched a company called “Dragon Army” during “Dragon*Con”, right?

  15. @TonyKinard on September 3, 2013 at 2:34 pm

    I have ideas… ohhh… you know I have ideas. lol.

  16. […] he confided that he felt like he let me down by not continuing with his business, especially as I am embarking on a new startup. I was shocked to hear he felt that way because, as I explained to him, I was impressed that he a) […]

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  18. I’m gonna miss you guys on September 17, 2013 at 6:06 am

    […] process for leaving Engauge and starting Dragon Army was kind of drawn out for me. It took many months to finalize the acquisition to Publicis and […]

  19. […] need to find out if your idea is successful before too much was invested into it. As we embark on this new adventure at Dragon Army, a large focus of our mobile apps will be in the gaming space. I’ve been studying mobile […]

  20. Boy does it feel good being an entrepreneur again on September 23, 2013 at 7:38 am

    […] a week ago I left Engauge and officially started Dragon Army, and I feel like an entrepreneur again. And can I say it feels […]

  21. My first business partner, Raj Choudhury on September 27, 2013 at 9:03 am

    […] I’ve started this new chapter with Dragon Army and I’m having a blast already, a part of me is also still coming to terms with the fact […]

  22. Dave Williams on September 28, 2013 at 2:08 pm

    Have you all chatted with Suliman Ali’s Tiny Co?

  23. Jeff Hilimire on September 29, 2013 at 8:23 am

    Too funny, we were supposed to talk to him yesterday but rescheduled for this week. He’s an absolute badass in mobile games so you can believe I want to get his advice and counsel!

  24. […] It’s an important question to ask and very relevant to me at this moment both because I’ve started a new company recently and because I sit in middle of Atlanta Tech Village, where over 100 startups have set up […]

  25. My top blog posts from 2013 on January 6, 2014 at 8:12 am

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  26. […] etc) – Selling two companies, one to private equity and one to a public company – Why/how I started Dragon Army – Juggling my schedule with the various non-profits and boards I sit on – My experience with […]

  27. […] I set up shop in the Village back in September and quickly fell in love with it, blogging about the 10 things I loved the most. But over time I’ve found that the best thing about the Village is the community within. […]

  28. […] game launched, Robots Love Ice Cream, I’ve been reflecting on what I’ve learned since starting Dragon Army last September. I’ve often said that true startups are like jumping out of an airplane and figuring out how […]

  29. Announcing Dragon Army 2.0 on December 8, 2014 at 7:20 am

    […] a journey this has been so far. A little over a year ago Ryan Tuttle, David Cummings, and I started Dragon Army. The goal: make great mobile games. We started it the Atlanta Tech Village – in my opinion […]

  30. Announcing Dragon Army 2.0 on December 8, 2014 at 11:23 am

    […] a journey this has been so far. A little over a year ago Ryan Tuttle, David Cummings, and I started Dragon Army. The goal: make great mobile games. We started it the Atlanta Tech Village – in my opinion the […]

  31. […] I started Dragon Army, I wrote the first check. I can’t “do” anything at Dragon Army when it comes to […]

  32. […] 2013 – Founded Dragon Army as a mobile game and app […]

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