When my three sons, ages 13, 11, and 9 decided to do a summer business together I thought it could be almost anything. After all, they’ve visited three dozen tech startups with me in our RV and they’ve been surrounded by technology entrepreneurs their entire lives. What business would it be?
I just never expected a $99 Minecraft server.
It’s brilliant, really. Minecraft is hugely popular but the Minecraft hardware market is almost nonexistent. It’s not that nobody thought to do such a server but that it’s a business idea most entrepreneurs would see as not having legs. It will scale, sure, but will it endure? In a few months someone — no doubt someone in Asia — will copy the idea, sucking all the profit out of the business. But wait a minute, these are my kids and they aren’t thinking much past Christmas. Like little Steve Jobs’s they don’t care if their market is cannibalized. They just want to change the world.
So the boys named me their VC and got me started buying little embedded computer boards. They went through dozens of them looking for the right combination of price and performance. Then it was a matter of choosing the right OS, the right Minecraft multiuser server (there are several, some of them architecturally quite different though functionally identical). And they put together a package of integration features and services to make the little server dead simple to use.
They wrote a frigging API!!!
None of this happened in a vacuum. Paul Tyma and Bob Lee were especially helpful. Google those names. xBox father j allard agreed to help out, too.
The wonder of this project is not that they started it or finished it but that our technical culture has reached the point where such a thing is actually doable. Think about it: the CTO is 11!
And he even has an exit strategy. “Microsoft is crazy not to have a product in this category,” Cole said, clearly having never seen a Zune. “After Christmas maybe we’ll sell out to them.”
Nine year-old Fallon, on the other hand, wants to be Microsoft or — even better — Apple.
But I keep telling them it kind of depends on how many Mineservers™ they sell, don’t you think?
Please take a look at what my kids have done. And if you know an avid Minecraft player, or the parent of one, please send along to them the Kickstarter link, because my kids owe me a lot of money.