Above: Koalah lets you wager on skill-based games.
Image Credit: Koalah
The founders of Koalah believe that the app stores have become too powerful, so they’re creating a web-based platform for skill-based games, where players can win real money based on wagers they make on online and mobile games.
It’s a crazy dream, but Koalah is a small company that needs just a little foothold. Game developers can adopt its HTML5-based platform easily, particularly if they’ve already created games in that format, which is the lingua franca for the web. Koalah has created its platform to work well with both mobile and desktop games, allowing developers to deploy once to all relevant platforms.
“We want to liberate game developers from the chains of the Apple App Store and Google Play Store,” said Ari Lewis, the cofounder of Koalah, in an email to GamesBeat. “Many of our friends play and create games, and they have always complained about how restrictive the Apple Store is. We realized that we could create a solution to this, one that would benefit developers and engage gamers.”
HTML5 and WebGL are built into game engines now, and that means that better-looking games can run effortlessly on web-based platforms with no downloads. It’s not for every game, but it can support enough games to make Koalah an alternative.
Players can make money if they win their wagers. And Lewis believes that developers can make more money on its platform, as the developers will get a cut of the money that players make from their wages.
“Our platform also opens up a new way for users to play games,” Lewis said. “Gamers can now play in a fun and competitive environment that rewards them for being skilled at a game.”
Koalah was founded in 2013, and it has four people. Rivals include much bigger companies such as Skillz, Cashplay, and Small-Bet.
“Our platform is designed for web-based gaming and not restricted by third-party distribution channels,” Lewis said. “The platform is embeddable in a variety of HTML5 game engines. Game developers have a new open platform upon which to develop monetize their games.”
Koalah has created a mobile-optimized web app, and it has integrated fraud protection. The platform’s software development kit is in private beta testing, and the company says it will make sure that players always comply with local laws on skill-based gaming. Many states allow betting on games of skill, but some consider it to be gambling.
“We have created a proprietary Fair Play Algorithm that analyzes every game played to detect how players are wagering and their behavior,” Lewis said. “We are able to detect if a user is acting in bad faith when playing our games.”
So far, Koalah has raised $25,000, and it is backed by Flashstarts, a software startup accelerator in Cleveland, Ohio. Koalah hopes to raise seed funding in the next few months.
Lewis has been friends with his cofounder Sagar Rambhia since high school. They worked on a few side projects together before starting Koalah. They met their third cofounder, Matt Bentley, through the Thiel Fellowship application process, which was started by billionaire Peter Thiel to help entrepreneurs get started without going through college. Bentley came aboard, and the trio developed the company from a dorm room at Case Western Reserve University.
They have a long way to go. But they’re not shy about their ambitions. Over time, they would like to go into the online casino market.
They want to replace the app stores. And, Lewis said, “We are how game developers will make money in the future. We don’t look at this as a challenge, but rather a way to revolutionize an industry that lacks innovation.”
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