Skillz Through the Years: 2015
In honor of the five year anniversary of our first product launch, we’re dedicating a month-long blog series to looking back at the history of Skillz and how much we’ve grown over the years. In our first Skillz history installment, we shared the Skillz origins story and key milestones in our first few years as a young company. This week, we’re focusing on the pivotal year of 2015. We left off on our journey at the end of 2014, a time when Skillz had already surpassed 1 million downloads, raised $5.5 million in Series A funding and had offices in both Boston and San Francisco.
By May of 2015, we announced the new Skillz streaming technology. With this innovation, Skillz became the first to enable live, over-the-air streaming for games built in any development framework, including popular engines like Unity, Marmalade, OpenGL, UIKit and Cocos2d. This technology also enabled players to stream their gameplay and instant replays to any content-sharing website.
We continued to grow, and just a month later we announced that we had awarded $10 million in prizes after hosting 40 million eSports tournaments. As our platform grew, so did our team. By the end of 2015, we added several new key employees to the team, and upgraded our office space twice. In our original Boston headquarters, Software Engineer Kathy Kaminski joined us, while the San Francisco office grew with the additions of our Communications Lead Roxie Bostwick, Director of Marketing Stephen Yu, Manager of User Acquisition Justin Sampson, and iOS Engineer Elizabeth Renn.
When reflecting on his time at Skillz, Justin marvels at how much our collective drive and work ethic can accomplish: “It has been fantastic to be part of the Skillz growth story – it’s truly amazing what we can do by making a little bit of meaningful progress every single day!”
Elizabeth originally joined Skillz as a co-op in our Boston office when she was a college student. After her co-op semester ended, she continued working with us part-time until she graduated, and then accepted an offer to join the team full-time as one of our iOS engineers. While our company was growing and learning, so were the people working on our platform.
“It’s kind of surreal now that I think about it,” Elizabeth reflects. “I mean, I started out working on the little stuff – but years later you can see how important every piece of code is to the success of our platform. My first week, I was learning Objective-C (the iOS native coding language we use) and was fixing bugs. Now, I’m planning and helping drive the execution of entire releases and taking on more responsibility.”
In September of 2015, we announced $15 million in Series B funding led by major venture capital firms as well as the owners of the New England Patriots, Milwaukee Bucks and New York Mets. By November, we moved to a much larger office in San Francisco – a space we still occupy today (with the addition of two more floors in the building). An exciting milestone that came along with this office move was the addition of our floor-to-ceiling mural that wraps around our San Francisco office depicting the history of video gaming! To create this masterpiece, we commissioned a local street artist who worked with our design team to bring the vision to life.
“When I first started at Skillz, the server team had just a few people on it,” Kathy remembers. “Back then, we had hundreds of games integrated into our platform (which I was already amazed by), but now we’re well into the thousands! The server is one of the basic building blocks of our platform, and it’s been wonderful to see the team remain so close-knit as we’ve grown so rapidly. We have built one of the most talented teams that I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with!”
As we closed out the end of 2015 together with a holiday party celebrating our new San Francisco office, the foundation was laid for the eventual transition of Skillz headquarters from Boston to San Francisco – but that’s a story for another time…
Come back next week to read the next chapter in the Skillz history books!