Starting a business is a bit like herding cats. You have to decide it’s ok for one to jump out, as long as two more are in, knowing you’ll get there eventually.
At times, it’s like painting a jet while it’s in the air. No one would fault you for saying “forget it, this isn’t going to work.”
For the three of us who founded Scorbit, we’ve started a number of businesses in the past and we’ve certainly seen our share of crazy ideas at crazy times. If you had told us we would be launching a business in a global pandemic, maybe not so much, but we’ve launched hard companies and we probably tell our children “it builds character.” It better, anyway.
Here’s the thing: You’ve gotta want it. Really bad. There is no logic that is going to win the day for why you would do something like this at first. Five years ago, Ron, Brian and Jay were walking through California Extreme, talking about this problem. The fundamental question to us was: Why hadn’t someone tried to connect these machines to the Internet (We always love connecting things to the Internet)… and using that to make the whole thing more fun and engaging…?
Brian and Ron, who have played about ten zillion times more pinball than Jay has, both made that really clear: You have no idea the diversity of equipment involved and how hard it is. They were right, we didn’t. However, who doesn’t enjoy a challenge?
It’s a lot. We invented new ways of talking to old machines. We built a modern platform and infrastructure. We built a (beta) app that not only pinball enthusiasts could use, but also our family and friends could use. Now we get to see what we can do with it.
You’ll hear us talking a lot about “the platform.” What kind of marketing B.S. is that? The whole idea of a platform is that you don’t know yet what amazing things you can build on it. We’ll start with some amazingly cool stuff: Live scoreboards. Machine-specific leaderboards. Streaming. Game state and mechanics. What would you do with all this great information? What cool things does it unlock? A “platform” implies that we, along with you, will find that out by rolling out fun things on it. Some will work, some won’t, and that’s fine. We’ll do it together.
Look, we know many people say, “I have no use of anyone seeing what I’m doing on my machine.” That’s cool, we get that. No one is trying to convince you of that. However, I’m willing to bet that if someone you cared about said, “I can get to multiball faster than you can on that game”, you’ll try it once, right?
So here we go. We’re in it for the long haul. This is a five ball game behind a tournament player who ruined Black Knight 2000 for you because he can just keep hitting the loop over and over while you sit there wondering if you’ll get the ball.
We hope the Scorbit mobile app is the first step in bringing the community together around pinball. It might be finding places to play pinball in public (remember that) or playing on your machines at home, no matter where you’re flipping, you can now use Scorbit to save your scores and even challenge your friends to try and beat those scores. Nothing better than some friendly competition. Sure, we know not every pinball machine is set up the same way but come on, if you got a crazy good score on your Jurassic Park at home, you know you’re friends can try and beat your score on their machines at home or the machine at the local arcade that’s putting out pinball machines on the sidewalk so we can get a little taste of normal in this crazy world. We’ve been apart for so long, let’s connect again and have some fun.
For streamers and tournament operators, this is table stakes. We have to be able to show you that this works in a reliable fashion. It’s not a question, we’re ready for you, and we know your needs are different than others and we’ve developed ScorbitVision with you in mind.
For operators, COVID. It’s been the worst. What we want to do is spend the time we’re all hunkered down together listening to what operator features matter to you. We will roll out with those features as the year continues. The main thing is: We heard you, anything we can do to help increase your revenue for what machines you have, we’ll prioritize. We also are here to support you as pinball players start going out to arcades and bars and your locations. And if you’ve been directly affected by COVID, we’ve got your back. Get in touch and see if you qualify for our Operator Support Program and we’ll discuss how we can help build up your location business.
For collectors, home users, and everyone else: Our metric is straight forward: Can we get people playing more. What can we do to encourage everyone to play this game that is in your basement? How do we make that investment in a fairly expensive machine (both in dollars and square feet) pay off? How do I get my wife to play pinball? These are life’s eternal questions.
We know what you’re thinking, “What does this cost?” The Scorbitron is $299 to $199 depending on the total number you’re using, and Subscription Plans from $3.99 / month and up. (different pricing for home users versus operators).
Let us explain something up front: The way this works, we have to pay for infrastructure, a service, servers, bandwidth, people, app developers, hardware and electrical engineering, contract manufacturers, and babysitters. That’s why this is a subscription. The hardware, we made it as cheap and high quality as humanly possible while processing display, CPU, or other data in real time and securely sending it to our cloud infrastructure. We have to pay for that infrastructure though. We don’t see ourselves as a hardware business. We see ourselves as a service, one that is here for the pinball community first and hopefully for a long time, as we have even bigger plans for the future of pinball.
Take a look at our website at https://scorbit.io and ask questions. We built some devices, we’ll sell them to you. We’ll build more. We made an app. It’s not perfect, but it’s a start. We want to hear what you think. Have patience, because this is new, and we’ll have fun doing this together.
Last but not least, we need to send a major THANK YOU to all the people who helped us with our journey. It’s been a long one and the list is long. Huge thanks to tournament directors who have worked with us on field testing in a real tournament environment like Karl DeAngelo, Jim Belsito, Snow Galvin and Josh Sharpe and Zach Sharpe of the IFPA for partnering with us. Charlie Emery, Jimmy Lipham and Scott Danesi from Spooky Pinball. Jack Guarnieri, JT Harkey and Ken Cromwell from Jersey Jack Pinball, with a nod to Sal Brucculeri.
The amazing advice, guidance and early work done with us by Andy Smith and Michael Levit was key to Scorbit becoming a business. On the tech side, we have so many people who have touched this project from the team at KRTKL, the genius wizardry of Alex Rasmussen, our good friend Andreas Haugstrup Pedersen from MatchPlay and the OPDB, and of course Scott Wainstock from Pinball Map who graciously has been helping us with location data. Building the ecosystem around the Scorbit products couldn’t have been done without the amazing contributions of Adam Wright, Scott Adelson, Scott Wolfman, Maurico Balvanera and Tio Lavranos.
Scorbit would’t be what it is today without the encouragement and support from friends, operators and pinball enthusiasts like Matt Henri from Free Gold Watch in San Francisco, Darren Ensley, Tom Collins, Greg Poverelli, TJ Beyer, Ryan Wagner, Chris Kuntz, David Volansky. And an enormous bit of thanks to Gene X Hwang for the amazing photos and a ton of cheerleading and moral support. Our Detroit crew, Chris Sonjeow, Kevin Zalewski, EJ Osis. And finally,Scorbit wouldn’t be here without the generous support of our investors.
We could really go on and on, as we’ve talked and bounced ideas off many of our friends and colleagues in the pinball community. Thank you to everyone and we hope you like what we’ve put together at Scorbit!
– Jay Adelson, Brian O’Neill, Ron Richards and the rest of the team at Scorbit
San Francisco, New Hampshire, New York City and around the world
September 3, 2020