Exit Interview: Polycade Poised to Disrupt Gaming After Comcast NBCUniversal Accelerator

Tyler Bushnell and Jake Galler learned a lot this summer. They’re the co-founders of Polycade, a gaming console that brings people together for social, in-person gaming. It’s more of an experience platform than a traditional arcade console. You can play classic games and modern titles. You can save data and share gameplay videos. Most importantly, it’s made gaming social again.

The lessons they learned this summer during the Comcast NBCUniversal LIFT Labs Accelerator, powered by Techstars were crucial in moving the business forward. Bushnell and Galler learned that they can’t take on every great idea at once, zeroed in on their minimum viable product and sharpened their pitches to possible investors and clients.

Now, their company is poised to disrupt the $100 billion gaming industry. Polycade has active pilots with WeWork, GrubHub, and Comcast Business and plans to deploy more than 20,000 Polycade machines in a massive community of over 10 million users — with aspirations to make it the world’s largest out-of-home gaming platform. Polycades are even in the homes of notable influencers like Steve Aoki, Lil Jon and Chief Keef.

We sat down with Bushnell and Galler to discuss how the Comcast NBCUniversal accelerator helped shape the future of Polycade, and the future of gaming:

How valuable are the connections you fostered with executives at Comcast NBCUniversal?

Bushnell: Comcast plugged us in with the people that run major divisions of their business — and we know they can really benefit from our product, and we can benefit from their knowledge. As a small company, there’s no way we could break in and get meetings with those people without being connected with the accelerator.

Did the accelerator program prepare you for the future?

Bushnell: We’ve learned so much being here. Getting to go out and implement everything we learned is very exciting. After this program, we feel like we’re ready to take our business to the next level.

What do the next three to five years look like for Polycade?

Galler: A lot of growth. It’s hard at this stage to focus on anything other than the next six to 12 months. If our plans for the next year come to fruition, we’ll be in position to be one of the premium gaming companies and platforms out there. You’ll be talking about Polycade like you talk about Twitch, Steam or Xbox.

What is a specific lesson you learned in the program?

Bushnell: The biggest change has been taking all of our ideas and visions for the project and putting them in order. A sensible roadmap. Before the accelerator, we wanted to do everything and entertained all good ideas. Now we know that there’s a minimum viable product we need to create and lot of add ons we can continue to build out later. For example, we want to make our own video game titles, but now doing that in year three so we can make sure our hardware is best first.

You spoke with so many different mentors over the course of the program, and included a “speed-dating” event called Mentor Madness. Was that valuable?

Bushnell: Mentor madness was a fantastic experience. When you receive such a barrage of information and opinions, you can come out on other side understanding so much more about your business. You see a million ways to look at what you’re doing.

Did that lead to extended mentorship with Comcast NBCUniversal executives?

Galler: Yes, and it was great. At no time did we walk into a mentor meeting where the agenda was set by them. They wanted to know what we’re working on and what they could help us with at that moment. If it was the other way around and mentors were dictating what we should be working on, we wouldn’t be in the position we’re in today.

You’re both Los Angeles guys. What did you think of your time in Philadelphia?

Bushnell: Philly is awesome. Seeing the growing tech community here is inspiring. A lot of entrepreneurs running tech companies here have spoken with us and their input has been incredibly valuable.