Reaching The Next Creators with Roblox's David Baszucki (Roblox) | Disrupt SF (Day 1)
2:02AM Sep 6, 2018
Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome back to the stage TechCrunch editor and disrupt MC Jordan crook.
It helps when you do that really loud, slow, clap whoever that was. That's definitely helps. Thank you so much. Let's just all transition to that. Okay. Our next guest is essentially hero of today's youth. Please welcome to the stage from Roblox, David baszucki and our moderator. Anthony. Ha.
Gentlemen, please welcome back TechCrunch, senior writer and your battlefield host, Anthony Ha.
Thank you for joining us.
Thank you, Anthony.
Just before we get started, let's do a quick poll. Who here has played Roblox
All right, we got we got a pretty big concentration of the TechCrunch tables. A couple others? How many of you, like experienced it, like watched a YouTube video or anything like that? All right. A few more? Well, lucky for you have video here that will show off some of the experience. Why don't we watch the video now?
Can we throw the video?
All right, there you go. The future of entertainment.
David, you founded Roblox more than a decade ago. Since then, you've grown it more than million active users. And this morning announced that you had raised million dollars. You did not say anything about valuation. But there's been some reports including on TechCrunch that it was more than billion.
Why did you raise the money
first off, thanks for the interview. Thanks for having me out here. Yeah, thanks for coming in the article to do is wonderful. So I appreciate it. We see a new category emerging. And it's a category of human experience where people can do things together in 3d environments, whether they go fishing together, or learn to work a cash register or run away from a tornado. You know, we're shepherds of this new category. And we want to make that category work around the world. So we need to build the infrastructure we do have money to make this work fast. Everywhere. It's part of our vision, Roblox becomes a worldwide platform
how much of your audience right now outside the United States
it's it's surprisingly large, considering most of the experiences on Roblox are run in English. But what our vision is, is part of this platform,
we're not just making Roblox stuff work. In many languages, we have over 2 million developers who build stuff every month, there's over 4 million developers with active experiences right now. And we're giving them the tools so their experiences can run in multiple languages. At the same time, those kind of our vision of someday kids in the US will go on field trips to China, they'll both be able to communicate and hang out together.
So when you talk about turning this into a global platform, what are kind of the immediate next steps? What are the things that we can maybe expect to see happen in the next few months? next year? Yeah, the
the obvious ones would be website app, all of that stuff runs in many languages. But we're powered by this developer community that make these creations some of these developers have made, we don't even call them games, we call them experiences that have, you know, been played a billion times,
what we need to really do is give these developers the tools, their experiences can be run in multiple languages. So we're, we're kind of like tool Smith's at mega scale. With millions of developers, they can't do all the translating themselves. So we actually have to give them tools. So their fan base can help them translate, kind of like, Facebook crowdsource their translation.
And I think when we had talked about the funding earlier, it sounded like China was going to be maybe one of the big priorities as far as global expansion, is that right?
China's just so big and so different, that it's, it's a little bit of a wild card, there's not a lot of social platforms or immersive platforms that allow people around the world and people in China to come together to learn or to create or to meet people of different walks of life. We, you know, it's half of vision really, to connect China and the US and then half of it is also a financial and, you know, company vision as well. And so,
as I mentioned, have been working on Roblox for quite some time. Now, it seems like things are going well, financially Have you started to think about potential, you know, exits,
you know, we've been fortunate with our current and new investors, they're just awesome. There's a little bit of a trend today where you don't have to go public so soon, you can still provide some liquidity for employees and early investors and stay away from a lot of that public stuff. So we, we don't really see any plans of having to do it so soon. And we can still bring on Great Investors and give some liquidity
the goal would be to go public, I think the
goal is to create our vision of a new kind of Shepherd in this new category of human cool experience, really, as a byproduct at some point, we have to, we'll have to go public at some point.
All right, that's perfectly fair answer. So let's
pull back a little bit from the financials. And you just said that you describe this as an experience not a game. I mean, obviously, there's elements I mean, again, for the people who haven't experienced it for the nose, just talk a little bit about what the experience is like for the player and for the Creator. Yeah. So on Roblox, there's over million players who have an avatar that they really associate closely with, and that the avatar starts to bridge their physical life and their digital life and kind of merge those two realities a bit. We sometimes like to think of Roblox as a training ground for life, and that they can take their avatar, find their friends, and more than just gaming type things, they do things we might do in real life, like work together at a pizza restaurant, which is really popular, or try to, maybe something you can't do in real life, which is tried to escape from jail together, they like to do funny stuff like that. So it's very, it's very social. It's typically non competitive. And many of the experiences besides the creator side involve people making up their their own worlds coming up with their own rules, we see a lot of imaginative type things where people will play hide and go seek in an environment that's not made for hide and go seek. We have a lot of environments where there's a lot of learning involved. One of my favorites is bird simulator, and in bird simulator, without really knowing it. A lot of our players get to be birds try to figure out how to survive with their friends, they have to find insects, if they don't, they kind of don't make it. So there's a lot of cool life skill stuff that happens besides the fun
I actually got a chance to talk to one of your new investors, David z, who
apparently he his kids, and yours had gone to the same school. And so he saw an early demo of this at a science fairs wrote many, many years ago, I've been Tell me a little bit more about what you've been doing the science fair, the science fair, had a prior company and then left that,
you know, we've always been in this notion of the digital reality that can go hand in hand with a physical reality set the science fair, we were showing off early versions of Roblox where people could build their own house and try it out and move their avatar. And it's really the very first glimmers of taking that digital reality, adding an avatar, making it run in the cloud.
We've been really iterating on that ever since. Really, the vision we had even at that science fair, which was years ago was this is a new category, it's a little different than social networking, and that people are doing things together and they're doing things together not just with their real life friends, but in a safe way with people they meet online. And it creates the opportunity for a lot of our players to experience different worldviews to try different things out that they might not do in the real world. So
one of the things I noticed about you know the way Roblox you guys talk about Roblox as something that's for kids of all ages. That's right. So
you talk a little bit more about who the user basis is there, someone you think of as the typical user, or typical user base tends to cluster more in the six through type segment. But we believe ultimately, this category covers all ages, our products, a little focused and specialized right now on that age group. But we're really we're really optimistic about this emerging category. And, and we would want to, I feel over time as our users age will start figuring out ways to keep them on the platform,
do you I mean, I guess this is true of any consumer platform. But But I would imagine for seeing particularly it's focused on kids is there's an element of your, the cool, shiny new thing now, but, you know, in a year are they all going to be like, Oh, we will, we just want to be playing fortnight or something. That's
right, we've seen a lot of resilience to our vision and our business model. And that we because we're platform makers and tool makers get to push a little into the background. And there's over there's millions and millions of new experiences coming up on our platform, almost like a YouTube type environment. So the more we sit in the background, and the more we offer awesome technology that connects people together, we get this perpetual motion machine where there's great new and exciting content that people can play with. What makes Roblox extra interesting is there's a bit of a viral loop from the content, the better the content gets, the more fun It gets, the more people that come to play, the more of the content machine starts to go. But couples with a social networking type viral loop where contents getting viral, and then people are bringing their friends to play in that content. So we have this this elegant mixing of, you know, kind of a YouTube content viral loop and a social network viral loop. So when you see, you know, whether that's a social platform or a gaming platform, or something that they combine, I mean, increasingly, they're sort of combined, you're taking off, do you start to worry? Like, are they going to start laying out is this something that's gonna be bad for us to do you feel like there's room for a lot of these different systems, I feel there's a lot of, we try not to worry as much as Think Big about what the vision is, but I do feel what we're working on and starting to experiment with, and what our vision is, it's not necessarily new, the things we're involved with have been inside five for the last years. And those popular movies, whether it's Ready Player One, or the matrix that touches on a digital reality, some of them dystopian, I would add, we're really more optimistic about the category and that we see our players really in an interesting and savvy waiting, mixing their physical and digital life I do feel there's a lot of people starting to think about this and touch around the edges of this category.
So because we were taught telling me backstage that you're interviewing the author of Ready Player One, which is definitely one of those more sort of dystopian views that's right virtual reality I mean, what are some of the signs that you see that this is actually something that's enabling people to interact with the real world yeah
you know, we see starting at one of the core things we see is because everyone on Roblox get so inspired to be part of that creator community, you see millions and millions of our players, whether it's being artists, or being designers, or being coders or game producers are running groups, almost kind of being inspired to accelerate their education, and our developer community, which has over 2 million people creating this is just really chock full of kind of very optimistic people who want to, you know, take on careers and coding or things like that, I'm also really optimistic about the civility that we're seeing on the platform. Sometimes when we say this is a training ground for life, we have an example of, maybe someone doesn't learn that they might get ripped off until they go to the real world, and someone steals their money in a store. But when they if they can experience that in a graceful, gentle way, when they're years old, and not in a bullying way, they can create kind of a sadness towards real life. It's not just, you know, learning and having fun. There's a lot of life skills, stuff that we see happening to see you
mentioned civility. And I mean, I think it's always a little unfair to focus on like one incident. But there was a story recently about a player who, as I understand it, basically, there was sort of these other avatars who kind of mind essentially going rape, can you can you just tell us a little bit more about what happened there? Yeah, so
that was most unfortunate. And that was we had a bad actor who was able to essentially find a little exploit in our server, upload some code to a server and create a little, I guess, modification to our virtual environment. And we think dozens of people were affected, we fix the exploit band, the bad actor, but it's, I think, for us, it highlights both the challenge and the opportunity and these this kind of powerful new category and that there's always bad actors. And one of the most exciting thing for a young and up and coming a certain subset of Roblox players is trying to hack the system in some way. At the same time, there's a, there's a huge opportunity to provide this civil space where people learn a lot in a really safe way, especially when we're we're approaching a billion hours of interaction a month figuring out what the technology is what the people are needed to do that it's it's we feel it's a big opportunity actually, to make these environments civil,
you said you, like you said, stability is a huge priority for you, you fixed that specific issue, I guess particular if I'm a parent, I would imagine that even if I think remote possibility, I'm gonna be very uncomfortable with my child using this platform. I mean, what can you say to them to sort of make them think that that's not going to happen?
I think that's, that's fair. I mean, that's what I would expect. If I was apparent. I feel over time, just like books have now become accepted as a really educational and powerful and safe way for people to learn. I think we're in a new phase here. And there will be there will be a time when digital reality mixes with physical reality. And people understand that this is times safer than the real world, but kind of in a new phase where we have to earn that really respect from the parent, I put the burden on us really to prove that so going
back to the discussion about the creators as I innocence you've got like 4 million, I think people have created different experiences, some multiple of 4 million, extremely like of millions of experience, if I remember correctly.
And then, as I understand also Verrier they're actually making money right
we've we've come up with what we believe is a really elegant way to reward creators who, maybe three, four or five years ago were making Roblox creations for fun getting millions of people to play and then they would go off to college or they would get a job and they had to stop doing the Roblox thing what we've come up with a virtual economy where all of the players on Roblox can hang out in Roblox and the majority play for free forever, but a very small subset by virtual currency and spend it in the experiences that our creators make. Our creators have become very savvy at making virtual experiences that are fun that don't require money but have kind of a fun way like in work at a pizza restaurant you can buy like a motor scooter and a very small subset by that that virtual currency then those developers are able to turn that back into cash really sometimes start to fund a lifestyle or a studio with top creators and our creating companies with five or people we given we're going to get back million to that community this year with some of the creators making over million
yeah this partnership of them creating more immersive content is really working for us Do you think that then another sign of the success of the platform will be if there are games that come out that like sort of explode out of Roblox and they have nothing You know, like no one talks about them as A ROBLOX game it's just oh they play this game at it you just happen it just happens to be created on Roblox. I think
that's exactly right. It's consistent with the theme that we fade into the background. It would be very consistent with a top YouTube streamer where you don't think YouTube you can say I want to go watch that video or that chat creation what's really elegant about the the Roblox creations is rather than a YouTube video, they can be played for hours and hours and hours. It's an experience rather than a one time content stream.
That's a good almost benchmark for our success in honoring our creators. So given that it's such a big platform at this point, and and I imagine, you know, I mean, people will have different interests, but if somebody is getting on it. Now, this is probably not necessarily the target demographic, but let's say they're curious, or they have kids or whatever, what would you say is sort of the the best way to sort of just, you know, experience like, Is there like a plate, what's a good starting point
will first of all, just for all the entrepreneurs here for doing our job? Well, that should all happen automatically. So part of our job should be randomly pick up your phone or your tablet, your computer, your console, and just even without any friends have a great experience will find the right places for you will help you find people to chat with, maybe help you find your friends. So I would say my recommendation to new players is just go explore. You can see the depth of the content by rather than just taking what we might put in front of you, like a YouTube or Netflix is you can do a deep search. So if you do a deep search for Space Colony, you'll find many space colony simulations are Taj Mahal you'll find so there's a little bit of that element of, you know, go look for something that you might like. So last
question. Five years from now, what does robots look like
when we started the company over years ago, we had this vision of this new category. And we kind of in this last round with working with these great new investors, we use the slide that's very similar to that years ago, I'm hoping in five years, it's it's a little bit more of our vision where the, the quality the experiences is better, everything's better visibility quality, but experiences are year olds are still playing when they're and some of our creators are, are creating much bigger enterprises. And there's and there's probably a whole new cadre of what I would call really leaders for a new digital physical age that have come from the platform.
David, thank you very much for joining us. Thank you.