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5 Minutes with Holly Liu of Kabam

Anna O'Hare
Published on July 8, 2015

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In this week’s “5 Minuts With” we chatted with Holly Liu, co-founder of Kabam. Holly is now Chief Development Officer there. Forbes named her in their Top 10 Women Entrepreneurs to Watch in 2013, and it looks like they were on to something. Holly, one of the most powerful women in gaming right now, is currently focusing her attention on Kabam’s development. Prior to this, she led Kabam’s award-winning Kingdom’s of Camelot, which has grown into a $250 million franchise in less than four years.

Check out her insights into the future of mobile gaming and what she thinks the biggest challenge is at the moment for women in tech…


Holly, what do you see for the future of mobile gaming?

The future of mobile gaming is global proliferation. Entertainment is one of the few types of products that appeal to a global audience – look at all of the amazing Hollywood franchises that have reach around the globe. The fastest growing market that is on pace to be the largest gaming market by 2016 is China. As Kabam prepares to release Marvel: Contest of Champions in China, we will be working hard to localise the graphics, gameplay, and even title to make sure it resonates and can be entertaining for the Chinese people. Ultimately, we think the opportunity is too great to ignore China and the rest of the world for a high caliber game.

You were named one of Forbes’ “Top 10 Women Entrepreneurs to Watch” and one of Fortune’s “10 Most Powerful Women in Gaming.” What do you think the biggest challenge is for women in tech at the moment?

The biggest challenge is really that there are not enough women in tech. This is both an acquisition and retention issue. At Kabam, we work hard to address both sides of the issue. An example of this is how hard we work to ensure gender diversity on interviewing panels, as well as fostering retention through our Women@Kabam affinity group. By focusing on both the acquisition and retention sides of the issue, we can work to continuously solve the problem. As a result, we have been able to raise the number of women at Kabam above the industry standard. This challenge is not easy given that there are many things that prevent attracting and retaining women; however, it is much better to do something rather than nothing. If it were an easy challenge, it wouldn’t be a challenge worth taking.

If you weren’t at Kabam what would you be doing?

If Kabam never existed, I would still be doing product design. I strongly believe that product is the core to any company. Getting a product right is the conduit to building an awesome relationship with your customer. This is something we have been focusing on as we’ve moved our teams to consolidate into fewer games with bigger teams. It is yielding quality games such as our Marvel: Contest of Champions, which I like to describe as a Street Fighter-style fighting game with Marvel Characters. It’s clear that customers are voting as the game has attracted over 35 million downloads over the past six months. I’ve also seen teams take what we’ve learned on this and apply the lessons to our upcoming game Star Wars: Uprising, ensuring more exciting and better games to come.

Who would be the first person you invite to a party?

Assuming this is a party that I was throwing, it would more than likely be a small dinner party since I love food and good conversation. Good food is easy, but good conversation is not. Good conversation requires listening, love of learning, and authenticity. My husband would be the first person I’d invite because there would be no way I would throw a party without the best co-host. Because of him, I have been able to build a global billion-dollar company. He has been my champion and most of all he is the best listener, which has led to great conversation that is honest, fair and encouraging. Good conversation cannot happen without listening with authenticity. If the co-host didn’t count as an invitee, I would invite Kabam CEO, Kevin Chou and his wife, Connie Chen, M.D.– since they love both food and conversation. They both are some of the smartest people I know, have deep and wide experiences, and most importantly love to learn.

What’s your favourite game?

My favorite offline game is a bean card trading game called Bohnanza, an inherently social game that is full of strategy and negotiation. My favorite mobile game changes from time to time, but currently it is of course Marvel: Contest of Champions. That will probably change when Kabam releases our upcoming Star Wars mobile game. See Holly in person when she speaks at RISE in 3 weeks time. We have also put 70 free tickets aside for women in tech, you should apply.