Building and Franchising a Gaming Business With Scott Novis

Scott Novis is the Founder of GameTruck, a mobile video game party company that delivers parties to clients’ doorsteps. Inspired by traditional video game arcades, Scott founded GameTruck in 2006 to bring modern games and consoles to the social atmosphere of arcade gaming. He is also the Founder and CEO of GameTruck Licensing, the franchising company that helps individual GameTruck business owners succeed in the mobile video game party market.

In this episode of the Smart Business Revolution Podcast, John Corcoran interviews Scott Novis, the Founder of GameTruck, about leveraging gaming to promote connections and friendships. Scott also discusses the benefits and challenges of franchising, tips for managing kids’ playtime, and knowledge management strategies.

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Here’s a Glimpse of What You’ll Hear:

  • [01:51] Scott Novis’ entry into the entrepreneurial world
  • [03:04] What inspired the idea for GameTruck?
  • [05:44] The challenges Scott faced building his gaming business
  • [09:24] The benefits and drawbacks of franchising
  • [19:37] How to promote friendships and a sense of belonging through play
  • [25:30] In what ways has the pandemic affected the gaming industry?
  • [30:30] Tips for managing kids’ playtime
  • [36:33] Scott’s knowledge management strategies
  • [44:54] The peers Scott acknowledges for their support

Resources Mentioned In This Episode

Sponsor: Rise25

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Cofounders Dr. Jeremy Weisz and John Corcoran credit podcasting as being the best thing they have ever done for their businesses. Podcasting connected them with the founders/CEOs of P90xAtariEinstein BagelsMattelRx BarsYPO, EO, Lending Tree, Freshdesk,  and many more.  

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Rise25 Cofounders, Dr. Jeremy Weisz and John Corcoran, have been podcasting and advising about podcasting since 2008.

Episode Transcript

John Corcoran 0:00

Today we are talking about how entrepreneurs can harness all the information we are surrounded by. We’re living in an information age. But we don’t know how to properly harness all of that information. We’re going to talk about that here today and how to make it work for you. Instead of against you. My guest today is Scott Novis. He’s the founder of the nationwide GameTruck, mobile video game party company. And if you don’t have it in your market, you’ll hear all about it today. I’ll tell you all about him in a second. So stay tuned.

Intro 0:32 

Welcome to the Smart Business Revolution Podcast where we feature top entrepreneurs, business leaders and thought leaders and ask them how they built key relationships to get where they are today. Now, let’s get started with the show.

John Corcoran 0:50

All right. Welcome, everyone. John Corcoran here. I’m the host of this show. Every week I get to talk to interesting CEOs, founders and entrepreneurs from all kinds of companies. We’ve had Netflix Kinkos, YPO, EO Activision Blizzard, Grub Hub, Redfin, you name it, check out the archives. There’s all kinds of good episodes there for you. And of course, this episode brought to you by Rise25, where we help B2B businesses to get clients referrals and strategic partnerships with Dunphy podcasts and content marketing and you go to our website and rise 25 or email us, right support at And you can learn all about what we do, Scott and such. So excited to have you here today. You got such an interesting background, you started your career in working for Game Studios, video games dealt about over a dozen video game titles. But then eventually you found your way into entrepreneurship. With GameTruck, which we’ll get to in a second, you have 13 million people who’ve attended your event, which is just phenomenal. I want to hear all about that. And I also want to hear about COVID and how that affected things. But I love to start with you as a kid. So as a kid, you had a paper route. You also started a book company in college, because in your words, not mine. You said you just wanted to nerd out on books.

Scott Novis 2:04

Tell us about it. Oh, man, um, you Yeah, some of them were, like you said, starting with the paper out. And some of the other things. I think the first real business I started was I wanted early access to some of the exciting technical books that were coming out. So I started a company called booksmart technical books. It was mailorder. And started taking out ads started building up a business started. And ironically discovered at the time running a business is really hard. And it’s not nearly as interesting or wasn’t to me as actually learning and programming. And so I was a either a terrible entrepreneur are a brilliant one in the sense that I failed fast. And went off to pursue a career in technology development, but I came back to it. Later in life, when I was working for the Walt Disney Company actually started it before I joined Disney was a creative game truck. 

John Corcoran 3:04

And where did this idea come from? You’re working, you’re helping to develop these game titles? And did you just kind of have an epiphany? Aha, well, what if we brought these video games a little bit?

Scott Novis 3:15

Okay, so there’s ideas that macro trends drive new market opportunities, especially in franchising, and so I was looking at different franchises to buy or invest in, and I took my kid to a pizza arcade, and I knew everything we were working on in the game city was better than anything, you could play in a pizza arcade. And I’m like, this is horrible. I’m paying a fortune, not for kids to play with my kid. But to go by play games by themselves, get a bunch of paper tickets and get a bunch of plastic crap. And I’m like, There’s got to be a better way. And at that time, land stores Local Area Network party stores had become a rage. Sorry, I started investigating them. And there were a bunch of problems. And what I settled on was, look, all what I really want to do is recapture that feeling of when I was a kid, playing the best games with my best friends. And for me, the best video games had gone on to video game consoles. And they just changed the way they built the content. Because you know, the old arcade games recorder eaters, says a pickup and play two to three minute experience. Give me another quarter. Well, video game carts are 40 to 50 bucks, and like 100 today, but at that time, it’s like, okay, you got to eat a $50 bill. So the core experience went from two to three minutes to 20 to 30. So you’re not just gonna stand there for 20 or 30 minutes. You want to sit on a couch. And so the thing that hit me was like, I need a living room, but not at a mall. How do I create a living room I can take to people’s houses. I was looking at the cocooning that was happening and the jumpers I’m like that’s what I want. I want to make like What we had at the game studio, we could play anything anytime with anyone in the studio. And I’m like, we want like a network where there’s no barriers to play. zero friction gaming man, just sit down, grab a controller, and you’re in the 16 player Halo, or you’re into a player Mario Kart, most people didn’t even know that was the thing. Double Dash could network land for GameCubes together. And like, I built a prototype in my garage man, talk about a stereotype. invited my son’s friends over. And Daniel Garland was like, this would be the greatest birthday party ever. I’m like, I got to build that. And we built one. And then four. 

John Corcoran 5:43

And I want to ask about so you had a background with video gaming, but not with children’s parties. 

Scott Novis 5:54

So not retail? Not retail saying no, no, no, that selling to parents.

John Corcoran 5:58

So there’s a lot of learning curve involved here. What were some of the challenges in the early days, I mean, you had the video side video game side, nailed because of your background, even making the video games. 

Scott Novis 6:08

I was just creating the environment to enjoy them.

John Corcoran 6:12

Right? That’s a challenge, right? Like just getting kids together, getting them to gauge with one another. That’s a skill set.

Scott Novis 6:19

Um, I guess what it was, is I knew what would work in that space. Like I knew how to get to the best of what the experience was about. Which is What’s that old saying, you know, easy for you amazing to others. It’s like that wasn’t the problem. It you know, and then it was also creating, like a mobile environment that would house all of it. And I could do that. But you’re spot on? It was how do you market something like that? That explains something new, that the diffusion principle how new ideas get out there is a real challenge. And it took a while. There was a lot of ups and downs in the early days, people like what is it? I don’t get it? And then it flipped overnight to What do you mean, I can’t just have it. Americans are pretty demanding consumers. I’m like, any one of these. 

John Corcoran 7:08

And so we started getting a one that you mean, there was more demand than you could keep up with?

Scott Novis 7:12

Right? Like, like that. It went from, hey, we have four parties this month to 30 people booked in a month, which blew our mind and then another six. And when was that me? Because they couldn’t have it? When was it? When did that flip. That was in 2007, about a year after we launched.

John Corcoran 7:31

Interesting. And that was even 2007 when it was in the air. But that was the downward economy at that

Scott Novis 7:36

That was the beginning of the economy just accelerating into the toilet. And what we learned was that parents take care of their kids. They’d stopped golfing, they would stop going on vacation, but they wanted to shield their kids from what was happening around them. They wanted them to have a good childhood, you never get a second chance at that eighth or ninth birthday. Yeah. And we because we came out at a fixed price. Suddenly, we created a value proposition for the parents that the other venues couldn’t touch. Because they charge per kid or like it’s a flat fee for us to 300 bucks. We show up. We don’t care. Did care. But I mean, it’s like whatever. So they can have that big party and hold their budget. Yeah, that saved us. Yeah. Now, this is all the way through the recession. It was crazy.

John Corcoran 8:22

Interesting. One of the constraints is that kids want to have birthday parties on their weekend, you know, so he probably had a ton of demand on the weekend, not as much during the week. How did you balance that?

Scott Novis 8:33

We didn’t. What happened is, it’s still a heavily dominated weekend business. The weekday business tends to be institutional. What I affectionately call the children’s warehousing industry, after school programs, programs, you know, there’s just a ton, a lot of parents work two jobs and schools and early who looks after your kids. So providing services to those people that have to entertain kids, tends to give us that weekday bump we’re looking for Yeah. But a lot of what we do our demand curve is it’s pretty crazy, like our marketing team is is top notch. They’re amazing at the volume of leads that they generate to keep the trailers busy and full. They do a really, really phenomenal job. Yeah, my real company is a marketing company. We’re like a marketing services company for 100 small business owners.

John Corcoran 9:25

Yeah. And so took me through the process of deciding to franchise because you could have kept it all under one roof. You decide, I think after four that you would franchise,

Scott Novis 9:34

right? So remember, it’s the recession and so all the big money does what they do and they get scared as goes to the sidelines and banks are melting down. There’s only so many pickup trucks you can buy. And so, franchising is capital efficient. You’re using and leveraging other people’s money to grow. One of the reasons that a lot if you don’t have deep pockets, people franchise our leases, they were are personal guarantees. And there’s a limit to how many of those they’ll let you sign until they see. So you don’t need until you don’t need that anymore. Right. So there’s this chicken and egg function. So franchising, I don’t know that it still is, but 20 years ago was a was a good way to get an idea out fast. Yeah. Because you could get passionate people involved to could leverage their financial wherewithal to expand the network quickly.

John Corcoran 10:24

Now, I’ve interviewed many who’ve franchised that concept before and some of the challenges that are involved in that include, you know, making sure that it’s done the way that you want it to be done with the franchisees, sometimes you get franchisees are not happy with the way that the, you know, the global headquarters are handling things. Talk to me about some of those challenges you experienced,

Scott Novis 10:45

I grew up in, like my career, I spent a lot of time at Motorola. And back in the day when they were a meaningful, large company that had silicon foundries, and every product group doesn’t get their own factory people have to share. So they did a thing called matrix management. So this is where a lot of people I think the franchise struggle is they assume they get control. And it’s really about in matrix management, how do you influence people that don’t report to you? You need them to do something. So you can achieve your objectives and they don’t report to you. And I’m like, to me, that’s franchising. These are bunch of small business owners, and they’ve got goals and dreams, how do you work with them to help them achieve their goals and dreams? Versus everything you just said is such an entrepreneur centric point of view, I got to have control, how do I control people? How do I make that’s all me out to the rest of the world? Our viewpoint was? How can we create an environment for people to be successful? Because in my experience, if you want people to play your game, make it better freaking game. If you want people to do things the way you want to do make a better tool. But there’s a mindset frequently, that I’m sure you’ve run into it. Top down is I know best you have to do what I tell you to do. I’m gonna Good luck with that.