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Why one Zynga executive left his post for a small startup

Why one Zynga executive left his post for a small startup Exclusive

June 1, 2012 | By Tom Curtis

June 1, 2012 | By Tom Curtis
More: Social/Online, Business/Marketing, Exclusive

While he may have had a secure job as an executive at the world's biggest social game company, Zynga's former CTO of mobile Laurent Desegur has chosen to leave his post for a new position at Game Closure, a small California-based studio focusing on HTML5.

Interestingly, Desegur and other Zynga officials had tried to acquire Game Closure roughly one year ago, though the startup decided to turn down the offer. Desegur told Gamasutra, however, that it was this initial meeting that sparked his interest in joining the startup in the first place.

"When I looked at the technology and talked to the team while I was with Zynga, it was decided that we would not be working together, and I was bummed," Desegur said in a recent interview. "I really liked what they had and I really liked the solution they were building."

Game Closure's JavaScript and HTML5-based solution claims to help developers launch games on multiple platforms using a single code base. Like other HTML5 solutions, the tech aims to bypass some of the crippling fragmentation issues that plague modern mobile devices.

When discussing the potential acquisition, Desegur was impressed by what the company had to offer. He said, "When we talked with them, these guys already had a lot of this stuff implemented as working prototypes, and were able to demonstrate what their solution could do."

The tech seemed like a great way to help Zynga establish a real foothold in the mobile market, but in the end, Game Closure decided that it would rather work on its own than join a major powerhouse company.

"[Game Closure CEO Michael Carter] and his peers were approached by Zynga, as well as Facebook and Google, and it wasn't that they said, 'I don't think we'll be able to do what we want there,' it was more, 'I think we can do it on our own,'" Desegur said.

"They wanted to show people that they were part of a bigger picture than simply being one more tool in the toolbox of Zynga, for example. It's about having your own company, with your own vision, and your own solution."

Game Closure eventually acquired $12 million to continue its independent operations, and when Desegur saw how the company was progressing with its HTML5 tech, he decided that he didn't want to watch them from afar anymore -- he wanted to join them outright.

"I felt like there was a great opportunity for me to contribute there, and it was during that dialogue with Michael that we were able to decide that there was a great opportunity for us to get this company off the ground and make it successful," he said.

"And it's about passion, right? There's still the fact that you can be in a place, feeling very safe and very secure, and then you look at this thing, and you're like, 'Can I go there? Can I go to that startup?' And I just told myself, 'Yes, I can do that!'"

Now, Desegur serves as Game Closure's VP of mobile engineering, and leads all of the company's mobile initiatives relating to game engine development.

"When it comes to my own work, I like to say I was voting with my feet," Desegur said. He switched sides to stand with the company that spoke to him most, and he said he couldn't be happier with his decision.

"I always wanted to be in that situation where I really feel like I want to get out of bed and run to work... And that's how it is now, and it's great."

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