The meeting was a success, and Chasma won $300,000 in consulting contracts. Bell renegotiated his lease, brought his employees back to work and, before long, actually managed to turn a profit. You learn to manage through the stress instead of letting it freak you out, says Bell, now a wizened 19 years old. Chasma is a rarity not just because Bell and most of his colleagues cant have a legal beer, but because theyve managed to shift focus from one business to another. Of course, it helped that Chasmas highest-paid employees earn only $500 a week, and that most workers are still covered by their parents or their universitys health plans.|
Chasma has established a reputation as a pioneer in the still-developing field of wireless gaming. While most adults are content to talk over mobile phones, teens want to play, and send instant messages, Bell says. Wireless carriers that want to attract Generation Y subscribers look to [Chasma] as a resource, says Konny Zsigo, the chief executive of WirelessDeveloper, one of Chasmas business partners.
The company has worked with clients like Verizon Wireless and Qualcomm, and Bell, who is forgoing college for the time being, has become a fixture on the conference circuit. Last month, at a conference in Orlando, Fla., Bell announced the launch of the Chasma Wireless Publishing Network. Instead of simply developing games, Chasma now wants to be the William Morris Agency of wireless, matching up game developers with carriers and handset makers, taking a cut of the action as it goes. We couldve continued to be profitable as a developer [of games], Bell says, but we wouldve been one out of a thousand. Now we can represent the thousand, and be the company wireless carriers come to to identify awesome applications for them.
Every day after 3 p.m., Chasmas open-plan office pulses to the beat of techno music as employees filter in. Most of the company is testing the software that will allow developers to submit their games over the Web, and the system that will aid Chasmas reviewers in evaluating the quality of the submissions. Beta models of various wireless phones are scattered around the office. The dress code is best described as basement casual; indeed, the company was started in the cellar of Bells house, and some of the well-worn office furniture came from other founders basements.
Already Bell says that developers are sending new games their way, and wireless carriers are eager to have Chasma sort through them to find the most promising ones. Bell is raising more money from his investorsa group of fifty- and sixtysomething angels who call themselves the Breakfast Cluband he is negotiating deals with companies in China, South Africa and Europe to get Chasma-vetted games into the hands of wireless users there. But hes also beginning to bump up against the limitations of running a company whose only adult employee is a part-time CFO.