From video game 🎮 to unicorn 🦄 | The Origins of Discord

Would you be able to turn down a $10 billion offer for your startup? In April 2021 Discord said "Thanks, but no" to Microsoft's billion dollar offer to stay independent.

Jason Citron has been passionate about video games since he was very young. At the age of 14 he already had extensive knowledge about computers and earned his first dollars teaching computer classes to older people.

Years later, guided by his passion for computers, he decides to study
video game design and development at Full Sail Full Sail University in Florida.

After graduating, in 2004 he started working developing video games for Papaya Studios where he had fun learning while improving his skills as a programmer.

His first work: Aurora Feint (2007-2009)

In 2007 something happened that would change Jason's life (and everyone else's) forever: Apple launched the iPhone.

From then on, Jason focused all his energies on developing games for the brand new Smartphone.

His first big hit was Aurora Feint "The Beginning": a game that was released on Appstore in 2008 and went very viral among iPhone users.

Here is a link to the demo video so you can travel back in time and remember its gameplay. However, Aurora Feint's story has a sad ending.

All versions of the game were removed from the AppStore in July 2012.

Jason's story, however, was just beginning....

Origins: Open Feint and Hammer and Chisel (2009-2013)

In 2009, Jason created his first startup.

Open Feint was a platform that integrated social features into mobile games quickly and easily.

You've probably played on the subway with some of them: Fruit Ninja, Jetpack Joyride and Tiny Wings are some of the ones that used this kind of integrations.

In 2011, Jason sells Open Feint to a Japanese video game company for $104 million.

Quite an exit, eh?

Jason would use that money to fulfill his childhood dream: to open his own video game design studio.

Thus, in 2012, Hammer and Chisel Hammer and Chisel, creators of Fates Forever, a kind of Age of Empires designed for tablets.

This game allowed Jason to detect a communication problem between the players and he came up with the idea of creating a VoIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) tool to facilitate on-line chat between them.

A unicorn is born (2015-2020)

Incubated in YouWeb, and with the financial backing of Benchmark Capital and Tencent, Discord was born, with a clear value proposition: "free voice and text chat for gamers"

There are those who remember one of Discord's first provocative slogans "Its time to ditch Teamspeak and Skype"

Main differences with Skype:

  • Easy and intuitive server invitation by copying and pasting a link
  • Discord is organized by servers, which contain text/voice channels.
  • Skype is geared towards businesses, while Discord is geared towards gamers and communities.
  • Discord allows you to connect your Twitch account, Spotify, Steam, Facebook, Reddit, Twitter, while Skype only allows you to connect with Facebook.
  • Discord does not reveal the IP of users.

In 2016 Warner Media invests $20M in the startup, which allows them to start developing better functionalities.

In January 2017, they launch the premium subscription service called Discord Nitro.

In December 2018, Discord announces a new $150M round, led by Green Oaks Capital.

Security incidents: Not everything is rosy.

To register on Discord you only need to indicate your age, an alias, and an email account.

What started as a priority for the startup (anonymity) brought some problems. Malicious activities started to be registered within the platform.

By the end of 2020 Discord publishes a list of most frequently reported topics by users. These include:

  • cyberbullying (37.3%),
  • cybercrime (theft of accounts, credentials, etc.) (12%)
  • inappropriate content (9.3%)
  • spam (7.2%)
  • distribution of hacks and cheats for games (5.5%)
  • crypto mining malware (3.5%)

To address this problem, Discord designs features for users to customize the level of privacy and data usage.

There have been reported cases of extremist ideologies proliferating on the platform, whether political, religious or social, and of hate communities against particular personalities.

In March 2020 Discord is changing its motto again.

They go from "chat for gamers" to "chat for communities and friends". A little more inclusive and in line with the growth of this type of platforms during the pandemic.

In June of the same year, they changed their slogan again, seeking to further universalize the value proposition:
"Discord: A place to talk".

Today, Discord has +150 million monthly users.

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