Prairie Portrait: George Jurgens of Hatchlings
Name: George Jurgens
Bio: I'm complicated and interesting at the same time, a displaced-Dutchman with a keen interest in tech and gadgets. Apparently, I am what some anthropologists would call a "third culture kid," having lived in 10 countries and no real national identity. A recent graduate from the University of Kent in the UK with a business administration degree, in Des Moines working with the Hatchlings team only temporarily as my visa won't permit much more!
Title: Marketing Intern at Hatchlings
Residence: Panora/Des Moines, Iowa (currently); Antwerp, Belgium (permanent residency); from The Netherlands (nationality); went to College in Canterbury, Kent, England
Website: georgejurgens.com (a little late to the party as a "tech geek" I bought my very first URL once I started working at Hatchlings, as we were road tripping to Austin, Texas for the FB World Hack)
Intro music: "Damn," by Styles of Beyond feat. Michael Buble
Silicon Prairie News: What led you to Des Moines and Hatchlings?
George Jurgens: Eight years ago I was invited to a friend originally from Iowa’s lake house on Lake Panorama. Ever since then I’ve been visiting every year and got to know Brad through mutual friends.
After graduating from university this year in England, I started looking for jobs with startups in the U.S. Brad was an ideal contact and offered me a position with Hatchlings, a business I've seen grow over the last few years. I didn’t realize until I started work at Hatchlings how huge the startup scene in the Midwest is, and I am excited to see where it will be in 10 years. Depending on how the visa situation goes, I’d love to stick around and be a part of that growth.
SPN: What's the latest with Hatchlings 2.0, and what has been the marketing approach to accompany the new release?
GJ: Currently we are in a re-startup phase as we’ve rebuilt our core product, Hatchlings. Our users are what make our game and come from all over the world (primarily in English-speaking, Tier 1 countries). It’s been awesome having users so dedicated to the game and help us build our product through their feedback.
From a marketing perspective it’s been really interesting to see the difference in the original versus the new product — it’s a lot more fluid and getting better by the week as we enhance the features and build in new ones. Unfortunately I wasn’t with Hatchlings for the initial beta release, but now my current goal is to re-engage the dedicated user base from Version 1 by having our users serve as social advocates via Open Graph and News Feed. Additionally I’m extremely excited about a new feature on Facebook Advertising called “Custom Audiences” allowing us to further target ads to the right audience based on email addresses and Facebook IDs.
SPN: How would you describe your experience at the Facebook World Hack event last month in Austin?
GJ: While not being directly involved in the event itself, I had the opportunity to observe the building of what is now a major feature within our game. Brad Dwyer and David Ziemann put together the “Berry Social Bar”, a social sidebar facilitated by Firebase that can be added to any website for more social interaction between the users. Soon after returning from the Hackathon we implemented it into Hatchlings, allowing our users to chat with other users from across the world in real-time. Not only do we love it as it has improved our users’ experience with the game, but our users seem to really love it, since it’s allowed the game to be even more social than it was before.
SPN: You've said you possess an "entrepreneurial drive." How, if at all, has the experience of living so many places contributed to that entrepreneurial spirit?
GJ: I define an entrepreneur as a person with no boundaries and a go-for-it attitude when it comes to a unique situation. I’m in a fairly unique situation where I’ve been fortunate enough to travel extensively and live in many countries around the world. Because of this I believe it’s shaped my approach in taking full advantage of a great opportunity when it arises, no matter where that opportunity may be. I’ve seen a lot of friends turn down great jobs because they aren’t willing to take that step, so I’m grateful to have had that experience.
Getting this job with Hatchlings here in the U.S. isn’t the end of my “coming over” experience, but merely the beginning. Jumping through the hoops required and pushing money in various directions to get a temporary J-1 Student Visa has been quite a journey in itself, but well worth it for the experience I’ve gained with Hatchlings so far.
SPN: What are three tech tools you find useful for keeping in touch and conveying stories of your travels to friends and family in other places?
GJ: Family and friends are a huge part of my life, but oddly enough I’ve rarely ever felt “homesick” despite traveling so much. Part of that stems from home always being a moving target for me, but really what bridges the gap for me has been technology. I’ve found having an unlocked smartphone with Skype and WhatsApp on call has allowed me to stay in close contact with family and friends worldwide. No matter where I am, I can send pictures, give updates on what’s happening and have the occasional conversation at no cost whatsoever as long as Wi-Fi is around.
Credits: Photo by Malone & Company.
Prairie Portraits: To learn more about this series, see our introduction post, or visit our archives for past Prairie Portraits. To suggest an individual for a future Prairie Portrait, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
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