Every day, teams across Roblox solve complex technical challenges and build innovative solutions that bring our vision and mission to life. To accelerate this work, Roblox continually looks for startups that can bring new domain expertise, skills, and capabilities that can advance the Roblox platform.
“Roblox is a highly innovative company with a very broad product and technology surface area. Our Corporate Development strategy accelerates innovation by bringing in talented and innovative startups that are vision-aligned,” said Kyle Price, Chief of Staff & Head of Corporate Development.
We spoke with eight former founders that join Roblox through acquisition. Below are their stories about why they decided to join and stay at Roblox. Five key themes quickly emerged from these conversations.
Roblox’s vision and mission is inspiring
Our vision to reimagine the way people come together guides everything we do from the decisions we make to where we invest our time and resources. For Jim Greer, co-founder & CEO of Bash Video, Roblox’s vision echoed the core of what he and his team were aiming to do with Bash, a social-video conferencing platform they founded in 2018. Always passionate about building communities and enabling developer success, Jim recalled, “From the start [Bash’s] vision and approach dovetailed well with Roblox’s mission of connecting people with civility.”
This was also true for Clint Sereday, co-founder of Byfron Technologies, a company dedicated to developing software that safeguards against reverse engineering and tampering in-game. “We had a common vision for safe and civil gaming experiences. This shared aspiration reinforced that it wasn’t just a transaction, but an opportunity for us to really accelerate the impact of what we were trying to accomplish in the first place.”
Roblox’s vision offered Rebecca Kantar, who leads Education Partnerships at Roblox, an opportunity to continue her mission-oriented work. In 2015, Rebecca co-founded Imbellus, a company that developed simulation-based assessments for use in education and employment contexts. “There is a huge opportunity to think about gaming as just the first vertical Roblox tackles,” she shared. “Now, we’re thinking about how we can enable learning and teaching with Roblox.”
Roblox acquired Imbellus in 2020 and began using its assessment technology as part of its hiring process and applying the team’s knowledge about the education market to start thinking of new opportunities. “We were fortunate to meet Dave in 2020 and started talking about how Roblox had an exciting application for our technology,” said Rebecca. “Our partnership came to life because Roblox’s aspirations to expand into new verticals, like education, aligned very well with the domain expertise and capabilities we brought.”
In 2016, Mahesh Ramasubramanian and Kiran Bhat launched a startup called Loom.ai, which built plugins that created personalized, expressive 3D digital avatars generated from photographs. The underlying technology used machine learning and artificial intelligence.
From Mahesh’s point of view, it was also Roblox’s focus on the future vision that impressed the Loom.ai team. “We believed that the future was 3D. Roblox was already in the world of 3D and they really understood the range of applications – that consumers could use avatars, video, and messaging in 3D on a daily basis”
“We were sort of on the early side of bringing AI-driven technologies to a consumer audience,” said Kiran. “We ran several experiments and discovered that other game engine platforms run into problems when trying to bring four, even five people into the same 3D space. But with Roblox, we saw that they could support hundreds of avatars in a complex scene. Overall, there was a lot of synergy between what we were doing and where Roblox was going.”
Roblox provides an opportunity to scale impact and accelerate technical innovation
A common theme that we also heard from a number of founders was that Roblox’s scale would enable them to accelerate their impact. Eli Brown joined Roblox from Guilded, a chat platform for gaming communities, 4 years after founding Guilded. “Roblox is a platform with millions of daily users and has an incredibly robust developer community. At the time, Roblox had room for growth in the communication space. We happened to be building communication technology that we could scale to the millions of users that Roblox had and would be a valuable new capability.”
In October 2019, Brina Lee founded Hamul. They built a tool that added video overlays to games, letting users connect with friends while playing. The tool became a pandemic hit, but it wasn’t until Brina and the team began discussions with Roblox that the full extent of the business opportunity came into focus.
“When we began Hamul, we thought we’d only build for teens and adults. But when we talked to Roblox, we realized there was a huge opportunity to build for all ages through their platform.”
Today, Brina and the rest of the Hamul team are bringing their skills and technology to reinvent what everyday communication will look like on Roblox.
Clint also saw joining Roblox as a chance to scale Byfron’s impact. He said, “We wanted to bring our technology (anti-cheat software) and services to more experiences. I felt like getting the chance to work on the Roblox platform and with a large, passionate developer community meant that even more people could benefit from what we were building.”
The overall process makes people feel valued as teammates and partners
Many shared examples about the collaborative process and how the Roblox team actively sought to bring people in with different perspectives, experiences, and ideas.
“The entire process was just very collaborative… It felt like the Roblox team cared about us and what we were trying to accomplish,” said Clint. “We had several conversations about how we were both progressing. We shared our tech and the Roblox team did a really thorough assessment of it, giving us great feedback along the way.”
“Dave knew about our team’s experience with developing browser-based, user-generated content platforms. The team’s capabilities were very aligned to what Roblox was doing,” said Jim. “So when it came to Bash, it wasn’t necessarily about the technology that we were building. Dave recognized our value as a group of six people who had a successful track record of building things, who would bring additive competencies, and who could help Roblox achieve its vision.”
Teams are thoughtfully integrated into the company
Teams are given the time and space needed to integrate successfully into Robolox. This creates an environment in which they can balance contributing expertise while retaining a level of autonomy.
“We had six months to operate more independently,” mentioned Eli about Guilded’s acquisition. “Figuring out how to take a team that’s been independent and integrate them thoughtfully into the company – while maintaining our team identity – takes a lot of thought and care.” Today, the Guilded team is part of the User Group and Eli’s role has since evolved to leading the Community Team, which is responsible for building a community platform that makes it easy to create and join vibrant communities on Roblox.
As Kiran recalled, “Dave instinctively understood how difficult it is to bring personalized avatars using AI and ML to the 3D space. He understood that this challenge takes time to solve. Given our value of taking the long view, once we joined, we were given the time and resources to build as an autonomous group. It takes a lot of patience and rigor to innovate like we need to, but I think that’s where Roblox shines.”
“When I joined Roblox in 2022, I was able to develop my own engineering pod and continue working on what we were doing before,” said Chris Kirmse, founder of Athenascope, a platform for video game content creators to develop video clips. “You have to take responsibility for what you want to do, but there’s a strong sense of encouragement and support from leadership at every step of the way.”
Roblox’s culture of innovation continues to fuel the entrepreneurial spirit of these founders
The founders also shared that Roblox has enabled them to expand their technology and impact. “When Kiran and I joined, we wondered how we could make sure we continue to innovate just like we were doing as a startup.” said Mahesh. “We’ve created a new technology initiative and are taking on more than just avatar emotion. We’re now looking at things like voice safety, body tracking, and more which require new machine learning technologies.”
Mahesh and Kiran are now part of a company-wide effort to build what’s next in terms of avatars and expression. “We only started this new technology initiative six months back, but it’s great to see the strong interest in keeping innovation going and how committed leadership is to supporting it from where they prioritize resources, investments, all the way to helping us with patents.”
Brina continues to embrace the push for innovation. Building on the expertise she brought from Hamul, she is part of the team that just launched Roblox Connect. Brina summarized, “It’s been exciting to continue bringing new technologies to market and getting closer to our vision of helping people reimagine how they come together.”
We’re committed to fostering an environment where passionate individuals and teams can bring their expertise and help us build innovative technologies for the Roblox platform. If you and your team are looking for a partner who can accelerate your company’s impact then, then let’s chat.