Few software companies have transformed the way we think about moving through physical space like Niantic. The creators of Pokémon GO and soon Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, Niantic has become an incredible unicorn success story, with a reported valuation of nearly $4 billion. One part AR, one part gaming, one part location, and many parts fun, the company has been brilliant in executing on an original product vision for what the future of our devices — and us — will be.
But the company didn’t start that way of course. Rather, the path to its present day success began almost two decades ago when a couple of engineers and product types came together to build the technology that would eventually power Google Earth. From those humble beginnings — and many learnings in between — did a mighty company grow.
Last month, we launched our first-ever EC-1 focused on Patreon. The goal with each EC-1 is to provide a multi-angle lens to understand why certain startups have been successful. How do they think about product? What was their business strategy? How did they learn early on to build a durable and rapidly growing company?
Through extensive interviews and research, an EC-1 acts as a case study for entrepreneurs and startup executives to learn from a company’s journey as well as a thorough analysis for industry observers and public market investors eager to understand the next big companies.
TechCrunch editor Greg Kumparak wrote this EC-1. He has covered Niantic for years, and conducted many hours of interviews with Niantic’s executive team exclusively for this report.
Niantic had no input in the content of this analysis and did not get advanced access to it. Kumparak has no financial ties to Niantic or other conflicts of interest to disclose.
The lead editor for this EC-1 was Danny Crichton, and the operations editor was Arman Tabatabai. The copyeditor was David Riggs, and the illustrations are by Nigel Sussman.
The Niantic EC-1 comprises four main articles and a bonus reading guide. Unlike the Patreon EC-1, we are going to experiment with a staggered release schedule, with part one released today and parts 2-4 and the reading guide coming over the next two weeks.
- Part 1: Origin story How a Google side project evolved into a $4 billion company (4,400 words / 18 minutes) — The long and at times turbulent founding story of one of the most successful spinouts in software history.
- Part 2: Product launch strategy Pokémon GO and the April Fools’ joke that made billions (7,900 words / 31 minutes) — The launch of Pokémon GO was wildly popular, but it wasn’t always a smooth ride.
- Part 3: Brand building and expansion Harry Potter, the Platform, and the future of Niantic (6,050 words / 24 minutes) — In 2019, how does Niantic become more than a mobile gaming company?
- Part 4: Growth strategy Nine lessons on how Niantic reached a $4B valuation (5,125 words / 21 minutes) — Takeaways from Niantic’s growth story.
Niantic is a startup, and so are we here at Extra Crunch. Let us know your feedback! Let us know what you liked, what you didn’t, and what companies you think we should look at next. You can reach the author Greg Kumparak at firstname.lastname@example.org and Extra Crunch Executive Editor Danny Crichton at email@example.com.