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Featured on Aug 02, 2011

Chieh Huang

"If there’s no plan, then everything’s according to plan. "


I’m the CEO of Astro Ape, one of the fastest growing mobile social gaming companies in the Estados Unidos.  I graduated from The Johns Hopkins University’s School of Arts and Crafts and then went to get my legal education on at Fordham. Eventually, I found myself practicing fund formation and sports law before taking the plunge and blasting off with Astro Ape.  After getting yelled at by my mom in Mandarin Chinese and wooing my Japanese wifey with some Nihongo, I’m pretty good at both. I also took six years of Spanish, but all I remember is Estados Unidos.

  • Title: CEO, Astro Ape
  • Age: 29
  • Location: Flatiron District
  • Contact: @AstroChieh

Did you have a hard time deciding to “take the plunge” with Astro Ape?

At first it was hard, and I lost a lot of sleep over it.  I mean, most people I knew were either losing their jobs or clinging on by their fingernails -- why would I voluntarily leave mine?  But after taking some time off, I realized I had to give it a shot or else I'd live my life looking in the rear-view.  Recessions bring a lot of hardship, but they also bring a lot of opportunities for industry-wide disruptions to occur.

Growing up in the 80’s and 90’s, did you play a lot of arcade and console videogames? What are the biggest similarities and differences in running a console gaming business versus a mobile social gaming business?  

Oh man, I can't even start describing how many games I played in the 80's and 90's.  From Zelda, NBA Jam, Chrono Trigger and Street Fighter, to Final Fantasy, NBA Live and Virtua Cop -- it's safe to say I spent a good deal of my childhood at Menlo Park Mall either in the arcade or at Electronics Boutique oggling the latest 3DO/NeoGeo game.  I think the common ground between console and mobile social gaming is at the intersection of fast iteration and innovation.  Both are important to stay relevant and to attract new users.  However, I think the main difference (outside of production budget size) is the mindset of "shipping a product".  Though it's starting to shift, most console studios still see ship dates as a time to celebrate and to move on.  Whereas in the social gaming world, ship dates are actually when the heavy lifting begins and when the real user maximization starts.    

Do you get to speak a lot  Mandarin and Japanese outside of the house around NYC? If you had to learn another language, what would it be and why?

Absolutely!  DeNA is an Astro Ape investor and though we use English at our meetings, knowledge of the culture and the occasional Japanese phrase does a lot to help bridge the cultural divide.  I wish I had the chance to use more Mandarin outside of the house, but lately it only comes out when I'm on Canal Street, or giving directions to a tourist.  If I had the chance to learn another language, it would definitely be Portuguese.  I think opportunities are abundant when a country has a booming middle class -- something that China currently has, and something that Brazil definitely is poised to have in the coming years.  Plus, I think if you spoke some Portuguese, the guys at the Brazilian BBQ places would hook it up with the good stuff, not the stuff you've turned down 3 times already.     

Do you get to apply aspects of that education in your everyday work with Astro Ape?

It's tempting for me to say that because I'm in social gaming now, I wasted the three years of my life that I spent in law school.  The reality is though, I use what I learned in school and in practice everyday at Astro Ape.  It really has taught me how to avoid a lot of the early pitfalls that ensnare startups; but more importantly (and this may sound strange), it has taught me what I don't know and when it's time to call in a specialist.