ChessCube: Mark Levitt

ChessCube: Mark Levitt

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In launching ChessCube, Mark Levitt managed to combine his passion for chess with his expertise in software design and Internet marketing to create a platform for chess lovers to interact, play and learn. “ChessCube is all about fun and education – it offers chess players a social network platform where they can play each other online, and learn how to improve their game,” Levitt explains.

Seeing The Gap

With over 100 chess titles including four SA Open Championship wins under his belt, Levitt has a long history of innovation where the game’s concerned. He previously started a chess magazine and wrote software to make it cheaper and easier for chess books to be published. He also built an online chess system for British Telecom’s GamePlay.“This gave me an inkling of what was possible for online chess,” he says. In2007, Levitt sold equity he’d invested in other Internet companies to fund the start-up of ChessCube.

Leveraging“Freemium”

The site takes advantage of the much talked-about “freemium” model, offering basic applications for free and generating income by selling premium membership and products. In addition to playing online at no cost, members can download pre-recorded instruction videos from international chess masters and grandmasters free of charge. Other videos are available for purchase through the online store. “We have two new premium service offerings which will generate further income,” Levitt says. The first of these is a unique system that observes and tracks a player’s online game activity and provides tailored feedback on how to improve their game plan. Developed by Levitt, the system is among the first of its kind in the world.“The second new income stream will come from the sale of digital goods – things like skins, avatars and chess sets, all of which users can download from the site,” he adds. Here Levitt is tapping into a multi-billion dollar industry; in Asia alone, the sale of digital goods online was worth $5 billion last year.

Funding Growth

ChessCube has around 750 000 registered users. But with tens of millions of people playing chess online globally, the market is massive and Levitt is determined to capture it. With such potential,it’s unsurprising that ChessCube has caught the eye of savvy investors. Two years after launching, the site attracted angel investment from Internet marketing gurus Vinny Lingham and Michael Leeman, and this year received a R10million investment from venture capital firm, InVenFin. “This money will allow us to grow our management team and increase marketing and branding activity on the income generating products we have lined up,” says Levitt. “We’re looking forward to big things.” For more information, call +27 21 555 2019, or visit www.chesscube.com

Juliet Pitman
Juliet Pitman is a features writer at Entrepreneur Magazine.