Episode details

Brought to you by Athletic Greens’s AG1 all-in-one nutritional supplement, Helix Sleep premium mattresses, and Shopify global commerce platform providing tools to start, grow, market, and manage a retail business. 

Elan Lee (@elanlee) is the co-creator and chief executive officer of Exploding Kittens, a leading gaming and entertainment company. Under his leadership, Exploding Kittens has expanded its portfolio to nearly 30 different games with more than 20 million games sold in more than 50 countries since its founding in 2015. 

Before founding Exploding Kittens, Lee was the chief design officer at Xbox Entertainment Studios, where he led the Interactive Entertainment Portfolio. Prior to that, he was the founder and chief creative officer of Fourth Wall Studios and co-founder of 42 Entertainment. He began his career at Microsoft Games Studios as a lead designer on the original Xbox. 

Lee has won a Primetime Emmy for the series Dirty Work; Game Innovator of the Year for Exploding Kittens; a Peabody Award for the world’s first alternate reality game, The Beast; and an IndieCade Trailblazer Award for a distinguished career in interactive entertainment, among others.

Please enjoy!

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This episode is also brought to you by Athletic Greens. I get asked all the time, “If you could use only one supplement, what would it be?” My answer is usually AG1 by Athletic Greens, my all-in-one nutritional insurance. I recommended it in The 4-Hour Body in 2010 and did not get paid to do so. I do my best with nutrient-dense meals, of course, but AG further covers my bases with vitamins, minerals, and whole-food-sourced micronutrients that support gut health and the immune system. 

Right now, Athletic Greens is offering you their Vitamin D Liquid Formula free with your first subscription purchase—a vital nutrient for a strong immune system and strong bones. Visit AthleticGreens.com/Tim to claim this special offer today and receive the free Vitamin D Liquid Formula (and 5 free travel packs) with your first subscription purchase! That’s up to a one-year supply of Vitamin D as added value when you try their delicious and comprehensive all-in-one daily greens product.


This episode is also brought to you by Helix SleepHelix was selected as the #1 overall mattress of 2020 by GQ magazine, Wired, Apartment Therapy, and many others. With Helix, there’s a specific mattress to meet each and every body’s unique comfort needs. Just take their quiz—only two minutes to complete—that matches your body type and sleep preferences to the perfect mattress for you. They have a 10-year warranty, and you get to try it out for a hundred nights, risk-free. They’ll even pick it up from you if you don’t love it. And now, Helix is offering 20% off all mattress orders plus two free pillows at HelixSleep.com/Tim.


[06:00] Poetry For Neanderthals and collaborating with creative cohorts.

[16:41] Kitty Test Pilots and core gameplay loops.

[22:21] Crowdfunding, alternate reality games, and internet archaeology.

[25:54] Matthew Inman and The Oatmeal millions.

[32:18] The perils of operating faster than the speed of Gmail.

[34:06] Converting casual fans into superfans.

[34:51] What not to do when your Kickstarter goes better than expected.

[36:51] The budget of production needs to fit the fun.

[43:01] Does size matter?

[44:44] From direct-to-consumer sales to being featured in big box stores.

[47:07] Building a game from scratch quickly.

[52:26] Guiding principles.

[56:37] Foundational game recommendations for beginners.

[1:05:10] Is Settlers of Catan the game you think it is?

[1:07:35] Lessons learned from game design veteran Jordan Weisman.

[1:08:50] If you built Jar Jar Binks’ neck, they practically let you run the place.

[1:11:38] If you can’t rock the vote, then clothe the vote.

[1:15:35] Other practical Jordanisms.

[1:16:55] Steven Spielberg and The Beast.

[1:23:19] Hate playing Candy Land with your kids? Design new games with them.

[1:28:02] Growing Exploding Kittens from a game into a company.

[1:32:56] International shipping nightmares.

[1:36:13] Why an open-door policy had to be shut.

[1:38:27] Employees and their roles.

[1:41:50] Milestones.

[1:43:06] When big asks get big results.

[1:47:18] Investor expectations.

[1:52:15] What kind of retirement does someone who makes fun for a living envision?

[1:56:07] Dance partners, algorithm defiance, and other parting thoughts.


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Published on Feb 02, 2023 in Entrepreneurship
US English


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