John Osvald, MBA 06

General Manager, FrontierVille
San Francisco

FrontierVille is a Facebook game about heading west, staking a claim, and building a frontier town in a virtual world. In the real world, FrontierVille General Manager John Osvald, MBA 06, has lived through his own version of that story.


After studying business at James Madison University and working in home finance for JP Morgan in New York City, Osvald headed west to Haas. When Osvald left behind finance to earn an MBA, he knew he wanted to plant his roots in a completely different industry. For Osvald,
gaming was that new frontier.


When he graduated from Haas in 2006, Osvald took a job at MTV in mobile gaming before becoming a director for Nickelodeon's Kids and Family Games Division. When the opportunity to join the quickly growing team at San Francisco-based Zynga arrived, he left Viacom to become a product manager for Café World, a game that lets users create and run a restaurant.


After just 18 months, Osvald's business and managerial acumen catapulted him to the general manager of FrontierVille, one of several virtual world games developed by Zynga, which today is among the world's most rapidly expanding Internet companies.


Osvald thinks his success stems from the fact that Zynga's structure complements the data-driven skill set that he developed at Haas.


"I came to Haas with the desire to build two core skills: quantitative analysis and business strategy. Haas helped build the foundation I would need to succeed in a fast paced, metrics-driven company like Zynga" he explains.


"At Zynga, it's all about metrics and analysis," Osvald adds. "Being able to model is extremely important."


Osvald's team analyzes and leverages real-time data to constantly optimize its game. "We are very good and focused at iterative design," says Osvald. "FrontierVille knows what its users want, and gives it to them."


As a result, as many as seven million users play FrontierVille every day—chopping oak trees and feeding chickens as they build a homestead. In the real world, Osvald is working to expand those numbers by ensuring there's always new wilderness for players to tame. –Adam Starr

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