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I’m halfway done with creating the course material for the Gaming Angel Fellowship and soon starting to record interviews with some angel investors. These interviews will be exclusive for the Fellowship, so stay tuned for more updates on that.
On to this week’s news.
🙀 Difficult experiences are transformative ones
I went on to found Elite Game Developers last year.
It was scary to start posting content, publishing podcast episodes. I felt discomfort from angel investing in companies. But in a few months, it felt half as frightening. In another few months, the scariness went down by another 50%.
In 2005, I felt discomfort from starting my first games company. But I didn’t feel discomfort about starting Next Games. I did feel discomfort from leaving Supercell, but the transformation from a safe paying job to going back to entrepreneurship made total sense in the end.
Even with a negative outcome, you can at least learn from it. That’s the great thing about being wrong since you are learning something. When things are going great, you end up saying “Look at me, I’m the best.” That’s not a place where learning happens.
You have to get out of your comfort zone to grow. Here are some day-to-day practices for seeking out things to do that are of discomfort.
- Talk directly to your players
- Launch an unpolished game
- Reach out to a successful games company CEO for advice
🤔 Revisiting gaming startup advisors
I’ve written about advisors before, but the topic keeps coming up. I’m meeting regularly with founders, and I often see pitch decks littered with advisory boards. I always ask one crucial question: What kind of work commitment do you have with the advisors?
The most common answer is that they are there to help with intros and are doing random sparring sessions.
That’s all fine, but founders could ask for more from their advisors. Many people out there could be willing to spend more time and level up the founders and their business with some hands-on work.
I’m talking about incubation. How does that work?
I’ve been working with a few gaming companies, where I believe that they have the potential of leveling up through some incubation work. I spend six to twelve months with the company, putting in an hour a week and one full day every month or so, to guide them through the hurdles and challenges.
Here are three areas where my incubation can help:
- Who is missing from the team?
- Have they figured out the market?
- Systems for testing the game
I can only do one or two incubations at a time because my time is limited. But since there are many people out there, who are experienced and can take on advisor work, you could reach out to these people if you’re seeking help.
This incubation model requires more work, but it’s the best way to provide value to a startup if you’re thinking about getting into advising, or as founders, you’re seeking an advisor.
🎮 Panel: Scaling a gaming studio
Joseph Kim from GameMakers shared a panel discussion recently on his Youtube channel.
Joseph’s panelists were:
- Travis Boatman, Carbonated
- Gigi Levy-Weiss, NFX (on my podcast)
- Kristian Segerstråle, Super Evil Megacorp (on my podcast)
Here are my main takeaways:
JK: What are the mistakes that [studios] can run into when starting to deploy capital?
Travis: One of the mistakes we made [was] we took over a small team from another games company. And we got to see firsthand how shifts in culture and different types of staff collide with each other. And that was a real wake up call to take staffing and hiring real seriously.
Gigi: The main thing that I see game companies making mistake is I see people raising a few million, and then taking a year and a half to build something. Why would you ever want to take that much time of your life and build something that you don’t know if it’s going to work? [Regarding] first hires, that’s the only place where I allow for slowness because you want to make sure that you’re getting the right people.
Kristian: It’s one of the mistakes that have burned themselves deepest into my brain through my career has been that you need that near-death moment in your company to really align the team. People get into a game startup for lots of different reasons: for creative reasons, doing all sorts of exciting things. But until it hits that we are about to run out of cash, and if we do not channel all of our talent, to shipping fast, learning, and making something commercially successful. Like that moment needs to happen.
JK: If you’re creatively driven or data-driven, how do you focus? Or how do you think about your business differently in each of those situations?
Kristian: [In a games company,] any one person cannot see the whole picture, because they can only see from the perspective of engineering, or design, or creative, or data, or whatever it might be. Seniors can see more angles, but nobody can see all of them. So the trick is to be able to figure out how to create a culture where you can listen enough and still hold on to a vision, and then have someone that relentlessly executes, and shifts quickly.
Gigi: There’s this saying that I love that, in every company, you should always prefer attitude over skill. Meaning that if you’ve got somebody that just ticks all the boxes on skills, versus somebody that maybe misses something, but is the person with the right attitude, that’s going to bring value to the company dramatically more over time. Because the one with the wrong DNA is going to be a liability eventually. They’re going to slow other people down, and eventually are going to leave. I think in games companies, it’s enhanced by 10X [because of the complexity.]
Listen to the full panel on JK’s Youtube channel.
📄 New post: 20 Reasons Why Investors Will Say NO
In April, I wrote about the ten reasons why investors will be saying NO to your games company. After spending more time with startups and seeing why some miss out on funding, I wrote down ten more reasons for getting the NO.
🎙 Salone Sehgal, Lumikai Fund
This week on the podcast, I’m talking with Salone Sehgal, General Partner at Lumikai Fund, which is the first seed-stage gaming fund focusing on the Indian market. Salone has a career in banking and finance, which she left to found a gaming startup. Later on, she joined London Venture Partners, where she was until recently. In this episode, we talk about Salone’s experiences in gaming, how the Indian market is evolving, and how she’s developing her investing skills.
📃 Articles Worth Reading
+ Software Plumbing — “I have a working theory that software plumbing consists of families of companies that grow up together, working in lockstep to provide the underpinning for new applications and business models. As an example, the primitives of a user-facing web application are identity, messaging, and payments. See Auth0, Twilio, and Stripe. Several new clusters are coming into the fold, and the (non-exhaustive) list is worth sharing.”
+ Pre-launch testing for mobile games — “Since your users in open beta are ‘wild’ (not specifically invited) this is a close approximation of how players will interact with your game once live. This makes it perfect for testing key KPIs, the popularity of different game loops, the flow of the economy, and load testing.”
+ The Chief of Staff role in Silicon Valley — “A Chief of Staff is the right-hand person and force-multiplier to an executive, often the CEO. This can mean many things depending on the needs of the company and executive, and can change over time, but typically encompasses managing the executive’s priorities, overseeing staff/internal operations, and spearheading special projects.”
💬 Quote that I’m thinking about
“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone”
— Blaise Pascal
Sponsored by ironSource
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Sponsored by Opera Event
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That’s all for this week. Take care and stay safe!