Underdogs

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Venture Capitalists evaluate companies based on team, timing, and traction. You might be at the stage where you have great ideas and you build cool prototypes, but the VC still thinks your team is not of the right caliber, they’re too junior to achieve success on a venture scale.

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Talent and culture are everything for a gaming startup, to actually defy the odds of the hit-driven nature of the games industry.

In his Aalto lecture from 2011, Kristian Segerstråle talks about securing strategic talent for a games company.

“Understand what you’re strong at. Then what you’re weak at, and hire world-class talent to do that. Hard to do, but find a way to do it. Find an investor to help you with that. Find a way to outsource it. Find a way to just kidnap somebody. It’ll be expensive. It’ll be difficult.”

How do you get talent?

Well, you look for the underdogs. The people who have been in large gaming corporations for close to a decade, or even more, and who knows everything about the industry, but are regarded as not the top talent, not the people who would get the chance to build the next big game project at this big corporation.

As a startup founder, you want to identify the underdogs in those big organizations, and then bring them under your wings and give them a project. That’s how the startups can defy the odds of a hit-driven nature, specifically in the realm of talent.

Here’s a simple approach to identify and court the underdogs.

  1. Scout through your network of gaming people. Spot the ones who’ve never gotten a chance to lead a project, even though they have seen and been involved in big projects.
  2. Set up a meeting. Don’t offer them a job, but convince them to advise your startup, as a side project. No strings attached, “let’s see how things go”, no sweat.
  3. Get them in. Once they are advising, make them feel comfortable with you and your team, and give them access to try out new things.
  4. Wait to see a fit. In a few months, you will know if the fit is there. That’s when you start talking about bringing them on full-time.

Finding the underdogs, and getting them into key roles in startups, is the way to expand the industry, to bring up people to new levels.

Give everyone a chance to level up.