Start-up Special: The importance of community networks

Start-up Special: The importance of community networks

By Lauri Antalainen

November 15th 2012 at 10:00AM

GameFounders' Lauri Antalainen discusses the benefits of game accelerators

[This article is from a series of special features on starting your own studio, as found in Develop #133, which is available through your browser and on iPad. We'll be posting up further articles in the coming days.]

GameFounders is the first accelerator in Europe that only accepts gaming and gamification start-ups.

Located in Tallinn, Estonia, the first batch of GameFounders has six teams from six different countries – Argentina, Estonia, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania and the Netherlands – selected from 122 applicants.

The first batch is half through: it started in the beginning of September, and the Demo Days – the events where the start-ups pitch to follow-up investors and publishers – will be held at the beginning of December.

One of the participating gaming studios is Bad Seed Entertainment from Italy. The team of seven used to work at Ubisoft but then felt that they wanted to create their own games. So they quit to found their own studio and create games that they’d really like to play themselves. They have already launched an awesome game Sheep Up! for iOS, and are also working on a couple of other titles.

The co-founder of Bad Seed, Roberto Magniafico, says that as soon as they found out about GameFounders they knew that it is the boost they were looking for. The extra value added by having gaming-specific mentors was the thing that made GameFounders just that much more attractive than the other accelerators.

In fact, the opportunity to meet such high caliber people from the gaming industry was the main reason why all seven members of their team decided to leave their lives in Italy and move to Estonia for three months.

THE BUSINESS OF LEARNING

In the first half of the programme Magniafico and his colleagues have learned even more than they expected. Being technical people, most of the learning has come from the marketing and business side.

“Just as we expected, we have learned how to pitch to investors and introduce our game and team, and quite a lot about how to market it. We have also changed our business model in the process.”

More surprisingly though, they have also learned a lot about game development. “For example, back in Italy we did not turn any attention on player behavior, such as where they get stuck and leave the game. Now we have started to do that and have made quite a few changes on game dynamics, mainly making the first levels much simpler than they used to be.”

Bad Seed’s expectations for the second half of the programme and the Demo Days are high. “We have already met many potential investors and publishers and we are still in active communication with them.

“Whenever we have a game update, we send it to them and receive useful feedback. This kind of connection helps us make sure that we attract the follow-up financing after the programme is over.”

And over it will be in less than two months. While the first month was spent mainly meeting games industry experts – sometimes five-to-six a day – now the emphasis is on putting the things learned into the games, and then preparing and fine tuning the pitches to publishers and investors.

The next Demo Days will take place on November 16th in Tallinn, November 22nd at Slush in Helsinki, November 29th at Game Connection in Paris and December 10th in San Francisco. Thus there’s a lot of potential to raise the follow-up investment.

TALKING TALLINN

Magniafico likes the venue and Tallinn, too. “Tallinn is great,” he says. “It is not nearly as cold and rainy as we thought. It is clean, full of young people, there’s lots of things to do and everybody speaks English. Best of all, it is much cheaper than Italy and this is really important when you have seven people in the team”.

During his stay in Tallinn he has already made a bunch of new friends, lots of them from the other teams. “We are like one big community. At work, everybody is eager to help others out and, at weekends, we go to clubs and pubs together. That is really great”.

GameFounders has just opened the applications for the second batch. Studios can apply at www.gamefounders.com with a deadline in the beginning of December.

“I would definitely recommend applying,” concludes Magniafico. “It would take years of trial and error to learn the things that you learn here in just a few months. It would take even longer to build up such a contact network”.

And Magniafico has some tips for games developers who want to come to Tallinn to join GameFounders: “Keep an open mind. You will meet a lot of high caliber mentors. Be opened to their suggestions, even if you don’t agree in the first place. Bear in mind, no one is perfect; you are here to learn. Be ready to change your vision, but keep the personality.”

Co-founder Lauri Antalainen manages the everyday life of the GameFounder game accelerator, expands the mentor network and partnership deals, and connects start-ups to suitable mentors. www.gamefounders.com

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