Sam and Richard introduce Vincent Vergonjeanne, a French entrepreneur who takes us through how he built a successful ninety-person video game company, why he escaped it and moved to Krakow, and how he finally created his dream company producing beautiful, world-class video games, “One game at a time.”
Table of contents, resources and links
Resources and links:
Table of contents:
- 00:47 Sam’s intro
- 02:04 Vincent’s first company Kobojo
- 02:53 Vincent’s move to Krakow
- 04:18 The birth of EveryDayiPlay
Bootstrapping vs Raising Capital
- 04:50 The down-side of funding
- 06:35 The beauty of lean startup model
- 07:37 The right time to raise money
- 08:00 Don’t fall in love too fast
- 09:40 Vikings Gone Wild and free-to-play games
The Talent Pool in Krakow
- 13:28 Seagry Bryn came to Poland for the talent
- 13:47 From Microsoft in Ireland to Krakow
- 16:00 The beauty of Krakow for foreign business people
- 18:01 How Vincent got the programming bug
- 21:13 Sam’s past using remote workers
- 24:00 The magic of local work in Krakow
- 26:28 How to make remote teams work
The Designer/Programmer Dance
- 30:05 The different types of designers
- 33:22 Vincent’s next game
- 36:01 “One game at a time”
- 36:58 The power of focus
Where are we now?
- 38:06 Where EveryDayiPlay is now
- 39:15 The benefit of being small
- 41:29 If you’re a video game developer, get in touch
- 42:31 Why any entrepreneur should consider Krakow
- 44:35 Outro
Hello again #ProjectKazimierz listener. This is Sam Cook, the co-host of #ProjectKazimierz, sitting here with Richard Lucas, as always. How are you doing, Richard?
I’m doing very well.
Alright Richard, today, as is the tradition, you bring one of your contacts or friends from the startup community here in Kraków, and we’re going to interview him. So we have an interesting case today here of Vincent, who’s from France. Richard, why don’t you tell us a little more about Vincent, and then we’ll introduce him.
Okay. As a well educated English person, my French is way worse than a well educated French person’s English. Vincent Vergonjeanne I met three or four years ago I suppose, when he was presenting at a startup community event. He’s a very busy guy, I’m a very busy guy, so we don’t meet that often, but we got to know each other and certainly clicked on a business and personal level. I remember Vincent making an announcement about the sort of project he wanted to run. But I think rather than me introduce him, I’d like you to do it yourself, and so why don’t you explain your background before you moved to Poland, what brought you here, what you tried to do, and then maybe we’ll move on to the success story of the company you now run.
Sure. Hi Sam, hi Richard, thanks for having me here. How I came here is, I’m in the video game business. I’m a programmer by trade, but in 2009 I actually co-founded a company called Kobojo, which was a social gaming company which got quite some success. At the time we were one of the first French companies to have social games on Facebook. We had over a million daily active users. We raised quite a large amount of money, about 7.1 million dollars in 2011, grew the business to 90 people, and for plenty of reasons, mostly personal, I moved to Poland in 2012 and set up a new video game company. The shape of that new company obviously was highly influenced by all the learnings that I had growing such a, I would not say large business but medium-sized business, 90 people started to be quite a mad-house. It’s been two years and a half that I’ve been here, and things are going pretty well.
Ok, and when you came you were presented as a highly successful French entrepreneur with the Kobojo success story. I later discovered that… I think originally you were perceived as a multi-multi-millionaire who was fabulously wealthy, and it turned out that it wasn’t quite that good, but on the other hand you had enough security to come here and take some risks. Is that correct?
Yeah. To share some details on that, we did not sell the company, but we did exit by selling a company that Kobojo used to run. So I came to Poland without too much financial trouble, and took advantage of that freedom to set up EveryDayiPlay and self-finance it. I spent some time also in the community, looking at where I could invest some of my money. But it was one of the lessons, that raising money was extremely helpful for Kobojo at the time, but it comes also with some trades, and starting from scratch I definitely knew I wanted to get that freedom of self-funding. I was lucky to be able to do so.
Vincent, one of the really interesting points you just brought up that I’d like to dig into a little bit and emphasize is having raised money once before understanding that it’s not all roses when you do raise money and wanting to self-finance that. I think one of the misconceptions I see in the startup community here, and it’s common I think in any startup community, is the goal is the raise money, because entrepreneurs see that as a badge of success. How would you talk someone through your experience of dealing with raising money and why it’s good to try to self-finance as long as humanly possible?
Well, first of all, raising money is an incredibly defocussing exercise. It takes a lot of your energy. We were very lucky at Kobojo. We had one of the most experienced financial advisors we could find in to raising this money. They helped us, even making some of our decks, organising all of our meetings, and even with his help, raising that money took some time. I think that when you’re in the early stage, especially if you’re trying to disrupt, this is a major defocus. I have plenty of stories of people who got everything wrong because they didn’t manage to get the product right, because they were so busy, constantly on the road trying to convince people to put money in, and also didn’t get a chance to raise money because they were so focussed on that, the product didn’t work out. So when it came to due-diligence and getting closer to the numbers, things were not really pink. I think there’s a huge value… I’m a huge, huge believer, everywhere I go – I’ve been lucky enough to be invited to Mantra October Experience – the one key thing I do for every one of the companies I’ve funded is to follow the lean startup model. I’m a huge fan of that. I’m an engineer, so it helps a lot that I can build things by myself. I just need my sweat, my patience, and my time. I’m a huge believer in trying really hard, and sometimes it’s not even building a product. There’s a fabulous book on this which is called Running Lean, where the author explained how he wrote the book, and the minimum viable product of that book was just a single blog post, where he was saying, “Hey, I’m writing this book in July this year. If you’re interested, leave your email.” That was the minimum viable product, and I think it’s fantastic, just demonstrating there was traction, and there was so he actually ended up doing this book. Having raised money, I think the best moment to raise money is to have done your own homework, to make sure that your business is scalable, has traction, and makes money. Because otherwise you will waste your time, and waste the time of investors. Just to conclude, there is one thing that is at my heart in this, and that’s the way I try to explain it, is entrepreneurs – we tend to fall in love with our ideas. That’s something we have to be very careful about. I try to be as emotionally detached as I can, during these early phases, even in video games. Before the launch of Vikings Gone Wild, which was the first product at EveryDayiPlay, the months before the launch, and we worked on it for eight months, I had a one-to-one with every one of my employees and said, “Listen, we’re about to soft-launch this game, we might shut it down next month if it’s not working out. I just want you to know that.” I think it’s important not to date the wrong girl too long. That’s the thing with dating, you might fall in love with a girl, but if you’re allergic to cats, and she has cats all over her house, just let it go, it’s not for you. I think that as entrepreneurs, there are so many ideas where we can spend our time on. Getting the right one, which is one that has the right traction, has money ties, and has the right market size is incredibly important. So before trying to raise money and scale this up, do this homework, because when you will go to actually raise money, you will be able to do the demonstration that you know what you’re doing, and you know why you need money, and how this money can actually grow the business, and not just support your potential research, and potential failure.
“The best moment to raise money is to have done your own homework, to make sure that your business is scalable, has traction, and makes money. Because otherwise you will waste your time.”
We’ll put a link to your company website in the show notes that go with the podcast. Maybe not everyone will be aware what Vikings Gone Wild is. I remember when you first announced it at one of the startup community meetings, that you want someone to help you develop a leading, or the leading city defence game, I didn’t know what a city defence game was. You talked about in-game articles, and monetisation. Maybe you could say, with a couple of statistics of what the business is doing now, in terms of traffic, and maybe any revenue figures you’re willing to share. Because I remember the days when you got your first customers, which were pretty exciting. What is the game and where is it now, and when did you first realise it might succeed?
I’m in the social gaming business, and what we do at EveryDayiPlay is called “free to play” games. The model is that our games are free to download, and we monetise through micro-transactions within the game. What kind of micro-transaction? Transactions that will help you accelerate, real-time, will help you buy some better equipment, basically virtual items or currency that will affect or improve your in-game experience. At Kobojo we used to do that, but with a target called “casual games”, which is a very wide audience, and the business model of those types of games required a very large amount of users, because the average revenue per user will be around two to three cents, on a daily basis. Starting at EveryDayiPlay again, and knowing that I didn’t have the type of traffic that Kobojo had at that time, because that time was gone and it’s a different era, we’re doing what’s called “mid-core gaming” which is basically games that are slightly more difficult, aimed at hard-core players in a sense, but with a visual that still wants to be for a wide audience. This has been successful for us. We see about twenty cents per active daily users. And this has allowed us to make a profitable business with a lot less traffic than Kobojo used to have. The company today makes between a hundred and a hundred and fifty thousand dollars a month, we employ 22 people, and thanks also to Poland’s, I would say, cost of running a business here, it leaves us enough room to make benefits and stay free of publishers or investors for a while. So that will be a picture of what we do and where we’re at.
You raised the issue of the cost of doing business here and part of the purpose of this #ProjectKazimierz podcast is to underline to people who might have no idea where Kazimierz is, where Kraków is, where Poland is, that there’s this country in Europe which can be an attractive place for a tech entrepreneur such as yourself from France or from wherever. We just had earlier today we were talking to the former head of Google Kraków, who said that Sergey Brin from Google said they didn’t come to Poland because it’s cheap, they were looking for talent. Maybe you could comment on the cost, and also on the quality of the people that you’re hiring, some of whom I know. I think one of the co-founders of a business I invested in that failed, Michał is now working for you, so I know something about the talents available, but could you comment that?
Yeah, actually it’s a great story. My story with Poland actually started a while back. I used to work for Microsoft in Ireland in 2006 as a programmer, and I was the third programmer hired off what would become a forty-developer team two years later. When I left that team two years later, actually half of those developers were Polish. Not because of Polish migration in Ireland, but because of the fact that they were just the most talented guys we had, and we were flying them over from Wrocław, from Kraków, from Warsaw to Ireland. It turns out that when I left Kobojo, we initially wanted to move to San Francisco, which is where my wife is from, but her parents recently at the time moved to Kraków and proposed, “Why don’t you spend some time with us?” I knew the cost of living was cheaper, but I also knew that there were really talented developers in the country, so put together, it was a no-brainer. I knew I wanted to self-finance this company, and I knew that there was no way to self finance this in a another studio, moving to San Francisco, so it became almost a no-brainer for me to move here. Once I moved here, not only did I find talented developers, but I also found really really talented artists. Overall, I think there are really really nice people. I have no will to move out of this country any time soon. On top of that, Kraków is as absolutely beautiful city with a beautiful structure. 250,000 students, or 200,000 students, a very active nightlife, a very energetic city. At the end of the day, I am incredibly happy to be here.
I think you mentioned the attitude to foreigners. Particularly in a time when many countries are putting up barriers, the fact that, for whatever historical reasons, whether it’s Kraków’s traditional center as a trading hub, or whether it’s the artificial exclusion from the world economy thanks to communism means that people are glad to be going in the other direction, foreign business people such as yourself, and me, and Sam for that matter, feel very welcome here. It goes against the image that sometimes the media gives us the impression that central Europe’s rather intolerant, but it feels, and you’ve told me yourself, you really feel welcome here, right?
Yeah absolutely. There is also something important is that, when I moved here, I did not speak Polish, and I’m still in the process to do so. I remember very perfectly, being in Microsoft, interviewing all those people, which all had incredible perfect English, and I was asking them, “So where did you live to learn?” – “I’ve never left Poland before.” So I think the language barrier is very low, in my opinion, especially in the age bracket of the people I work with. I think the age average of my company is twenty-seven. So that really helps a lot as well, because I never felt any barrier language since I’ve been here.
There’s a bit of your life history that you left out. I remember we were talking about different kinds of social issues, and there had been some riots somewhere, and you were saying you weren’t that far away from being a kid on the streets who might be taking part in a riot, rather than being worried about it. What sort of characteristics were in you, and remember we have people from all over the world listening, and the idea of a kid on the streets in Paris or wherever ending up being a technology entrepreneur via Microsoft might have seemed like an unlikely journey. What do you think it was about you that made you entrepreneur material, if you do a self-analysis of your own personality, because people don’t really know what you’re like, from the basis of what we’ve asked you so far.
Thanks for asking this question. The story is, I was 12 years old and I had a scientific magazine that had one programming section, which was very compact quick basic code. I went to my Dad, we had just acquired a brand new computer, and I asked him can I type this inside the computer. I didn’t know at the time you could use a quick basic compiler. I diligently typed every single letter, pressed F5 and this stuff showed me circles bouncing on a screen, and I was absolutely amazed. I think that was the starting point. The key of it was that as a 12 year-old, I found a place where I could, you know on the edge of being a teenager, create and define a world in the shape I wanted to. There was also something that my father absolutely refused for me to have a video game console, at the time. I don’t know why. He was, “Ah, we have a PC. We’ll never by a video game console.” But there were not many games on this stuff. So combining both, I decided to write games. I wrote about eight video games from 13 to 19 years old. I was lucky to find my best friend at the time who was an artist in becoming, a guy really really talented, and we just spent our time together all the time. He was making art, I was making code. I think that the story you’re talking about is that unfortunately I was born in a fairly poor and not so happy place in the South suburbs of Paris, and a lot of my friends at the time didn’t end up in such good places. But the fact that I knew I wanted to be a programmer, I had this capacity to create, to express myself, changed completely the way I look at life, and I knew at 16 what I wanted to do with my life in a very strong way. So that actually shaped a lot of stuff. I’ve been trying to share this with the younger, as a teacher, and also trying to organize some NGO directed to teaching video-game programming to kids, to kind of reprocess my experience and share it.
Vincent, I think one of the things for our listeners who have some experience in this that you brought up that I’d like to explore a little bit is the programmer–artist relationship. I’ve been amazed, because I’ve always worked remotely with developers and designers, and it wasn’t until I came to Kraków and found this incredible talent pool that I started to hire designers first, and then the designers were complaining that their design wasn’t being implemented properly, so they wanted the developers next to them, and I quickly realised that I needed to shut everything down everywhere else I had it going, and just centralise my operations in one office. The thing that I’ve found, and everyone talks about AGH, and the programming side of Kraków, but I think one of the hidden secrets here is the artistic side. You think of Jagiellonian and the cultural richness, you go to the central Kraków, the amazing national history museum, the art there’s stunning, and that tradition in Kraków is extremely strong, and the design community’s really good. It’s hard to put a value on the right design, or the right designer who can put that out there. What has your experience been here, of taking your vision and getting designers to give some real life to it?
It’s a very good point. I have a special story about that because when I moved here the first person I wanted to find as a designer, because I was a programmer, so I wanted to re-constitute what had been my… actually, moving out of Kobojo, I was on a journey to find the simplest route to happiness, and the simplest route to happiness was to reproduce that programmer-designer stuff, and I found that I had that with the co-founder of EveryDayiPlay. I put an add on Gumtree, I didn’t know where to put it at the time, and I received so many CVs, and I met Radek who was this incredibly talented guy who just happened to leave the company he was working for a T-shirt company, he left it 6 months ago because he wanted to be a video-game artist, and he thought, “If I’m working for this company, I’m never going to find a job in video games.” If I date this girl, I need to dump her to find the right girl I want to be with in a sense as an image. And he did. So when I met him, he was not only a designer, but he was for me an entrepreneur. The move he did to look for that job was very strong. I totally agree with what you’re saying about this synergy between designer and developer. I don’t believe, especially in the video game industry, I don’t believe in remote work. Some people make it work, I don’t know how they do it. I think you have to witness it yourself to see programmers and artists, sitting in the same room, working together to find the trick, the magician trick, with the minimum art and coding behind to find the right thing. The Kraków community, in terms of art, is promising. I have six artists at Kobojo. They are all so talented. We recently had an internal game jam. I decided to do that for two days. I dropped the pen out of the normal road map, and anybody in the company could team up with anybody to try to make up their own game for two days. And even through this open exercise, it’s a amazing. Really, the city has both. There’s a really strong engineer school, and actually one of my lead developers used to be an intern out of AGH, and went through being an intern, to full-time employee, to lead developer. Incredibly talented artist. There’s one thing on the artist side, there is a very classical painting/drawing kind of heritage in those schools, and a lot of the people who were there have told me they had to work their way out to become digital. And so there might be a bridge here that I hope is being built. The story of my co-founder, Radek, is that when he took his first job, they said, “Do you know photoshop?” and he said, “Uh-huh,” and went home, opened Photoshop, and said, “Okay, how does this work?” Because all his theoretical study was physical painting and drawing. But people here have this h… h… Sorry, I’m French so I don’t pronounce the “H” properly… this hunger to learn and do things. At the end of the day, I’m really lucky to have found really talented people.
I think one of the things you brought up there. You said, “I don’t know how people can do virtual work in the video game world.” Well, I did virtual work and it was very useful as an American, where wages are much higher, and cost and talent is not nearly as concentrated as it was. Where I was working and living in upstate New York, I couldn’t have found a designer or programmer within 50 miles of me that would have come close, and even if I went down to New York city, the cost of hiring those designers and programmers would have been prohibitive, so I still would have been working remotely. That’s why I decided to go the virtual route, and the best place I found for the cost and the budget I had at that time was in the Philippines. The problem was it was half way around the world, literally, a 12 hour difference. I was able to make that work for a while, and it got me to the place where I was, and I had an amazing staff over there that did amazing things for me, but I found that when I went and visited them, it was much better. Their productivity shot up after we had that personal connection. Then I just went and started visiting more and more, and eventually I realised that I wanted to settle down and live in one place, and I chose Kraków, and that’s why I’ve consolidated my operations here. But I think the synergy and speed of production and the quality of production, I’ve noticed, by having everyone in one office, has been amazing. A lot of American companies like to off-shore here, but my point or my idea that you seem to have hit on also is why don’t you just move here and do the whole thing?
I think so like you, I experience it also, and that’s why I’ve been, especially for EveryDayiPlay, it was so important for me that I am not looking for any remote people, and I have worked, especially in [name] where I was doing a lot of lean startup experimentation, it’s so easy to get someone, I had people even in Afghanistan making some coding .NET for me, through some of those Freelancer.com and stuff like that. This works, if you know exactly what you want. And if you can communicate it properly, then execution can come out properly. But, if there is any form of reflection, of “Express yourself,” and you are hoping for an input from the person, for an influence, then this becomes more complicated, because there is nothing more powerful than going on the white-board with someone and saying, “Listen, why don’t we do something like this. What do you think?” “Ah no, maybe we should do that.” “Ah, you’re right, maybe there’s…” and there you start to build something with someone else, and really build. But in this remote conversation, the only successful one I had is when I knew exactly what I wanted to have, but like exactly, and this really was about execution, not so much conversation.
Which of course for a startup where you’re iterating and making frequent changes and you’re looking for the right way, maybe outsourcing is good if you want to clone an existing website, but it’s very bad if you want to create a new one, with any kind of new functionality, or a new game for that matter.
In terms of, just for the sake of listeners, and for myself, that I get on in business, what sort of things does someone study to become a designer? I think many people have a concept that the coder or the software developer writes code, but is the designer an artistic job, or is it more like a sort of systems architecture? What does a designer do for you? Or what does a designer do for anyone else?
Maybe you want to answer that, Sam, because I don’t have designers, I have artists in my company. So maybe, Sam, do you want to answer this one?
I don’t know how it works in the video game industry, but I’ve had a very interesting education the last few months, just working with designers. There’s many different types. You have the user experience designer who develops the flow and the architecture. They’re almost like a systems engineer that lays it out for the user-interface designer, and then the developer and the user-interface designer goes in and takes that road map of the flow and logic and the elements that need to be there, and they put on the artistic touch, and the artistic touch is so subjective, and sometimes you have to test it to see what works, but that’s what makes people actually do the things that the UX designer says need to be done. The button color, the button placement, and then you get into copywriting and everything else. I know that for you, in the video game world, I’d be fascinated to hear how your interaction works with artists because for us you’ve got to design a template for the artist to work on.
It’s funny because in a sense they are two very colliding… one is a left brain type of guy and the other is a right brain type of guy, so this is amazing when you can really get them to collaborate and have this communication rolling. What can I say about that? I think that the key is to have the right project management or have on each side of the team, people who can… Basically the best guy, my lead developer, is a guy who has a very strong sense of the artistic. At my company I don’t have developers, I have game-developers. It’s a very important thing that in my genre, I expect from my developer to have this kind of visual expectation. My lead developer is like, “Vincent, I think we should have this effect. I have this trick I can do to optimise this thing.” And then you put an artist in the same room and say, “Can you make a texture?” So when both know how to communicate basically the developers are an enabler for the artists to do something beautiful on top of it. Sometimes what comes out of this bouncing is incredible. I don’t know if I really answered your question, Richard.
I think that I may have to ask that question to a few more people to get there. I wanted to ask about your personal roadmap, because entrepreneurship is like every life, is a journey, but usually a entrepreneur’s life is a journey under more control than someone who’s working for someone else. I think you mentioned the business is making a hundred and fifty thousand dollars a month, so at today’s exchange rate that’s getting towards between one and half to two million dollars a year, which is a great situation to be in, but I know you well enough to know that you’re probably not going to just sit there and do nothing. Are you going to be launching more games in the EveryDayiPlay studio? I think you mentioned that a company needs to focus on one game, rather than do lots of games. Or are you going to be investing in other kinds of businesses, and if you’re investing in new business, will they also be games businesses in Kraków, or do you have a clear idea of where you’re going to go next?
“Entrepreneur’s life is a journey under more control than someone who’s working for someone else.”
We’ve been working for the last nine months, ten months maybe, on the next game, which is two to four weeks away from soft launch. Making a game is like making a house. You know when it starts, but you never know when it’s actually going to be ready. This level of Polish income can go pretty far. But yes, we’re about to launch a new game. In my industry, the life-cycle of a game is on average three years. After three years, the game will still keep making money, but not in the way that might be sustainable. Some actually last six years, but it’s a lucky shot. So it was important for us to prepare for the future, and create a second game. One of the mantra I had when moving here was, “One game at a time.” At Kobojo, when we raised money, a lot of it, the expectation was to make up to six games at a time, and I find it incredibly difficult. It was difficult because obviously you need to find the right people, the right artists, the right developers, and overall we found good people at Kobojo, but what’s really hard is to find people product managers who actually have experience making free to play games. And those were a lot harder to come by in 2011, when we IPO grew. So out of that place I think that not relying on being able to find a person here in Poland, I decided to go on one game at a time, meaning that I will act as a project manager, and focus solely on one game at a time, because it was the only way at the time at the early stage of Kobojo, that we were really successful, when we had one game at a time, all of them were successful. And it proved again that it worked out for me because Vikings Gone Wild, after eight months of development, grew to a multi-million dollar business. So that’s a recipe that’s important. To make that new game, actually, I had to find a project manager to take over Vikings Gone Wild. It’s Michał, you know him Richard. We worked together for 6 months teaching him the tricks and tips on what’s the right decision in a road map, how do you productise a feature, how do you optimise retention, monetisation, and he left me the room to actually focus myself on the next one solely. I think that focus in what you do is, at least for me, since I’ve been through both high times of defocus, and focus, looking at the pattern, it’s very clear. I was successful only when I was doing this one thing at a time. I was going to bed and waking up, in my shower, absolutely obsessed with details, obsessed with like, “How am I going to do this tutorial, and that thing,” going to work and driving and seeing everyone else and coming back at lunch and shaking my head in front of my wife, “Yeah yeah, whatever,” I was still thinking about that. To get to that level of detail, the final product is beyond and above the 90%.
“I was successful only when I was doing this one thing at a time.”
It sounds like you personally are very involved in the next game you’re launching in a few weeks’ time, right?
What about your business strategy? I know that at one stage I think you put a very small amount of money… you lost less than I did in RacingLife.net, right?
[Laughing] Yeah, I didn’t put much on Racing Life in the end. At this stage… I was very lucky, after ten months EveryDayiPlay existed we got approached by a very rich Israeli company that acquired 25% of the company. It was, for me, a good move for the company and for myself. I was lucky to have some personal dividends out of it. It was also very good for the company because it helped us raise five hundred thousand dollars, not from a VC, but from another social gaming company, which for the last year, I’ve been taking care of launching every single product I mean making Vikings Gone Wild work on every single platform that’s around which is iOS, Android, in a very successful way and a very large way that we couldn’t have done. So working with these people, 2015 is basically looking like a similar trend, basically trend to launch a successful game on mobile platform. Just to summarise, the truth is right now we’re 22 people, which for me is the maximum size I want this company to be, because I don’t want to grow, and because that there is an intrinsic value to the fact that we remain small no matter how financially successful you are. But the reason for staying small for me was to make sure that the people are talented, they are focussed, everybody knows them, that there is a trust, because when you’re that small you really trust each other, in order for us to really make top world-wide games. So the business goal for this 2015 is still that to launch a game that is again in the top 10% of video games in the world that will be financial successful, and keep growing the impact that the company is having on both for players and the in the world of our industry. I think this is the goal that we have, and will try to achieve. But like in any business, games are not… this game might fail. And it’s okay. We’ll let go, and work on the next one. Especially in the entertainment business, the likelihood and the risk of failure is fairly high, because every game is like creating a new business, in a sense, as much as there are some basic models in the way you monetise those products, in a sense. You can make a good movie and have two really bad movie right after and it’s the same director, and then you have a forth one that works. The idea is to stay sharp, focussed, not fall in love too hard with this thing you do in order to be able to bounce and actually capitalize on the cash you have left to have another iteration. I find a lot of parallels with this when you try to disrupt with a startup.
Ok, so that’s very clear in terms of the strategy of the company. If anyone listening to this, I know you give your very limited time away very generously to give an hour or two of advice to different startups, but would you… from my perspective, from a business logic point of view, you’d be an ideal [?] for someone who had a game of global potential, because you’d be very smart money. If someone listening to this wanted to approach you with an investment proposal, do you have the time to talk to them? Or are you just going to focus on your core business for now?
Actually, we’re not interesting in talking to a VC, but if you’re a video game entrepreneur, let’s chat. I’m really happy to meet more people who do the same thing, and we might find some synergy, so I would be very happy to talk to other video game entrepreneurs.
Ok, we can’t guarantee we’ll find someone, but I love knowing people who know more than I do, which is almost everybody. Just before we wrap up, the objective of this podcast is about putting Kazimierz and Kraków, the assets, the benefits, we’ve already talked about this a little already, so I don’t want to repeat yourself, but if you have a message… just imagine some guy in Santiago, Chille, or Sydney, Australia, or some village in Africa, who had the potential to re-locate here, and who had an idea. You came here with an existing skill-set – you were already successful in the games industry – but suppose someone’s just a young man or woman, who’s ambitious, has a little bit of money, but not any particular skill set, is Kraków a good place for them to come?
I think it’s the perfect place. The truth is, it’s a highly competitive place in terms of cost of employment, so it leaves you a lot more room to self-finance, and we went through that lightly, how for me it’s so important that you self-finance the beginning of your startup, that you don’t waste your time trying to convince people for six months. It’s an incredibly large pool of talented, young people, a lot of schools… the education system in Poland is incredibly good and difficult, so the people coming out of it are really really skilled, both on the artistic and the engineering sides with very strong engineering side. Overall Kraków is an absolutely amazing place. I can bike everywhere. It’s proper winter, proper summer. It has a lot of green places. I love the place I am, I love the people I work with, and I would recommend anyone if they’re looking for a place to start something, I would definitely recommend Kraków, no questions asked.
Vincent, thank you again for sharing your insights. I think anyone who listens to this would get a lot of lessons on how to develop, lean startup methodology to financing, when to look for financing, when you self-finance, and also how to build a team and focus, and that’s a great point that I think that alone could be a whole other podcast episode of what focus will do for your business versus chasing everything at once. Great insights. Lastly, as part of the expat community here in Kraków that’s fallen for this place, giving that message to people who might be looking for something new, a new adventure. I joke with Piotr Wilam, I say, “The East is the New West.” The American west had the startup gold-rush mentality and Silicon Valley obviously being the modern incarnation of that, but I think it’s actually all flown East now.
“The East is the New West. The American West had the startup gold-rush mentality and Silicon Valley obviously being the modern incarnation of that, but I think it’s actually all flown East now. ”
Yeah, I agree. I absolutely agree.
Ok, well thank you very much indeed for your time on this Sunday afternoon. I’ll let you get back to your long-suffering family who sound like they have to compete quite hard with those little Vikings for your attention, right?
[Laughing] Maybe, maybe.
Richard, finally just again thank you. I’d like to thank #ProjectKazimierz listener, thank you for investing in your education on what it takes to be innovative, and if you’re in the Kraków community, listening to this great success story and if you’re anywhere else in the world, being inspired by this story of how to grow your own business and be successful, and also find the right place to do it in the world, because a lot of us in this very connected world might be looking for new opportunities. Until next episode, this is Richard Lucas and Sam Cook, and our guest Vincent, signing off from #ProjectKazimierz Radio.