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Building a solid foundation for a game startup


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This presentation focuses on independent game developers who want to adopt a startup mentality to how they run their business. Regardless whether you do that through work for hire, being self-funded or by chasing funding. The main content of this talk include insights, examples and proven practices that will allow game developers to improve the foundation of their game startup.

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Building a solid foundation for a game startup

  1. 1. Building a Solid Foundation for a Game Startup The valuable lessons I’ve learned from running a game startup in Finland and working with an indie team in Sweden. @vgvisionary
  2. 2. Quick Disclaimer Nothing in this talk is new, but we just don’t talk about it often enough! @vgvisionary
  3. 3. Question Are you prepared to run a game startup? @vgvisionary
  4. 4. Answer: Ask yourself Don’s questions: @vgvisionary
  5. 5. Table of contents • Who is this dude? • The lessons I really really hope you won’t have to learn the hard way after this talk (or at least you will be able to fix them faster when you stumble over them). • The road ahead for any game startup • Summary • Questions @vgvisionary
  6. 6. Who am I? This is a talk by Vlad Micu Business development manager at Data Realms Former Head of Studio at Critical Force Entertainment Used to be the PR Manager of Get Social Did production, game design and creative direction for arkavis Siam co. ltd. in Thailand Wrote for many other international outlets including,,, Control Magazine,,, Casual Connect Magazine and many more. @vgvisionary @vgvisionary
  7. 7. Partners & Clients
  8. 8. My personal lessons & mistakes • Agreements & Responsibilities • Adversity & the Reality of Running a business • Constant Growth and getting Outside Perspective • Learning to take the punches @vgvisionary
  9. 9. A Culture without Shame helps And a tight-knit community based on mutual trust is quite nice as well. @vgvisionary
  10. 10. The Right People & Responsibilities “You know in a startup, you only need three people. You need someone who can make something. You need someone who can sell it. And you need someone to collect the money. That’s the only three roles in a startup. So which one are you?” – Guy Kawasaki @vgvisionary
  11. 11. Different Attitude & Vocabulary • Sustainable traction – who’s ever used that word? • Cash flow positive – or this one? • Share holders/Revenue share agreement • Business plan!? • Go-to-market strategy? • Product/Market fit Recommended by @derkdegeus @vgvisionary
  12. 12. (Swedish) Commercial pragmatism
  13. 13. REALLY have Everything Written Down • Meeting minutes, e-mails & contracts. • Use team communication platform Slack! • Get your licenses straight: Watch Dmitri Dubograev’s talk: @vgvisionary
  14. 14. Having a lawyer & biz dev person on board • Find a lawyer for equity/rev share • Get a board of advisors wipo_pub_959.pdf
  15. 15. Contracts are Designed against Assholes Chris Natsuume’s talk: Be a dick and demand it. Clauses can always be changed and/or waived later if needed. @vgvisionary
  16. 16. Never Stop Learning @vgvisionary
  17. 17. Learn with (Comic) Relief And squeeze in some Work/Life balance in there while you’re at it! @vgvisionary
  18. 18. Embracing Stoicism The best way to approach life, the Stoics suggest, is to think of oneself as an archer who does his or her best to fire the arrow well but accepts that once it has flown it may be blown off course and miss the target. In this analogy, our intentions are like preparing to fire the arrow, but the outcome of our actions, like hitting the target, is beyond our control and partly the result of external events. @vgvisionary
  19. 19. Find Veterans & Advisors Let them give you much needed perspective @vgvisionary
  20. 20. The Demo Scene Optimized code > everything else @vgvisionary
  21. 21. Proprietary Tech still matters • With publishers, platforms and other potential partners • Unique look and feel vs. Unity or Unreal Engine • For PR & Marketing purposes • Even potential commercialization & licensing options (id Software, Crytek, etc.)
  22. 22. The BetaDwarf team lived in a university classroom for 7 months before getting discovered and kicked out Office space is expensive everywhere in Karlshamm, Sweden @vgvisionary
  23. 23. Pitch all the Time, Everywhere • Know who you are and who you aren’t • Know what the other person wants and doesn’t have • Use that to disarm your opponent and put him/her in the defensive • Make yourself rare/scarce Learn from Eminem! @vgvisionary
  24. 24. Embrace Competition “A wise man can learn more from his enemies than a fool from his friends” @vgvisionary
  25. 25. A Support System Really Helps Colleagues Mentors & PeersTherapist Friends A FUCKTON of books @vgvisionary
  26. 26. Don’t let Misfortune Define You /evermans-war.html?referrer @vgvisionary
  27. 27. The #1 Skill is still Resilience The Fins have ‘Sisu’ (perseverance) @vgvisionary
  28. 28. Finnish Sisu + Swedish Commercial pragmatism @vgvisionary
  29. 29. Summary • Get your agreements straight! • Get both legal & outside perspective. • Embrace adversity & the reality of running a Business. • Keep taking those punches, you’ll get there! @vgvisionary
  30. 30. Appendix What ‘Triple I’ means for us • Long term goals & plans • Proprietary technology and modding community • Unique vision and business attitude • Advisors and veterans on board for legal, design, business, etc. • Looking for unlikely partnerships • Strong PR & Marketing effort and significant budget • Being ready for anything from Worst to Best case scenarios
  31. 31. Most importantly Talk with each other about failure & adversity, entrust each other with those stories. Fully foster your community of peers! @vgvisionary
  32. 32. Bonus tip: watch my other lectures @vgvisionary
  33. 33. Contact me • @vgvisionary • Mail me at • Slides: #imlonely
  34. 34. Sign up for the Pioneer Program! PP Test Builds, Slack community, content sharing!
  35. 35. Thanks! Questions? Let’s talk more outside!