The start-up journey of Seepia Games
Couple of days ago one of our board members, Veronika, visited the Lappeenranta based company Seepia Games, which specializes on game development. During the visit Veronika interviewed the CEO of Seepia Games, Jani Tietäväinen, an inspiring and extremely enthusiastic entrepreneur, who in fact was one of the initiators of the game studio idea. Read the whole story for more on being an entrepreneur in the game industry environment!
After showing me around the Seepia work place (which is, by the way, right next to LUT in one of the Technopolis buildings), Jani invited me to the meeting room, where we kept the interview. Jani mentioned that everything began almost 15 years ago, when he was working at the university and had a dream of gathering a team of professionals to produce games.
However, the actual efforts to start real business came to action many years later. Then Jani worked at Digia, which was planning to discontinue their Lappeenranta office due to the sequence of events related to Nokia and its’ restructuring. This forced him and his idea partners, which he met in Digia, to start seriously considering the opening of their own company.
The journey of Seepia Games started in summer 2011, when the possibility to lose their jobs at Digia became ever-more imminent. In the beginning, their team of new start-up enthusiasts consisted of 8 people, of which only 3 remain today. Some of the people left the team because the commitment level and contribution readiness needed for starting a new business turned out to be too much for them. With the remaining team members, they finally figured out what work the company would actually do; and after that they were quickly able to find a couple new enthusiasts to fill in the skill gaps. At the moment Seepia Games has 5 founding partners; three of them work full-time, and one of the partners works in NSN (Network Side of Nokia) and spends his spare time working on Seepia Games’ projects. The fifth founding partner is their advisor and the chairman of the board. He has been active in the gaming industry for many years, and thus gives full worth in his place on the board.
The first project Seepia Games had, was a collectable card game, positioned as a “hard core” niche game. The choice fell to this particular type, because together they felt that they possess the right competences and skills for implementing such a project and making it competitive. However, when they were looking for funding opportunities for this game, one project funding organization suggested them developing smaller games. After that the team have presented the design of two other games to them, and they got positive approval. Having the funding from the project organization, the team decided to put the first game project on hold for a while.
Thus, in 2013 TETRABLOK was launched, which is soon going to reach 1 million downloads. Jani said that Tetrablok was a great learning experience, despite the fact that the game was not creating any sizeable profit. Another long project of Seepia is PET SHOWS. It was started around the same time as Tetrablok, but has not yet been released. The date for test release is still open. Last noticeable project from Seepia Games is PERMIA DUELS, which was released right before Christmas 2013. They started working on a project after the release of Tetrablok and expect the project to be profitable and more lucrative than the others. According to Jani, by now over 200,000 people have played the game.
All Seepia projects are based on free-to-play model. Jani highlighted that it basically means that all the game features are available free of charge, but faster advancement can be achieved via small investment. Jani also highlighted that all their soon-to-be-released and released games were quite different, because his team and he aimed at differentiating their learning experience and getting a better idea of what kind of gaming experience to offer their players depending on their behavioral patterns. Jani also mentioned that after the realease of Pet Shows, Seepia Games wants to focus and direct their skills towards an area of gaming wherein they’ll excel. His guess is strategic card games.
Coping with uncertainties is the most challenging part
What comes to the funding, Jani said, Pet Shows and Tetrablok were supported by project funding. Whereas funding for Permia Duels was activated via APPCAMPUS, a mobile application development platform established via the joint investments of Microsoft and Nokia. To my question “What is the most difficult thing in being an entrepreneur?”, Jani replied that coping with uncertainties was the most challenging part. He mentioned that belief and enthusiasm, as well as passion for what you are doing, are the most important aspects in running your own business, because it can be a long journey before there is any success. On the other hand, he also stated that it is sometimes impossible to predict, whether something will be successful or not. Which is why risk taking is an ability to consider. Jani also mentioned that while him being a CEO, he has to think about other people and how they feel about things, and this is essential to take into account. Acquiring financing can be hard as well, but possible if you have a great idea and you believe in it. However, strong communication skills play a significant role here.
Belief and enthusiasm, as well as passion for what you are doing, are the most important aspects in running your own business
Jani mentioned that they are always open for new ideas from the outside and he supports co-operation with universities, for instance. Towards the end of the interview, we discussed the importance of finding talent. He said, they are always looking for new talents and have had several in-house trainees to-date. In fact, Jani specified, he would also want to contribute more time towards product development. He is hoping, one day the right person with good communication skills, willingness to join the team and one with a high level of commitment would join Seepia Games.
Brought to you by Veronika Kiseleva, edited by Clarisse Jay