A panoramic gaze around you spoke for itself: the large space was packed with audience, only a few vacant seats within the rows of chairs left scattered here and there. A good deal of people had found their spots alongside the mezzanine that encircled the room from above, leaving the spiral staircases that connected the two levels equally occupied. All eyes we’re fixed on the stage.
That was pretty much the description of how the Startup Sauna Spring ’14 Demo Day looked like at the startup sauna co-working space two days ago. Just like the first batch announcement four years back, this Spring's demo day included keynotes, pitches and of course a steady flow of beer.
Three years and a $3 billion dollar valuation. Not sure about you, but this has not quite settled in my mind completely yet and I had a lot of questions about the deal and what it might possibly mean for the company and the local startup scene.
So we reached out to Ilkka Paananen, the CEO of Supercell, who is the best person to answer these types of questions. In the interview, we first confirmed a few factual questions, before going into the emotional and personal ones.
We hope that you are all familiar with Supercell, the company that is making millions in daily revenue and has been the top grossing games publisher in the world ever since they reached the position last year. What some may not be aware of is that GungHo Entertainment from Japan has been the number two for many months and is generating revenues of over $2.5 million a day and is valued at $4.5 billion.
App Annie’s data for November is in and for the first time Supercell is now in first place, surpassing the gaming giant, EA, in terms of monthly iOS revenue.
“I am out of words. Supercell was the largest publisher on the Apple platform in November, measured by revenue. And with just two apps!” was the message on Ilkka Paananen’s , Supercell CEO’s Facebook timeline this morning and rightly so. Electronic Arts, the runner up, has 969 titles on iOS.
With two of Helsinki-based Supercell's titles in the top 25 grossing iPad Games in the US, we decided to get in touch with Ilkka Paananen, the CEO of the company, to see if they could share anything about their success.
The two games on the App Store charts are Hay Day, a farming simulator game similar to Farmville in many respects. My colleague, Antti Vilpponen, reviewed the game "for many hours," which got the whole office playing and trading eggs and wheat on the free market. Read Antti's review here.
Supercell's other title, Clash of Clans, is similar, but more within the fantasy realm. In the game, not only do you have to make sure your army is well equipped and adequate against attacks while you're away but also make sure your finances are in order to keep building your village.
What's more impressive is the fact that Supercell is one of the four developers/publishers of games that have two releases in the list. The other publishers include Electronic Arts, GREE and Playtika.
Below is our short interview with Ilkka Paananen.
August 2nd saw the release of Supercell's second big iOS game, Clash of Clans. Towards the end of June the company released Hay Day and shot to the top of the charts with it. Even today, Hay Day is in top 50 for the top grossing apps in the US.
But back to Clash of Clans. It's a game made for the iPad and iPhone in a similar fashion to that of Hay Day. Both games are expected to be played in short bursts (but then again you can dive in for hours) whether you're comfortably on the sofa with your iPad or commuting to work and waging war on your iPhone.
As people were beginning to wind down for the long midsummer weekend, the Helsinki, Finland based Supercell went on to launch their new game Hay Day. Hay Day is a farming game like no other. One might think that the world has seen enough of annoying farm game advertising on Facebook from the likes of Zynga, but having played Hay Day through out the weekend for about 10+ hours in total I can say that there is demand.
Hay Day is also Supercell's first mobile and tablet only game, meaning it has been designed for the iOS platform. You can play it on your iPod Touch, iPhone as well as the iPad.
According to Ilkka Paananen, the CEO of Supercell, the launch has been quite phenomenal despite the challenging launch date.
Just during the long weekend, the game has shot to #7 in the US iPad listing while pushing to #13 on the iPhone. Paananen also disclosed that according to their own analysis, they are going to be achieving similar places in their key markets in Germany, Switzerland, Austria, UK, Canada, Australia and so on. In many countries they're already in the top three spot.
The Finnish gaming company Supercell, that launched the hugely successful game Gunshine.net earlier this year is working on their next release, Pets vs Orcs. They have stated this in their blog in the beginning of November.
Those are the strategic figures of the Finnish gaming industry at the moment. Last night, prime time news in Finland covered the gaming industry in proper spotlight and outlined a few key figures of the industry. This year, the gaming industry is expected to generate 165 million euros in revenue and in doing so they employ 1200 people. Despite this somewhat significant size of the industry for such a small country, it has yet to see any real public acknowledgement from media at large or politicians. The downside of all this is that there are very few schools who teach anything related to the games industry.
Tekes, the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation, has launched a new financing program to support growth companies developing mobile services and applications - Tempo. Having followed Tekes for quite some time and knowing how they operate, one could easily argue that Tempo is a sign of the organisation changing tracks fundamentally and putting most of its feedback into practice. I'll go through a few examples below.
First and foremost, "as agility and customer development are essential in mobile service development, companies must be able to launch a minimum viable product to find out whether there is a customer need for it". This comes in fact from the Tempo pitch itself. They're promoting MVPs as a way to find out if there is demand for services the companies are offering.
I talked to Supercell's CEO Ilkka Paananen on where the company stands today and a little about their future plans as well. Supercell is a hot Finnish gaming company that closed a $12 million series A from Accel in May. We covered the company in February initially and it's come incredibly far since then. Supercell employs some 40 people in two locations and its Gunshine game has shown some incredible traction.
Kristian Segerstrale, the former CEO of Playfish, a social gaming company before it was sold to Electronic Arts for $300 million back in 2009. Today he leads the Playfish team in EA and invests through some smaller funds, like that of Lifeline Ventures here in Finland. Playfish wasn't Segerstrale's first startup. Before Playfish he sucessfully build up Macrospace that since then changed to Glu Mobile and went onto IPO into Nasdaq. Segerstrale was on stage yesterday at the Summer of Startups demo day event. He was energetic, inspiring yet very easy to approach - everything you'd expect from a man of such success and experience.
Finnish game developer Supercell announced that it secured an investment of $12 million from Accel Partners, the leading global venture capital firm with a wealth of experience in the gaming industry. This is really great news for a gaming company that was founded only in June 2010. Their first game, Gunshine, was released this February as a closed beta and has proven to be quite addictive among the first adopters. Gunshine is described as a game that bridges the gap between browser-based massively-multiplayer games and social games, with deep online gameplay and extensive social features. Now that the product is about to enter open beta and will become available for everyone to play, the investment will help Supercell accelerate its growth, expand its team and also release new games and target new platforms.
I'm excited to tell you that we at Grey Area have closed a € 1.9m in Series A from a really great set of investors, namely Index Ventures, London Venture Partners and Initial Capital. These guys really understand the game space and how we want to create an entirely new category of games. Could not be happier to have them with us along with Lifeline Ventures, who have been with us ever since we raised a Seed round in 2010.
Now we're gearing up for the US launch. We hope to have Shadow Cities available on iTunes App Store in the next couple of months. We're also growing really strong, moving into new offices here in Helsinki and hiring a lot new talent to the team.
I will write a longer piece on our future plans soon, but wanted to give you the news right away. I pasted the press release below and am happy to answer any questions and discuss with you guys (Full disclosure: I'm a co-founder at ArcticStartup as well as the CEO at Grey Area)
Supercell is a relatively recently founded startup to say the least. It was founded in the summer of 2010 by gaming professionals with experience from Remedy, Digital Chocolate and Sulake. The team members have experience in publishing 165 games on 12 different platforms so I'm at ease to call this bunch a group of heavyweight veterans. But like real artists, these veterans can ship - today, they've released a roleplaying game called Gunshine.net. It's an isometric 3D game built on flash. Just to remind you, the company was founded a little over 6 months ago so they've achieved a lot. Gunshine.net takes place in the near future, in Dawnbreak City, of whose control Labycore mega-corporation and other opposition groups are fighting for.
Aalto Venture Garage is putting together a busy two week program they call Bootcamp. Bootcamp is to be held four times a year and it's an intensive program aimed at speeding up already existing early stage ventures. The first Bootcamp is to be run between September 17th and 30th. They are now accepting applications, but be quick - the deadline is September 8th. A mentoring program wouldn't be anything without high profile mentors and well enough, Aalto Venture Garage has managed to secure a good lineup of Finnish startup professionals. Mind you, the program isn't only aimed at Finnish startups - it's open for everyone around the Baltic rim.