Thoughts after Mini-Seedcamp

Posted May 5, 2009 by jussilaakkonen
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seedcamp

I spent today mentoring fellow entrepreneurs at Mini-Seedcamp at Helsingborg. Going in I felt that most value I could add would come from sharing what we have learned on the road of getting Everyplay off the ground. It turned out that while that was valuable as a background for the day, most of the time was spent in brainstorming ideas for growth, monetization and financing together with the other mentors and the entrepreneurs themselves.

After each one of the twenty startups had given their five minute pitch in the beginning of the day, we started in-depth sessions with two startups at a time. It was great working with passionate entrepreneurs and experienced fellow mentors to dig thru the startup’s assumptions and try to nail down how they could get more customers, create more revenue, scale faster and finance all of that.

There were a couple of startups that had big ideas ranging from really creative and cutting edge uses of peer to peer technology (Peerialism) to transforming paper receipts into electronic ones on any point of sale terminal (Kvittar). On the other end of the spectrum it was great to see real operational and growing business like Red Apple Apartments, who are adding a lot of value to the apartment rental business and are struggling to manage the fast growth (what a happy problem! ;-)).

The high points of the mentoring sessions definitely were those couple breakthroughs where the entrepreneur and the mentors would jointly come up with a new twist to the startup’s take on the market and you could literally see the entrepreneur’s eyes light up in a heureka moment. One of those moments took place in the mentoring session with 1Calendar, who simplify the hassle that juggling university course schedules is. After thinking thru the market and how they could scale faster, we came up with a pretty nifty crowdsourcing twist for getting more universities rapidly into the system. I can definitely see 1Calendar running with that idea and scaling a lot faster than they could have done before.

Most of the startups were really early and one shared criticism between every mentor I spoke with was the challenges in articulating what they really were doing. Way too many dressed up their perfectly good business idea into a Dilbert mission generator-esque mumbojumbo that you’d need 10 gigawatt lasers to pierce thru. It was also obvious that many of the startups need more practice on pitching and presenting as the morning presentations were somewhat lackluster except for a five-six standouts. It’s easy to critize, but I’d hope that every single startup pitching would video record themselves pitching, analyze the recording and repeat at least 15 times before appearing in front of a demanding audience like the one at Seedcamp.

One thing I felt that could have been added to the mentoring sessions is the notion of methodologies or approaches that a startup could use to structure their business development activities. I’ve become a huge believer in Customer Development, and I can’t help thinking that every startup founder needs something similar to help guide them.

Personally I’m totally stoked after working the day with fellow entrepreneurs at the Mini-Seedcamp. The passion and energy totally swept me along. Each startup had their own unique approach and I could learn something from every single one of them.

Best of luck to all of the Mini-Seedcampers – follow your passion and execute relentlessly!

Mentoring at Mini-Seedcamp at Helsingborg on 5th of May

Posted April 21, 2009 by jussilaakkonen
Categories: business, event

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seedcamp

Seedcamp is a catalyst for European startups. The main event is a week long bootcamp for handful of pre-qualified European startups in London. Fellow Finnish start-up Scred was selected to participate last fall. I chatted with Kristoffer from Scred after the event and he was very impressed about the learnings they were able to take away from the event.

So I was definitely excited when I got invited to act as a mentor at one of the Mini-Seedcamps being held across Europe. Karri and the crew at the ever-so-fantastic Arctic Startup blog recommended me to the Swedish organizers of the Helsingborg event held on 5th of May and I jumped at the chance to participate.

The Mini-Seedcamp mentors are VCs and serial entrepreneurs including Daniel Blomquist from Creandum, Hjalmar Winbladh from Rebtel and Thomas Weilby Knudsen from Northcap Partners.  And yours truly. It’s an interesting situation to be a mentor when we are down in the trenches at Everyplay (with nothing public to show yet). I can’t offer recent “here’s how I’ve succeeded” type of lessons. Instead I can offer “here ‘s what I think works” and “this is how we are doing it”. There are definitely war stories and lessons learned in how Everyplay got off the ground, the 17+ years spent as entrepreneur in running ASSEMBLY (6000+ participants every year, over 200 person volunteer workforce) and the parallels between pitching video games to game publishers and pitching startups to VCs.

I expect to learn at least as much from being a mentor as the startups can learn from the successes and follies I’ve encountered on my road to Mini-Seedcamp at Helsingborg.

Top VCs on investing in games (Gamesbeat 2009)

Posted March 24, 2009 by jussilaakkonen
Categories: event

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Gamesbeat

I’m today at the Gamesbeat 2009 event hosted by Venturebeat. The day opened with the best VC panel on games that I’ve ever witnessed. Every VC on the panel had invested in games,  had their finger on the pulse of the market and had good insights to share. The pace of the session was blazing fast and it covered everything from what they are investing in to how social games is an user acquisition tactic instead of full-blown category of games.

I tried to record everything in a mindmap and I was typing away at breakneck speeds , so the mindmap may contain mis-quotes and may be somewhat hard to decipher at times. Jetlag doesn’t help either ;-).

Download the mindmap as a PDF.

At Game Developer’s Conference 23rd – 29th March

Posted March 19, 2009 by jussilaakkonen
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gdc09

The Game Developer’s Conference is the event for game developers. I thought I could take a break from going this year as GDC’s focus is mostly “traditional” game development (consoles, PC etc), but I couldn’t resist the siren’s call after all ;-). Personally it is going to be primarily about meetings and networking, and hanging out with fellow game developers.

The most relevant stuff for Everyplay is in the Worlds in Motion summit held on Monday and Tuesday. I especially look forward to Raph Koster’s kickoff for the summit – his presentations are always thought provoking. It’s too bad that I’ll miss the Tuesday sessions of Worlds in Motion summit, as I’m going to be VentureBeat‘s GamesBeat 2009 event).

A couple of friends are also presenting at GDC. Check out e.g. Adam Martin’s, Sulka Haro’s, Petri Purho’s, Matt Swoboda’s and Thomas Bideaux‘ presentations.

If you are at GDC or in downtown San Francisco, and would like to meet during the week, drop me an email at jussi dot laakkonen at nospam-gmail dot com.

Twitter for the geographically-challenged outsiders

Posted March 18, 2009 by jussilaakkonen
Categories: business

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twitter_logo

To continue on my previous post on how to survive 8727km from the Silicon Valley, here are a couple of practical tips on how to get the most out of Twitter.

Search for relevant keywords

Twitter’s Advanced Search is great tool for finding interesting people and topics serendipitously. Define the keywords you are interested in, run the search  and subscribe to the RSS feed. My search terms are “Jussi Laakkonen”, “social games”, “casual games”, “funware” and “virtual goods”. See who tweet about the topics you are interested in and what the discussion is.

Trawl thru the following lists

This tip comes from @mitch_olson of Small Worlds, who trawled thru my following list to find new people to follow. If you find an interesting person to follow, check out who they follow to find more interesting folks.

Add yourself to WeFollow

Simply tweet “@wefollow #yourtag #yourtag #yourtag” to classify yourself to make yourself more foundable. First, checkout the most popular tags on WeFollow. To find more interesting people to follow check the WeFollow lists on the tags you classify yourself with.

Re-tweet and see who re-tweet you

Re-tweeting is about sharing something valuable. You are doing a service to the person who you are retweeting as well as to the people who follow you. See who re-tweet you for more interesting people.

See who they are conversing with

Often you follow a particular person, and they are chatting away with @ replies with  somebody you are not yet following . See who that other is, perhaps she will be worth a follow.

Establish a tweeting style & reinforce it at your profile

I personally use Twitter for business and tend not to share personal stuff or tweet funny jokes. Your followers will expect consistentency, so when they check your profile, they’ll decide at an instant if they want to follow you or not.  Your latest ten tweets and secondarily your 160 char description play a huge role on who follow you.

Check before you follow

The corollary to the above is to check the profile before you follow someone. I’m picky about who I follow people to avoid cluttering my stream (if only Tweetdeck had a longer backlog of tweets ;-)).

Hashtags

Hashtags make some sense out of Twitter, especially during conferences like SXSW. Tweetdeck nicely supports hashtags by integrating to the Twitter Search. It’s a godsend for tracking topics especially when I’m 7-10 timezones away and top discussions take place in the middle of the night (for me).

Tweetdeck

Some prefer Thwirl, but Tweetdeck is the way to go ;-)

Read Guy’s advice

Guy Kawasaki has further advice on How to use twitter as twool.

If you have more advice for geographically-challenged Twitter users, please share it in the comments!

Read, read, read – how to survive 8727km from Silicon Valley

Posted March 16, 2009 by jussilaakkonen
Categories: blog

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(CC) Will Lion

(CC) Will Lion

The web is an amazing equalizer. It brings everything closer. To be precise 8727km closer (the distance from Helsinki, Finland to Silicon Valley, USA).

Since before I started Everyplay I knew I had to learn a lot, but I never imagined I could learn so much by simply being at my computer and devouring blog posts, following people on Twitter, watching conference videos and tracking hashtags. I’m truly grateful to every conference organizer like Charles Hudson (Virtual Goods conference) or Mike Arrington and Jason Calacanis (TechCrunch50) and to every conference presenter, who post their presos, videos and transcripts online. I’m truly grateful to every blogger like Eric Ries, Andrew Chen and Raph Koster, who share their hard earned lessons and insights freely with the world.

If you are geographically-handicapped like me, the best thing you can do is to drink from the fire hydrant. To get you started, here is the list of the 250+ blogs I track. The list gets roughly 400-500 posts per day, so the best thing to do is to just skim the list and read the interesting parts.

The blogs are in a quasi-ranked list of relevance and quality (i.e. I moved the blogs I pay most attention to the top of their respective lists). I’ve bolded a few top selections, that anybody interested in games, startups, virtual goods, and venture capital should follow. If you want to import a whole bunch of these feeds, feel free to grab my OPML file (you can import it to e.g. Google Reader)

Game design

  • [RSS] Raph’s Website (Raph Koster, brilliant designer and thought leader for MMOs, founder of Metaplace)
  • [RSS] Avant Game (Jane McGonigal is one of the thought leaders in using games outside of games)
  • [RSS] Lost Garden (Daniel Cook is a very prominent game designer, great articles e.g. on Funware)
  • [RSS] Zen of Design (Damien Schubert is a very prominent game designer, highly experienced on MMOs)
  • [RSS] DESIGNER NOTES (Soren Johnson, designer at Firaxis for e.g. Civilization)
  • [RSS] musings of a social architect (Amy Jo Kim’s blog, CEO of Shufflebrain, game & community designer)
  • [RSS] Sulka’s Game (Sulka Haro, lead designer of Habbo)
  • [RSS] frans goes blog (Personal blog of Frans Mäyrä, professor at Hypermedia lab, academic perspective)
  • [RSS] The Funware Blog @ rmbr (Gabe Zichermann’s blog, not very active anymore, used to be about Funware)
  • [RSS] Broken Toys (Scott Jennings, formerly of NCSoft, now in a top secret online games startup)

Online games, virtual worlds

Virtual goods

Game industry general

Entrepreneurs & entrepreneurship, startups

Venture Capital

Web 2.0, social media

Flash game tech

Professional blogs

Misc

Did you find the list useful? Am I missing a blog that an online games entrepreneur should definitely follow? Please shout out in the comments!

Casual Connect Europe presentations online

Posted March 13, 2009 by jussilaakkonen
Categories: event

Tags: , ,

casual-connect-no-date

Quick note: the presentations from Casual Connect Europe are now online among all of the great Casual Games Assocation presentations and articles.  My personal favourites from the show include:

I had a great time in Hamburg, and Casual Connect Europe 2010 will definitely be on my calendar.

P.S. I will be speaking at Nordic Game held in Malmö from 19th to 20th of May. I will be reprising my “How to start a game business” presentation with more lessons learned since.


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