EGD 4: When stars align and co-founders start their games company, with Paul Kurowski and Robin Squire, Co-Founders of Black Block
A true first-time founder story, talking with Robin Squire and Paul Kurowski. Robin is the CEO and Paul the Creative Director of Black Block, a new games company in Helsinki, Finland. I’ve known Robin personally for several years and I’m super proud of him and the team in starting their own company.
Highlights of the episode
- Robin started with games journalism, then went to marketing roles and eventually landed at Rovio
- Paul’s first gig was as an artist in a small UK based games company, then went to Psygnosis, RockStar, Crytek, before moved to work on mobile games
- Robin and Paul met at a Helsinki based startup Playraven
- Robin’s story to becoming a games entrepreneur originates at a dinner table discussion at GDC, later to develop small company skills at PlayRaven
- Paul believes that the stars aligned and that’s how the eventually got the chance to work on their own company
- Robin says that working in a small games company is like baptism by fire, learning as much as possible
- At the early stage of the company, timing is important. At GDC, the company was launched and the pitch was ready. Never drop the ball of financials and logistics.
- Robin consumes lots of podcasts to learn, also has gotten reading tips from VCs, incl. the Venture Deals book
- Ambition level is aligned with the game that they are making. Since it’s an open-world game, the idea already makes the company very ambitious.
- Going after an open-world MMO: Paul has always been fascinated about these games, and with this team, they believe they can bring it into mobile. Breaking it into smaller pieces and seeing how it flies.
- Understanding the market: open-world in the new platforms, there’s games like Agar.io, little multiplayer experiences, cross-platform, Robin and Paul are going after that kind of a game, taking it to the next level.
- How to hire: Since it’s hard to get the best talent to a new games company, the guys are planning on looking for trainees, people who don’t have gaming experiences. Getting diverse people in, who would bring different perspectives to the work.
- Hiring tips: need to know what kind of roles you want, people who are the right fit.
- The guys want to be smart about experimenting things in their games. It’s important to learn and iterate fast.
- Founder advice: If you have the gut feeling of doing a startup, you should do it
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