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EGD News #97 — Gaming CEOs calendar

EGD News #97 — Gaming CEOs calendar

Sent on August 27th 2021.

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It’s Joakim here. Greetings from Helsinki!

First, I want to talk about how I interact with game studios that I’ve recently invested in.

🗓 Gaming CEOs calendar

“Overall, we found that an explicit agenda is one of the CEO’s most important tools for making progress on multiple work streams simultaneously, addressing differences in the rate of progress across priorities, and using time effectively despite the need to respond personally to unforeseen events.”

— (hbr.org, The Leader’s Calendar)

Hustle, crazy speed, no time for anything. That’s what the startup CEO’s life is like?

I’m a big fan of Jocko Willink and his saying that “Discipline equals freedom.” Even the hard-working CEO can have freedom if they first apply discipline to their work.

One fundamental commonality with all senior CEOs is that they’ve managed to slow down and work on only a few business areas. A few weeks ago, I wrote about the Helsinki game studios that had exited in the last five years, and I believe that the CEOs of those companies had acquired discipline.

I want to share a story from one of my angel investments from the spring of 2021. I had just completed my angel investment into DieNo Games, a midcore mobile games developer based in Helsinki, Finland.

Made up of first-time founders and relative newcomers to the games industry, I wanted to start sharing as much knowledge on them as I could. On my first post-investment call with the CEO, we talked about where I could help the CEO.

  1. Book to read and we’d discuss it
  2. Content and cadence of investor updates
  3. Evaluate their calendar

I’m going to visit the first two topics of the book and updates in a later piece. Here, I want to share how I evaluate the CEO calendar.

“Way too much admin!” Click here to access this spreadsheet.

From my experience, a game studio CEO should devote their time in the following way: 1/3 team development, 1/3 decision making, 1/3 admin.

Team development: What kind of leader do you aspire to be? In gaming, I’ve always seen the sports team coach as a perfect role to model. Get your people to work in ways that take the company to success. This would include hiring, onboarding, culture work. The CEO needs to be in the position to intentionally give context to the team so that the team can all row their boats in the same direction. Less coding, less designing, and working towards a place where the CEO is the coach of a sports team, guiding a group of high-performing individuals.

Note: You might ask where do external meetings go? I’d include them in the team development since the CEO should be taking meetings only to advance the company and their team.

Decision making: game studio CEOs are often highly talented in product development. Or they might be great at marketing. They are less involved in the micro as the company scales, and the CEO spends more time on critical decision-making. You want to have a broad perspective on the business for making the best decisions. Not right, but the best. To share context with your team, you also need to attain context.

Admin: In the early stages of your company, you can’t avoid administrative work, but minimization of admin is preferred. Box the items in your calendar together. You can have an admin day or have two afternoons during the week only for admin. I told DieNo’s CEO to ask his accountant for an offer to take all the accounting work off his plate. Not approving of invoices, just set a limit for all invoices to be paid if they go above 1,000 euros. Same with salaries, no approval required. The goal is that you’d have no access to any accounting software.

Later stage

The later stage is different. You start to take on time like 2/3 team development, 1/3 decision making. You have a “chief of staff” taking all the admin work from you.

Mathilde Collin, the CEO of Front, SF based tech startup, shared her calendar a while ago on Twitter. Her calendar talks about later-stage startup CEO’s time allocation.

Here is the Tweet where this calendar originates from.

You can spot that she has something resembling the 2/3 team development and 1/3 decision making. She has a team that is working on meaningful tasks which push the company forward. She is developing her team and making them thrive.

The key is to save time to work with your team.

🎙 InvestGame H1 2021 in review

I did a webinar with Anton Gorodetsky from InvestGame and Micha Katz from Aream & Co and we talked about the numbers from H1 of 2021 for the games industry. The industry saw explosive growth in terms of volume and size of M&As, private investments and IPOs.

Here are my favorite highlights from the discussion.

First, we discussed the changes in the public markets

Micha: If you take an index of gaming companies, that index from 10%0 had grown throughout 2020 to 160% or 180%, almost kind of doubling if you take a weighted level. If you look at the S&P 500, it grew also very nicely, but more slower. And today, S&P 500 versus pre-COVID is probably like, if you say it was 100%. Now, it’s 130% or 140%. Still really great sort of increase

The gaming index was as high as 160 and now was returned to slightly below where the S&P is. A lot of the inflation has deflated a bit. But it’s still above where it was pre COVID. And probably in line with how the market overall has expanded in games.

Second, we talked about private investments

Joakim: I think one of the big things for me in H1 was Dream Games, and them launching Royal Match. They really set the yardstick on a new location for the whole industry of early stage where you need to be, to be attractive for investing. The bar is much higher now.

And I think it’s a good thing. It sets an example for the whole industry that mobile [game] quality is going higher and higher. We have greater teams and better VCs. In H2, I think these [private investments] will increase even further because there’s so much capital available now in the private markets. So yeah, I’m pretty bullish.

Third, the mergers and acquisitions in gaming

Anton: We’ve seen the biggest deals in many years during the first half. And I’m pretty sure that we’re going to see more. We have just heard the news about Embracer buying eight companies for more than half a billion dollars. There’s no sign of stopping.

And there’s more. Check out InvestGames’ report by going here. And you can listen to the discussion by going here.

📃 Articles worth reading

How Difficulty Impacts Motivation in Game Design — “Understanding player motivation and psychology is something very important to game designers, because this is the first real question you need to answer after figuring out your core gameplay loop: who is this game for? That one question will impact everything from the design and systems to your marketing and PR.”

Killer products are opinionated — “Make it faster. Remove all friction. These are the catchy mantras of product building 101, but they also happen to be misleading. They spell out a recipe for making something complaint-free, but nowhere near extraordinary. Friction isn’t always the villain. Positive friction creates memories, and memories are how customers remember you.”

The Writing Well Handbook — “Great minds became brilliant through communication. Great ideas emerge while writing or speaking—not before. When you express ideas, your brain can’t help but to draw connections between them and advance them. Writing is a laxative for the mind.”

💬 Quote that I’ve been thinking about

It’s never the idea; it’s always the execution. — Bill Sahlman

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Sponsored by AppMagic

I (Joakim) wrote an article with the AppMagic folks, and in it, we talk about the ways that developers of mobile games should think about market insights in the early stages of concepting and prototyping of their games.

Read this article by going here

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I hope you have a great weekend!