How does it feel to establish a company, raise its turnover up to several millions and eventually sell the company, and all within just 1.5 years? What about Proakatemia’s role behind the success? Mika Kuusisto, a graduate from Hype cooperative (2013) will reveal the answers to these questions.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m the CEO of Kopla Games and one of its four founders. I run the company and take care of developing its business. For the last 1.5 years, my main task has been ensuring that the company has money in the bank. I’ve raised multiple funding rounds, secured a publishing contract and public funding, as well as sold the company. This year, I’m focusing on growing the company, recruiting great new people and inducting them to the house. Then we will think about what kind of an organisation and strategy we want to create.
What is Kopla Games?
Kopla Games is a mobile game startup. The company was established in January 2015 by four friends who all have a background in creating the famous Angry Birds mobile game.
During the first year we raised 800 000 euros on two funding rounds and signed a publishing contract. Our dream was to sell the company one day if everything goes well. We were struck by luck and the company was already sold after one and a half years.
We’ll continue running Kopla Games in Tampere with the same spirit as before. Our goal is to create a top-level mobile game. Our plan is to do to action game genre the same that Supercell did to strategy gaming: To introduce them to mass market audiences.
Our first game, Nonstop Knight was released recently. The start was promising and the game got four million new players during the first month. We’ll continue to grow the game and bring new players to it – business around it is going strong.
We will make more games in the future. Nonstop Knight hasn’t reached our vision of a global hit game but it is the first step to the right direction. We didn’t have a great idea of a game in mind when we founded Kopla Games but rather strong ideas about how we wanted to work. Through our experience we have seen what are the sensible ways to strive for a world class hit game. For me, the book Lean Startup was the most inspiring one during my time in Proakatemia and it is also behind our company’s product philosophy.
What kind of know-how does your work require?
Passion and learning. For example, nothing hasn’t prepared me to raise money for the company. However, what I did learn in Proakatemia was how to search for information and adapt it to my needs.
In my work I also need people skills. Initially, I was a computer science student and I still describe myself as a nerd. During my time at Proakatemia I learnt to operate with all kinds of people. So many things in business depend on interpersonal skills. My work requires a certain kind of attitude: I always have to be ready to change the direction. I have to analyze and reflect on how things work. In case they don’t, it’s my job to improve the defunct processes.
Having high tolerance for uncertainty and willingness to take risks are also imperative. Our company was sold to German Flare Games in the Summer. It is always a challenge to collaborate internationally with someone who doesn’t share the same space together with you. In Proakatemia, I understood how
important it is to create trust. I have put this lesson to good use and from the start, we have tried to see each other face to face in order to build trust. We often visit Germany and the Germans come to visit us here. Trust is always the starting point for good communication.
How have you improved your own skills during the path?
One of the best things I picked up from Proakatemia was learning to read books. Although, only during the last couple years I’ve really got keen on reading and looking for knowledge. It’s important to have a passion for reading, exploring and doing research on different kinds of things. These things should also be put into a critical perspective, and tried out in practice.
What have you done after Proakatemia?
Before founding Kopla Games, I worked with computer games as a producer for two years. That way I could gain expertise in what I wanted to do. I learned how it is like to make games, what kind of challenges there are in the trade and what it means to lead a team in that environment. I started working on games already during my studies in Proakatemia, and I remember that I said in the last cottage retreat session that I have founded my own company by the time I’m thirty years old but the great opportunity for that presented itself a bit earlier. I feel that it was crucial to accumulate expertise of game industry before founding my own company. Proakatemia gives you the zest and desire to learn new things but what was missing was the practical working experience.
What’s the best memory during your time in Proakatemia?
The trip to abroad! We saved money with Hype for 1.5 years and just before graduation we flew off to Amsterdam, Barcelona and Mauritius. During the trip we documented our thoughts about young entrepreneurs and their opinions on entrepreneurship in different countries.
In Proakatemia I often pushed myself to performing, which I did not have earlier experience of. Many of my fellow academians encouraged me with such comments as “You’re quite good at this!” and “This could be something to hold on to!”. Performing is nowadays extremely important in my job. I have a lot of conversations with investors, and I was also publicly speaking to one hundred people in Germany just a couple of weeks ago. I still do get nervous when I have to perform, and it never feels natural for me. But the vibes during now and then are still the same.
I also remember enjoying lots of the cottage retreat too, They were a brilliant tool for teaming up. From the very beginning we’ve arranged these retreats with Kopla Games as well. After all it’s where initially started the company. We pondered on things like what is actually Kopla Games and what to we want to become. We still hold on to our tradition: last week we had our retreat on a sauna boat!
What kinds of projects did Hype do during their studies in Proakatemia?
During the first autumn, we created the “Palvelu lahjaksi” (“Service for a Gift”) product concept. The whole team worked on the project and it was a good opportunity to get to know each other and build trust. Hype also created the Visio Junior event concept. We organised the event and practiced selling. The sales experience that I gained from that project has been invaluable in my current work. We also ran a café “Skå”
in the local shopping mall. That taught us to understand the figures on a balance sheet and we noticed how hard it is to run a feasible cafeteria business. Hype still has the same WhatsApp channel and we keep in touch on a yearly basis. Travelling has also remained a tradition that we keep up with a small group of people. Next, we’re going on a cruise to Tallinn and we’ve also convinced Veijo (Hype’s Coach) to join us!
How do you feel about Proakatemia today?
I have an enourmous respect towards the system, and the things I was able to learn during the process. Proakatemia has definitely been an imporant factor during my career. I did feel sometimes like an outsider for being the only one who wanted to do things related to technology and games. Proakatemia can have an impact of molding people into the same shape, but I feel like I managed to adjust Proakatemia to the way I wanted my path to be.
How did it feel like to be a Business Information Systems’ student in Proakatemia?
We started the studies in 2011 and I told everyone that “Hey, Netflix, Twitch and other streaming services are a big thing in the states and we have none of that in Finland. How about we bring one of those here!?” This got no one else excited. In Proakatemia, the diversity enriches activities but also makes them harder when people want to do completely different things. It is really difficult to get 20 people to walk to the same direction when some of them want to create a Netflix and some of them run a café.
In the end of the day, the best things were those projects that we did together as a team. In those projects you learned how to work with very different people than with whom I was used to working with in my own field. In Proakatemia, everybody were business people while here I work mostly with programmers and graphic artists.
I believe that studies in Proakatemia are useful in any kind of work. Proakatemia has given me a better basis for this job than I could have gotten from anywhere else. Even though, I still don’t have those IT skills, which is why I ended up as a producer. When you cannot design, draw or code, all there’s left to do is to lead people.
Proakatemia enables students from many different fields to do things. Even if you were an IT student who is not interested in business, I believe that in Proakatemia you will learn to build websites better than in the main campus. Projects are dropping to your hands in millions and you can also make money out of them in Proakatemia. For coders, Proakatemia may not be the right place, though.
What do you miss the most in Proakatemia?
There was always a good vibe in Proakatemia.
I remember well the first days spent in Proakatemia. I instantly realized that I’m in a quite different place than what the main campus is like. The folks had much more drive, enthusiasm and passion for things. Although there are similar people in the main campus too, I still feel like the enormous amount of people effectively kills the vibe in there. There is just something great about the Finlayson area and it looks like the new premises have maintained that as well.
The kind of cosy and homelike feeling is something that we have strived for in our present office too. In here, you don’t get the nine-to-five feeling, which you don’t get in Proakatemia either.
What were the most important things you learned in Proakatemia that help you in your current work?
People skills, building a team, and reading and looking for information. Also, a certain kind of “business hustle” where you try to get things done with scarce resources. In Proakatemia, we often had zero resources and, thinking back, many of the things we did there now feel quite silly and small time. Still, building a startup is very similar: At first you don’t have any resources and then you have some but still not enough.
In Proakatemia, I gained a basic understanding of starting a company and team dynamics and I wasn’t scared of starting a company after Proakatemia. Proakatemia left me with a feeling that things can also be worked out as long as you just work, study and talk. It could be this “Trust the process.”
Your greetings to current people in Proakatemia and for those interested in applying to Proakatemia?
I think Proakatemia is the best place for those interested in entrepreneurship. I would also like to challenge folks to think bigger! In our Hype business cards, it said: “Think Big, Get Hyped!”