Ilkka Paananen – Superpowering Teams – [Founder’s Field Guide, EP.17]Invest Like the Best
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- 21 Jan 2021
My guest today is Ilkka Paananen, Founder and CEO of Supercell, a mobile game developer based in Finland. Supercell has built hugely successful games like Clash of Clans and Clash Royale that have reached over 100 million daily active users. What interests me most about the company is Supercell's unique culture built on decentralized, autonomous teams with nearly total creative control. Ilkka and I talk about how Supercell hires and designs teams, why they incorporate as little process as possible, and the rise of global, social games. I hope you enjoy my conversation with Ilkka. For the full show notes, transcript, and links to mentioned content check out https://www.joincolossus.com/episodes/72273479/paananen-superpowering-teams This episode of Founder's Field Guide is sponsored by Klaviyo. Klaviyo is the ultimate marketing platform for ecommerce. With targeted segmentation, email automation, SMS marketing, and more, Klaviyo helps you create your ideal customer experience. See why Klaviyo's trusted by more than 50,000 brands, like Living Proof, Solo Stove, and Nomad to help them grow their business. For a free trial check out https://www.klaviyo.com/founders. This episode is also sponsored by Vanta. Vanta has built software that makes it easier to both get and maintain your SOC 2 report, at a fraction of the normal cost. Founders Field Guide listeners can redeem a $1k off coupon at vanta.com/patrick. Founder's Field Guide is a property of Colossus Inc. For more episodes of Founder's Field Guide go to https://www.joincolossus.com/episodes. Stay up to date on all our podcasts by signing up to Colossus Weekly, our quick dive every Sunday highlighting the top business and investing concepts from our podcasts and the best of what we read that week. Sign up here - https://www.joincolossus.com/newsletter. Follow Patrick on Twitter at @patrick_oshag Follow Colossus on Twitter at @JoinColossus Show Notes [00:02:51] – [First question] – Why he is the “least powerful CEO in the world.” [00:04:03] – His career prior to Supercell [00:07:53] – Lessons from his prior career that he brought to Supercell [00:11:49] – What he looks for in identifying and recruiting the best people [00:13:46] – The funnel of getting great people into the business through the rest of the team [00:15:44] – The Supercell recruitment team [00:17:33] – Interviewing and screening applicants [00:18:39] – Building teams and how they are the driving force behind the company [00:21:29] – The culture of trust throughout the company [00:24:13] – Ensuring teams know when to kill a project [00:26:11] – Celebrating after a project gets shutdown [00:28:15] – Why retention is such an important focus of the company [00:30:40] – How reach and depth lead to a game’s success [00:32:21] – The teams outside of development and how they operate [00:33:36] - LOST & CROWNED | A Clash Short Film [00:34:53] – His day-to-day [00:35:49] – Biggest surprises within Supercell since its founding [00:36:38] – What makes for a good game [00:37:59] – The notion of infinite games [00:39:28] – Kindest thing anyone has done for him
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Hello and welcome everyone. I'm Patrick O'Shaughnessy and this is Founder CEO Guy Founders. Field Guide is a series of conversations with founders, CEOs and operators building great businesses. I believe we are all builders in our own way and this series is dedicated to stories and lessons from builders of all types. You can find more episodes at Investor Field Guide dot com.
Patrick O'Shaughnessy is the CEO of O'Shannassy Asset Management, all opinions expressed by Patrick and podcast guests are solely their own opinions and do not reflect the opinion of O'Shannassy asset management. This podcast is for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as a basis for investment decisions. Clients of O'Shannassy Asset Management may maintain positions in the securities discussed in this podcast.
My guest today is Ilka Pandit, founder and CEO of Super Cell, one of the most successful mobile game developers in the world. Based in Finland, Supercell has built hugely successful games like Clash of Clans and Clash Rail that have each reached over 100 million daily active users. What interests me most about the company is super cells unique culture built on decentralized autonomous teams with nearly total creative control.
Can I talk about how super cell hires and design teams, why they incorporate as little process as possible and the rise of global social games?
I hope you enjoyed this great conversation with Ilka Pandit. So, Elka, I've been so excited to do this with you for two reasons, one, I've been spending so much time thinking about and covid playing video games with myself and my young son, I think a great way to begin this conversation is with one of my favorite lines of yours, which is that you once said, I am the least powerful CEO in the world. I love this concept because it will introduce the idea of culture and teams and people that we're going to spend most of our time talking about, which may sound a little strange for a video game company, but I think it's amazing and critical.
So what did you mean by this line? Why did you say that? What does it mean to super cells culture?
First of all, thanks so much for having me. But I think to summarize the whole point about that phrase is that I just believe that the more decisions that they make and the less I make, the better. In an ideal world, if I made no decisions, then that would make me, I guess, the least powerful CEO. The whole idea about super cell, what is at the core of our culture is this idea of this small and independent things that we call cells and this independent game, things sacred inside super cell.
And the way to think about them is think about smaller startups within the greater company. That's what we think about them.
I'd love to go back before super cell because I think your career up until that point helped inform you in how to build Super Cell with less focus on command and control and more focus on decentralized trust. And I think our lessons today will be applicable across creative pursuits and industries, not just in gaming. What were you doing prior to founding Super Cell and what were lessons that you learned or were taught by your experience before this business?
I guess they would need to go back to the year 2000. So I was still a student at the University of Technology. I had a business major vote and I actually like in my early days of my studies, for some reason, my dream job was to become ever a management consultant or an investment banker simply because that's what everybody else in my class wanted to do and so did I. But then at some point in my studies, I was really interesting about entrepreneurship, and I start to think that, well, this actually would be really cool, you know, trying to build your own thing with a group of great people.
And then I just got, like, super lucky. I happened to bump into this group of people who wanted to found a company and it happened to be a games company earlier, especially in my teenage years. So I had to be a massive gamer and still played a lot of games. And then these guys couldn't afford to pay any salary. And I guess for that reason, there was nobody else who was applying to join them. All they wanted to do was to develop games and they needed somebody else to do everything else.
Then I was probably the only applicant, as I said, and then I got the job, but I didn't get any pay. But the funny thing is that these guys feel that you got to do all the sales for us. Then they need to give you a proper title so that people would actually want to see you. And I guess they didn't know, like what to call me. So then they decided to call me the CEO. And I think I was 22 years of age and I had absolutely no idea what I was doing.
I've never had a proper job except on summer jobs. And I asked my parents they probably still think I never had a proper job because all I've done, I've been CEO of gaming companies. But anyway, that's how they kind of got started and of course, had no idea what we were doing, learn by doing and and eventually even managed to graduate somewhere in between. So that's how we got started the year 2000. So set up a games company.
And funnily enough, we were actually doing mobile games at the time. If you recall those days, this thing called the feature phones. But they're coming to be market mostly from manufacturers like Nokia, for example, of course, based there in Finland. And of course, there was no app stores, nothing like that. So you would need to distribute this job. Gains through carriers was a very different world at that time, but that's how it started.
He founded the company almost exactly at the time when the dotcom bubble burst and there was no financing available. So we basically financed it by just doing work for hire work. And then on the side, we developed our own IP and our own games. I think we got lucky. We were able to cut deals with most of the European carriers, even with some of the US based carriers, and then a massive amount of based Java based phones came to market and actually did start to make some money on the company start to grow.
Back in 2004, we sold our company to a company called Digital Chocolate, which was founded by a game industry legend, Hawkinson, funded by Sequoia and Kleiner Perkins. And they joined forces with them. And then over time, that company grew to like four hundred people. So relatively sizable game development companies. I would call that to my MBA and I guess in entrepreneurship and management. I learned a lot of lessons, what were the key lessons that you learn positive and negative?
I'll combine the time at both digital chocolate and your company that was acquired by digital chocolate. What were the things that it installed in you that you brought with you into super cell? And what were some other things that you reacted to or reacted against when thinking about how Supercell would run as a company?
The thing that kind of kept and what I learned was that ultimately it's all about the people and a digital chocolate. I was very lucky to work with such amazing people. I kind of thought at those times that but we are going to have the best strategy, the best plans, the best processes in place and digital chocolate, and mostly because of my doing so is actually quite a sort of a structured company. And also when it comes to innovation, so we had a process almost for everything.
If you ask me, like, OK, how does digital chocolate think about new against a 10 year like a slide deck of like 50 slides, explains exactly how things work. And we have all kinds of processes for like how do we greenlight new games? We almost thought that we or myself and Mark on the leadership team over there had a crystal ball, but we kind of knew the best what the players and the consumers want. And then they put together like all kinds of control mechanisms to make sure that the company actually develops products and games to that direction.
But then over the years, I realized that there are a lot of negatives about this type of way of thinking because it integrates the best creative people in the world. They don't get this feeling of ownership. And oftentimes, I mean, the reality is that actually the people who know the best, what is best for the game and for the players, those people are actually the people who are building the game. It's not the leadership team, not people like me.
And over the years, I realized our job as leaders. They should enable these creative people to do their work better. Look, try to control it. We spent so much time hiring the best people in the world, also a digital shop with anything to do about why on earth can you try to control them? Why don't you just trust them to do the best thing? One of the things that made me fully realize this, at some point I start to look back at, OK, let's look at the heat games.
But our company has put out what is sort of a common denominator of these games. One is that they had really amazing people and great teams behind the games. But interestingly, the other thing was that most of these games somehow had nothing to do with all of these fantastic processes, that they had designed the usual storyboards, but we just didn't have anything else for these guys to do. So there are some that were sitting somewhere in the corner of the office and they were just doing whatever they wanted to do.
And there are some flying under the radar, so to speak. And then the next thing you know, this amazing game comes out. And then I start to think that, wow, that these amazing games may come out not because of me or the prose's that I put together. They come out despite all the things that they've done here and that most interesting moment. Then I realized that. And then the other moment that I remember, I remember seeing the very first version of a Netflix called Chernick, which I think it probably came out was it 2008 or 2009, something like that.
And then they talked about this culture of freedom and responsibility. But there be talk more about that from individual perspective about the employees themselves. Like something really struck me about that. Ever going to find a new company? This must be the idea. But then they come up with the idea forever. And instead of thinking about freedom and responsibility of individuals, they start to talk about freedom and responsibility of teams. And that's led to the idea of super.
So I absolutely love the idea that the success was in spite of process of a magical thing to have realized. I love how Supercell thinks about the hierarchy of people, teams and culture. I'd love to spend a bit of time on each of those levels of how Supercell runs and starting with individual people. I know that obviously I think early on you said the best people make the best games but have changed that to be the best teams, make the best games.
We'll talk about the difference. But let's start with people. When recruiting early on, it's super cell. And today, what have you learned? How have you refined the process of identifying the best people, recruiting them and sort of understanding what qualities they tend to share regardless of their background?
The most important thing is I think they call it like my passion for excellence. So just meaning that we try to like identify like how high is the bar for the individual, what it's like, does this individual know what grade looks like? But it's so important that they really understand and you can set the bar as high as possible. And that is sort of the basis for for everything of our thing, is that we call them proactive. Do meaning that is this individual able to get to that bar and figure out a way?
Anybody telling that individual how to do so or to do so in the first place? I don't think Supercell, as a company of three hundred and forty like entrepreneurs at Super, so we don't talk about the employees and leadership and all in our set of super civilians. And we have very little control mechanisms or processes at the company. So for you to do well at Supercell, you have to be very entrepreneurial minded. And actually, like a lot of people who have done very well at Supercell, they often think they've actually they've had their own companies previously.
So their founders of their own companies later on, they wanted to join us and those type of people then to do super well at the company. And then the first criteria is that you just have to be like great to work doesn't mean that they have to be friends or anything outside, or they like people to be humble and, of course, prosper and those type of things in this flat structure that you've built at Supercell.
I remember studying Valve's culture back in the day, which is also very flat and self organizing into small teams, also a games company. Interestingly enough, it seems like the most important thing then almost everyone's most important job is getting more great people into the business.
What have you learned about that? I'll call it funnel or process. How has that been refined over the ten years of super cells history? What did it look like to start and how is that process gotten even better? What lessons have you learned?
First of all, and this maybe goes against what I just said about processes. I mean, if there's one process that actually process does make a lot of sense. It's probably the recruitment process in that process. You want to sort of accumulate all the learnings through the years that you got on, because, as you say, that probably is the most important process in the company. Actually, early on there are six co-founders, as you may imagine, there wasn't much process.
We simply asked ourselves a very simple question, which was who are the best people that they've ever worked in previously? And that got us to like we grew in the company from maybe about six to maybe twenty five or so. And it all came through from our own networks. We just made sure about the people who join, shared the same values that we have. And then that group of twenty five people then recruited the next layer of people. At some point we actually created our own recruitment team.
It was one of the best decisions we've ever made and that team crafted a process around the recruitment business. I feel that it's actually quite well refined and the number one lesson to be learned over the years is that don't try to shortcut the process every single time they've tried to shortcut it in one way or another, it has come back to bite us. And that's the one process that you really want to follow and you really shouldn't rush it. Of course, now, like product deadline or somebody who instantly want to join the company, but you still should just follow the process and take your time.
Don't rush it.
What is the recruitment team look like? How many people are on that team? What is their day to day look like?
It's not that big of a team. So we have four offices. And I like recruiting people in every one of those offices and work very closely with our teams who need new people. What they do is that they help us to put together a big job description. It's like trying to really, like, challenge these people. What type of people are you looking for? Let's actually, like, write it down. And then once they agree on the profile of the people that they're looking for, when they go out and try to look for such people and often thinks they are the first ones who make a contact and then they basically run the process, then our interview process, it's I guess it's quite famous.
It is really lengthy and it takes time. And we really appreciate all the candidates who do take a time to go through that process because it does have a lot of interviews like it's going to be ten or more. I know it goes like the counter to any logic, but I, for example, still interview every single person who super or so, no matter which office, no matter what position or even try any of them. The reason isn't that I feel that I would be somehow superior in interviewing people or I would like to make sure I don't make mistakes.
But it's a great way for me to keep my finger on the pulse, on what type of people are we getting to be a company on that? One of the best advice that I've ever gotten about recruiting is that if you can try to imagine the imaginary average quality of a person at the company and then there's been there some new candidate who is about to come in, ask ourselves the question that is this new person, is she or he going to, like, raise the average quality of the company?
And that's what I also try to look for. And it's been really amazing to see year after year how much more like. Right.
People to be able to get to the company in your own personal interviewing style, in addition to screening for The Passion for excellence, being good to work with, having that activation energy or being proactive, is that mostly what you're doing is screening for those concepts? And if not, is there anything else maybe counterintuitive or unusual of. Out how you interview people? Well, one thing that I always, always do before the interview, I actually have documented our culture in a kind of an old fashioned culture memo, if you will.
They always send that memo prior to my interview to the candidates and they actually talk about it. Then I ask a few questions about it. Then I and also I want to ask these people who mean they are dead serious about our culture and it has its positives and negatives are challenges. And I want to make sure that the candidate actually wants to join such a type of company and they are not the right company for everybody. Some people, it's important for them to have like safety controls and processes, and they look to be managers to give them a lot of guidance and they don't have too much of that.
So if you're about the person, then the aren't the right type of company for you.
OK, so we've got this three hundred plus person group of quasi entrepreneurs that have been put together to build super cell. Now we have to go to the level of teams and I understand that for the most part, obviously the mission of the company is to put out these long lasting beloved games. It's kind of remarkable given that it's a hit driven industry. Oftentimes they'll be a one hit wonder studio, but super cells consistently put out these incredibly long lasting high retention games.
What have you learned about teams? How do you put them together? Are they self organizing? Do you direct it in any way? How do you create enough space around them to do their thing? Can they just work on something as long as they want? I'm just fascinated by once you get the right people in the room, how teams then become the driving force behind the company.
Well, this probably is the most difficult part of my and our jobs. Just putting together a great gainst team. There's so much that goes into it. I wish there was a formula and how can you put it together? But I think it's quite a bit of just trial and error. And of course, over the years, you get some better recognition of what might work. It's maybe easier to first begin by saying what does not work. I mean, what doesn't work in our experience is that if you just put together a random group of absolutely great individuals that doesn't necessarily and often doesn't make a great team.
We've done that a few times as well. We've also like putting things together, like complete the organically that hasn't worked the best way ever. So I think it needs some direction, oftentimes a little bit in a way that as a coach or GM in professional sports, they put together a team. I think there are some similarities and they're a great team is something that the core, the members, they kind of complement each other. I think the key parts of it are kind of a identify certain type of roles that there has to be in the team and the core of the team.
And if you don't have every single one of those type of roles and personalities, then the team just won't work. That's the last thing. Once you have found a great team, redistributing the team should be very high. I know it's a cliche that you want to keep a winning theme, but I do think there's a lot of truth in that. One of the things that we think about a lot is that, of course, there's also a lot of value in rotating people between being because that's how you can maximize the learning in an organization and especially in an organization like Vosper.
One of the biggest risks that we have as a company, that these teams become really siloed because on one hand, we are huge believers in this idea of independent teams. But the flip side of the coin is that if you have a file or teams and there's like shared learnings and no synergies between any of the teams, that isn't great diva. And the way to kind of get those learnings is going on. It's actually like rotating some of the team member.
So it's always a combo.
And then, of course, above teams is the super cell wide culture. It's a very decentralized place. These smaller teams producing these games fairly independently, from what I understand, talk about the cultivation of trust as super cell wide trust, not just within a team, as sort of the driver of the environment and culture that you create. You started with the negative maybe what culture doesn't mean to you. We could start there and then talk about what's important to build the culture.
It's one of those things that's easy to talk about trust. Then things are going well. It's very easy to trust that it's doing super well. I think the true test of atrocities that then things aren't going well. And moreover, if things aren't going well and then you also happen to disagree people, the thing is doing that is the ultimate test of trust me, it's kind of a crossroads many times as a company there. And ironically, it's related to one of our biggest hit games, too.
If I think about the three most recent games that they've done, boobage, class FARELL and stars, every one of those free games has actually faced quite a bit of internal opposition. There's been a lot of people at Supercell who have thought that they shouldn't ever develop those games or shouldn't continue to develop those games or we shouldn't release those games. And in those cases, the baby thought about them. Is that OK? Even the majority of people are against releasing this game, but then the team behind the game really wants to release the game and they truly believe in how we thought about it.
They said, OK, now we have two choices. The first choice is let's do what the majority wants to do, which would be not to release it or killing this game, but that would go against what the team wants to do. But chances are that this might be the right business call for the short term, because, I mean, they have a lot of great experienced people here in the room and they all think this game won't do well.
So why would we release it? It might be the right business call, but then on the other hand, they can do that. Then they can talk about the independent games anymore because then they aren't independent. Then if they do that, even if it would be the right business call, it would destroy our culture. How we fought about it is that the culture is the most important thing in the company. It's far more important than the short term business goal.
So then they have all of us taking the off. They just trust with them. Let's have them release the game and let's see what happens. As I said to it, oftentimes that has to be an action. Ironically, also a great business call as well. If in the last three games they've done, I really have to say that I really admire these things. It cannot be easy to work on a game there. People outside the and think, actually, I don't believe in your game.
How do you make sure, given that that amount of crazy trust, even with most people say we shouldn't release this, you still do. How do you make sure that the teams kill games themselves when they aren't good enough?
Well, it's funny what happens when you trust people and you trust that they because then they get this enormous sense of responsibility. They really think that, OK, this is my game, it's my responsibility. And how do you think about the responsibilities that it's not that these people would need to feel a sense of responsibility, for example, towards me as the CEO? They feel a sense of responsibility towards everybody at Supra. So then it seems to come quite naturally.
It truly is their call to either kill the game or release the game that actually makes them care so much. And this huge feeling of responsibility comes in. I think that's probably a secret. If it would be like my call, for example, to ever release or kill the game, then the responsibility would shift from a theme to me, and then they probably wouldn't care as much.
But because it's completely their responsibility, if they really, really care, it's a fascinating idea and obviously pairs perfectly with incredible people. How often does a game that gets worked on make it out? What is the ratio of games that maybe gets started is the wrong metric as it might get started, then get killed very quickly. But let's say get started then last for some period of time and then get killed. What is the ratio of success to failure?
I've tried to like calculate it quite a few times, as you correctly pointed out. What makes it difficult, but how do you define what is actually a game? So if, say, a group of four people brainstorm a game for a week or two with a whiteboard, it's not a game and then it gets scale. Do you have like an early prototype or do you actually have an official production going on in the whole thing? I would say that depending how you look at it, I would say that ratio is probably one out of ten or so.
So for the nine out of ten that don't ultimately make it, what happens when it gets shut down? You try to get together and share lessons. How do you use the nine out of ten that don't work out to make the teams, the people and the culture better?
Actually, that's a funny story about this. So we actually do celebrate in this moment. Toast, champagne, actually. And how we can started was that this must be in early 2011. There was a first game that killed I was having a lunch with a lead of a team and he told me we killed this game and now we're going to have this post-mortem session. So I just want to tell the company and the company was to people at the time, I want to tell the company what happened and what they learned.
And I thought it sounds like a pretty sad meeting and what could I do to cheer it up? And then I just had this thought, oh, I'm going to go and buy a few bottles of champagne. I'm going to hand them over to my team because, I mean, it's nice that they're going to share the learnings and that's how we're going to get better as a company. Then it somehow became this joke. The point is not. But we are trying to pretend that sailing is fun.
Anything but fun can imagine a group of people, passionate people who work for a game for months, sometimes for years. It really has become their baby. So it's just extremely sad moment to realize that, oh, it's not going to work out. There just aren't enough players who would love this game. We don't believe in it ourselves. It's very, very sad. Well, we do think it's definitely worth celebrating. Are all of those learnings that come from that failure.
And we want to really, like, encourage risk taking culture. We want to make the failing completely safe. I believe that if you don't take really big risks, never going to grow. Building new great games from scratch. By definition, it's hard because we're trying to create something new, something that doesn't exist yet. If you don't take risks, then that'll never happen. The result is incremental innovation, which we don't want. So that's why we felt that it's really important to promote this kind of a culture of risk taking.
And that's why we also, quote, celebrate the failure, celebrate the learnings coming from those failures for the one in 10 games that does make it out.
One of the things when you study supercell that you find it's sort of mind blowing is the incredible long term. I'm talking three, five, 10 year retention numbers of the games, meaning to take something like Clash of clans, probably the game that most people will be familiar with many, many years after its release. People are still playing that game. I'd love to just hear all things retention from you. Why is retention so important? How do you think about it when you're working with the teams and thinking about releasing a game?
How is the idea of that this game may be played five or ten years from now baked into the design and the thinking? I'm just fascinated by this topic of retention. I would love to hear what you've learned.
It all started actually when they founded the company. They were six co-founders and I think three out of the six people, they're massive fans, almost addicts of this game called World of Warcraft, many would know. And one of the co-founders, melko, he had played the game for five years. At that point, I think the thing that he had realized was that the single biggest reason why he keeps on coming back to a game day after day, month after month, year after year, it's not even the game itself anymore.
It's the other people who he has met through the game can be found to like our dream was, to like create games. We have a similar longevity. It just wanted to bring these games much wider audience, the ability, the work force for. That's how we got started. Ultimately, it's almost all about the social value of the game. If the game is more fun when you play with other people, that's a great place to start from these days, players think these games are almost Holby SaaS services.
I'm one of the key qualities is that the game needs to be eventful and almost every single time you come to a game, there has to be something new available, new content, something new to play, something fresh in there. So they are not just products anymore, they're definitely services. I think one of those things that they've done is that we have just continue to invest in not just the games themselves, but also to the community around the games and the organized events, the sports events and EA Sports.
For us, it's not take on a revenue driver or it's not the revenue diversification play. We just do it simply because we are players. But there's a group of players who are really passionate about that type of thing and and they want to compete against each other.
You mentioned this idea of service, of continuing introduction, of new content, maybe tweaking, making sure that the experience stays fresh. Is there anything else that you've learned about, I don't know, intellectual property of the game or just the world that you're building in the game, whether that be the broadest possible reach, how do you make it appealing to many people? The depth of the gameplay? I often read that it's that combination reach and depth that make your game stand out.
What are your thoughts there?
One thing that they've learned is that my most important thing is to focus on the players who really, really loved the game, absolutely passionate about the game, rather than focusing on the people who don't like the game and why don't they like it? The thing is that if are a select group of people, even though it would be small in the beginning, they are passionate enough about a game, then what will happen is that those people will convert other people around them to love the game too, and then it will start to grow.
But certainly has been true about many of our games and even the latest member of staff, which, as I said, not everybody at Super so loud internally because it was so different. And many people say that, oh, doesn't even look like the Super Bowl game. And it's not the mobile game the first place just because it was so, so different. The thing is that the biggest success is they are not evident from the start. They sort of happen.
And often times this big success, if they are so, so different to like what exists in the market today, that means that initially maybe like everybody will fall in love with them on day one. But the thing is that our group of people who do fall in love and they are so passionate about them, but over time, as I said, they convert other people to love them.
What do you think about the notion of all the teams? I'll call that outside of the core gaming team. So we focused mostly on hire amazing people, let them form small teams, not purely Top-Down, not purely bottom up, get the teams just right and then really, really trust them to create these great games. Supercell is also famous for the teams and the activity around the games. They're famous for unbelievable performance marketing, for example. I was fascinated.
Learn about the content that's created around the IP itself, so not the games, but others say YouTube content that gets hundreds of millions of views. I think billions of views in some cases, and these are not core game teams.
Talk to me a little bit about how other non core game teams at Supercell are formed, the role that they play, how they interact with the baseline game teams. What have you learned there?
Again, as I said, it all starts from the games of the game. So that's the core of the supercell around the game, because they have all kinds of different themes. And their mission is to like do whatever they can to make these game teams and their game successful. Amazing, amazing creative people, for example, in our marketing teams who've done this video and maybe even released a short film called Lost Uncrowned on Questionable. And we've done a series of shorts called Clash Arama that's probably got way more about half a million views on YouTube, etc.
. Quality is everything to us. I mean, it's absolutely everything. And I think one of the greatest proofs that is that these videos that you just talked about, the vast majority of views are organic. That makes spread around because they're just great content for our players and also people who aren't just playing our games, they just love to watch.
For example, this is kind of a weird specific question, but on the content that's created by a team that relates back to IP from a certain game, does the same independence and trust apply to them? Meaning can they release something?
Even if the game team for the IP on which the content is based doesn't approve of it or doesn't like it, does it work that way when you have a group of passionate, creative people both in the game playing, but then also outside the game sometimes are also a bit of a clash, but we try to talk them out and I don't think they've ever been at a situation where the game is absolutely opposed to something. Let's say people outside the game are trying to do.
The nice thing about percent is that they are still a relatively small company.
It doesn't take much to get people together and talk about things and agree what to do going back to where we started, which is you as the least powerful CEO in the world, what is the world's least powerful CEO spend most of his time doing? What is your day to day look like? How is your time devoted to make sure Supercell keeps getting better?
Well, I spend most of my time of the people I spend my time with lead. So it seems obviously I spend quite a bit of time maybe recruitment. I'd try to like, keep my finger on the pulse, what's going in the company. I try to look for opportunities to improve a company. One of my favorite questions, if not the favorite one, is when I talk to the latest. What's slowing your team down? How can I help?
How do we make Supercell better? We talk to people about back then. We just want to get old and constantly get people's ideas. How do we make a company better? How do we make the culture better? We ask people to challenge challenged existing beliefs. Then nothing is sacred. That, of course, takes a lot of time trying to encourage people to speak up.
What are some of the most or the most surprising thing that has happened inside of Supercell in its first decade?
Starting from the obvious when we founded the company could have never, ever imagined what it's become. I remember when they were celebrating, when they go to, I think, ten thousand daily active users and then twenty a thousand on the wall like now really made it then. Probably won't grow much more than two million then one hundred million and all that still surprised me how lucky we've been as a company as people. And then the other thing is that I'm still I keep on surprised how great people we have, people we have, and then also new people come and join us.
So lots of people, of course, and older companies talk about how people and culture are their number one asset, et cetera, et cetera. But I think it's really true.
I have a very simple question, which is really based on the fact that you've created so many games. Most of them haven't made it out the door and you've had so much success, but also a lot of failures. What makes for a good game? What are the features that are shared in common across not just your best games, but the best games that you've ever played?
If there was a list of features, I think game development would be easy. I just want a very high level. As I said before, I'm just a huge believer in the social value of the games. I just believe that if the game is more fun when you play with other people, that alone will be magical because then it creates an incentive for you to invite clever people and then the game is going to larger than just the game. It becomes a social phenomenon that it gives you like other values and not just the fun that comes from playing the game, but it gives you a context.
While you're playing the game, you can talk about something else also with the people, and that's what happened. If you look at how the kids play for night these days, I mean, Fortinet has become this ultimate place to, like, hang out, look at kids playing for. We can talk about homework and all kinds of things besides the game itself, but for tonight, it's just the place where these gamers meet. And the same is true about some of our games as well.
I think I wanted to ask you about this notion of infinite games. Most games, end board game we play or a video game we play has some beginning, middle and end. I think you're a believer in this notion of not just in work, but in life, this notion of infinite games. Can you describe what that means to you and why it's important?
I guess that's a dream. Even our company nation is able to create great games that as many people as possible will play for a year, some games that would be remembered forever. And of course, it's obviously a very variable dream. It's something that it's super important to us. It's just a fantastic feeling that we are all going to look back. If people still are playing the games and would be a right thing, it would make us feel that we've given the world of entertainment something long lasting.
But I describe the how I feel about Nintendo. It is a pretty incredible feeling. When I was 19 years old, I played some of these games and I fell in love with characters like Super Mario, etc.. And then you still have these characters which exist today and people love them and are having fun with them. It's just a great feeling to be able to invent such double things.
Like I've so enjoyed reading everything that you and your company have put out exploring the culture. It is radical in some sense because it's so different than the typical corporate culture. But in another sense, it's just so obvious that you should find great people and let them do their thing. And I think Supercell to study as a business is a great example of the potential of that way of running something. My traditional closing question that I ask everybody is to ask what the kindest thing that anyone's ever done for you is.
I think outside looking in might look like an instant successful company and things have always gone so well, but it really isn't true. So I remember my early days there, definitely very easy, and we had a huge amount of failures until we finally got lucky in the heyday of the game. But even since then, every once in a while we screw up massively on something so many people, even in those type of times, have supported us. And it's hard to single out one single thing.
That's something that way forward. Sometimes I feel that in the world of entrepreneurship, we talk way too much about people who have been successful. I actually admire more of it, people who have tried to set up their company and have failed. But despite the failure of our try again, I feel like the unsung heroes are also a people who deserve a lot more respect. And I wish there was entrepreneurship for those people because they it's actually pretty easy when you are successful.
I don't think most people really need much of celebration, but I think most people do keep on trying despite the failures. And that's why I've always really respected people who have supported us all during those difficult moments.
What a fantastic answer. I would encourage everyone out there to just take this conversation and just dream a little bit what it would look like to adopt some of these principles into what they do, because I do think they're so powerful. Thank you so much for your time today and all the lessons that you shared.
Thanks so much. I really enjoyed the chat. This episode was brought to you by Cliffview in this four part mini series I sit down with of customer Nomad and discuss their origin story, why they chose Clairsville for their business and how your brand can grow online sales with Clavius. E Commerce Marketing Platform. In this week's episode, Nomad Marketing Director Chuck Milburn. I discuss how Nomad uses Clavo to personalize their e-commerce marketing and grow their online sales.
Chuck, maybe you could walk us through the specifics of what Cliffview does today, specifically how you use it. Not everything I can do, but the ways that you apply it in your business and how you work with it. And just give us some of the nuts and bolts details of how it actually works.
Yeah. So for me personally, one of my favorite parts of Gladio is the segmentation tools it offers and the connections it has with other marketing tools out there. It allows me to build out really personalized segments of customers that I can send emails to, of course, but also think of my Facebook and run ads to depending upon purchase behavior or viewing behavior. That's kind of number one. It's been a really great tool to have for that number to the flows we can build out.
You have the basics like a post purchase flow or a browse abandonment card flow. But some of my favorites are like the predictive analytics as I'm able to build that Wikipedia is a pretty cool system built in that basically looks at our customer data and can analyze and predict these types of customers are probably going to buy within the next 30 days so I can get out ahead of them and present them with some sort of offer to make sure that that conversion happens rather than maybe going by the wayside or that not never happening.
How does it work literally with the other marketing tools? Like how much of all that happens just inside a Cleveland dashboard or system?
The primary thing, like I said, is building on segments. I'm able to build out a segment of customers with all the different logic gates and then that with my Facebook or think that with something else and then run the ads. I want to those specific customers, other cool features it has is like the fact that I'm able to build out my email capture. Popovers within Cliffview has been awesome in the past. Usually I have to use like a third party tool to build out the popover and then hook it into Clavius to send the data back and forth.
Just having it all kind of siloed in one place has been fantastic for just easy use and then also like getting super solid data. There's nothing getting lost in the mix or nothing falling through the cracks. Is there anything that they do to give you some sort of feedback loop in terms of like how whatever you set up is working so that, you know, either it's effective or it's ineffective or you need to iterated or improve it or a feedback loop?
Clivia has some really interesting feedback mechanisms. They do a really good job of tracking all of our user behavior data as far as open rates click through rates on sub rates and stuff like that. So I keep a pretty close eye on our flows to see, like when our customers are on subbing or reporting us a spam or something like that at a higher rate than anticipated. That's usually a pretty good indicator of I'm clearly doing something wrong as a marketer, so let's start experimenting and figure out what it is and then try to put a Band-Aid on it.
The thing I keep a really close eye on is my my open rates. I was uninsured. I have a high open race. It's going to have cascading effects. But my personal favorite thing they have going right now is they have a benchmarking tool that's been, I think, worked on for a little while now. And it's been really neat to see. It basically gives me insight into how Nomad is performing with our marketing versus other brands in the same category or similar category to us.
It lets me know like, OK, my thirty five percent open rate. Is that good or bad? Like you can read blogs all day long, but I just emails and people pontificating about what they think is good. Let's look at the actual data and compare it to everybody else in the space. So this benchmark has been great because it's helped me highlight some areas that were doing well, but also where I have deficiencies as a marketer in areas to improve upon.
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