Supercell, the fantastically fast-rising Finnish gaming firm, has just confirmed that it raised $130m in February, courtesy of a round led by Index Ventures, Institutional Venture Partners and Atomico. Not bad for a tiny Helsinki-based firm that was merely an idea in its founders’ heads in 2010. But when you consider that it’s been valued at $770 million, seasoned product managers and chief revenue officers will instantly understand how it attracted such mega-investment.
Founded by two experienced tech firm executives, Ilkka Paananen and Mikko Kodisoja, it secured $12m in venture funding in 2011 after being valued at $52.3 million. The fact that its success has stemmed from just two titles on iOS so far speaks volumes about the addictive appeal of the games, and the ingenious crafting that’s gone into them.
Product managers with any experience of gaming technology can’t help but be impressed. The games are saturated with immersive features and they’re compulsively easy to play: Clash of Clans, a tower defense game, features characters that look like Mr. T and Hulk Hogan, but instead of driving armored vehicles or riding stallions, they’re featured riding warthogs. Even the most hard-headed of product managers and chief revenue officers would struggle to suppress a smile. The other game, Hay Day, features comically bloated farm pigs and fish leaping out of a cartoon stream.
In the last quarter alone, Supercell made $179m. In 2012, it grossed $100 million. Now it’s making $2.4m per day, a run-rate which is setting it on course for $800m in 2013 (and quite possibly $1bn).
A unique structure
Unlike the traditional game studio set-up where a czarist executive producer gives the thumbs up (or down) to the work of programmers and developers, Supercell allows them to work in small autonomous groups of between 5 and 7 people. When they come up with an idea, they run it past 34-year-old CEO Paananen, who says he can’t recall ever nixing one, whereupon they set about developing it into a game. Supercell’s employees then play it and, if it’s a hit with them, it gets sent to Canada’s iTunes App Store for testing. Only if it passes muster there will it be released globally.
Perhaps that’s why Paananen describes himself as “the world’s least powerful CEO.” But he’s sure as hell a bright one.