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The world’s hottest gaming firm just got hotter: Supercell nets $130m in funding

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.

Addic­tive appeal

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.

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