A few weeks ago I had the pleasure to go to the Slush startup conference in Finland, which according to its founder, CMO and Mighty Eagle at Rovio (Angry Birds) Peter Vesterbacka, has become: “the best startup event on the planet organized completely by the community, by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs.”
I have not been at many startup conferences to be the judge of that, however it was good enough to convince me I to definitely come back next year and I encourage you to do the same.
The conference was organized by Startup Sauna, an accelerator based in Aalto University’s campus in Espoo, a suburb of Helsinki. This year was the sixth annual conference with 6,000 attendees, representing nearly 1,200 companies. One fun fact is that Slush is the biggest gathering of Swedish startups on the planet.
With a press accreditation I was allowed to a 21 minute long interview with Peter Vesterbacka. He was honest and spoke his mind. Beware; when the title on your Business card is Mighty Eagle, sky is the limit.
1. To walk on water is easy, and a must for survival
A small gaming company has made 51 games and is one the brink of bankruptcy. What do they do? They make one more.
People ask me how did you make Angry Birds successful, how did that happen, and I say actually it is very easy, at Rovio we have 800 people that can walk on water, so it is very easy, and they say what do you mean walk on water? I say we have 800 people that believe; they know that they can walk on water because no one have showed them otherwise. Of course they can walk on water, of course we can have a hundred million downloads. Not to become too biblical because in Finland it is easy to walk on water, because it is frozen.
What was different with Angry Birds compared to the 51 games before?
I think it is more attention to details, one big thing; it is not so much about the game than that the distribution changed. Before Angry Birds no IPhone, no appstore, the IPhone and the appstore changed everything. We could start distributing directly to our fans. I think that was the biggest change and of course Angry Birds is a great game, I mean it is a evergreen, powerful characters, very accessible, addictive and very rewarding, so it is a combination of many things, but mostly it is about walking on water.
2. Have crazy ambitious goals
I have been involved with startups for a long time, almost 20 years. What drives me and what drives entrepreneurs is that we are crazy people; we want to change the world. If you look at this Slush event I told everybody in 2008 that this would be the best startup event on the planet Today it is the best startup event on the planet organized completely by the community, by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs.
Doing crazy thinks like that, going for a hundred million downloads for Angry Birds, people at Rovio and outside of Rovio everybody thought that I was crazy, and I probably am, hopefully in a good way. I have super ambitious targets for everything.
How does your high ambitions impact the daily decision-making?
If you look at Rovio and if you look at Slush the ambition and passion is very contagious, you start to have people that believe that they can do anything. I think it really comes back to the attitude, you have to have courage you can’t be afraid to try crazy new things, crazy is good.
3. Try to do things bigger and better every day
We don’t talk about innovation at Rovio at all because everything we do is innovative.
I think a lot of companies that are talking about innovation are talking about something that they don’t have. At Rovio we don’t worry about innovation because we do new innovating things every day. We did Angry Birds Space, we launched in space, huge innovation but we don’t call it innovation, we just did it.
We try to do things differently every day, we try to do things bigger and better every day and that is way you will always hear me say “yea fine, we have two billions downloads that is a good start.” Because our ambition is much much bigger.We are never happy, we are never content, we are super hungry.
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Images: Christer Hansen Eriksen