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Tak Fung, founder of Supermono Studios

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Tak Fung is the founder of Supermono Studios , an app making studio that has made such successful and popular mobile games as “Rescue Rush” and “Forever Drive”. Tak’s journey began after graduating from the University of Cambridge with a degree in Computer Science. He was employed by Lionhead Studios for 7 years, where he has worked on numerous renowned games such as the “Fable” series of games. He moved on to working at Geometrics at Cambridge before embracing work as a freelancer. As a freelancer he has worked for various companies including Passion Pictures, United Visual Artists and Sony. With a plethora of experience, in 2009 Tak Fung created Supermono Studios.

Tak Fung takes the seat today with the Asian Entrepreneur, as he tells us about his studio and experiences developing app games.

In your own words, what does Supermono Studios do?

We are an independent studio focused on creating visually exciting apps that try and capture your imagination! They mostly involve games but we are always trying new things.

I understand that you’ve been in the game industry for awhile, what led you to start Supermono Studios?

It was a time when I felt it was right to go into a quickly emerging digital market, which had very low barriers to entry and was very suited to my skills. In particular at that time, I had an idea for this game I wanted to do, and it seemed like a great opportunity to try it out on the App Store and see how easy it was to distribute it WorldWide. I was already freelancing so it was a very natural move to start an independent studio making things I like , since I was free to do so.

So what sort of games do you guys create?

Mostly action and skill games, we have tried a lot of genres! We’ve created a Shoot-em-up, a Driving game, a Tilt game, a To-Do-List with bits of game, and we’ve tried all sorts of monetization models including Free-To-Play, Premium, DLC and so on. As long as it’s an interesting idea that rattles in my head for long enough then it will be good to try!

How was it like with the initial release of early games?

Our first game was MiniSquadron, which was a very well received game. Which was followed by several others, which were well received, such as EpicWin. Both showed a level of quality that few were willing to achieve at that point in the App Store’s life, and hence they stood out.

And how did you guys market the games initially?

Word of mouth and Twitter! It is a lot harder these days but initially I adopted a Grass Roots approach whereby I did a lot of blogs about the game I was making, whilst in progress. I also contacted lots of press and forums in order to excite people. The competition then was much less than it is now so the marketing approach these days needs a vastly different approach.

So was money an issue for the studio initially and did that affect how you approach work?

Initially, because I was self-funded, money was always an issue and a sharp reminder of the time you have left to get the work done. But I really enjoyed the work, and it was an amazing feeling to just do whatever I felt like that aside from the long hours, I really can’t complain too much!

In your opinion, how should one approach developing apps?

In my opinion, you have to be intelligent in how you spend your time, how you scope your project out and how you network to find the best people to work with in order to make your game a success. This includes teaming up with strong artists, Dave Ferner and Rex Crowle in my case and also being focused on what you do. It’s also very important to be totally objective about the quality of your work by testing it on unbiased people who will tell you if your game is rubbish! It may hurt but it is always for the better.

And is there an art to creating games?

Creating games is art and for me, I want to separate the art from the business. Making wonderful games requires process, research and most importantly a voice or an idea that you feel is rich and deep enough to communicate to the world. Many people have achieved this but there’s no real formula to it apart from a certain set of common attitudes in the developers whilst making it. When you put in monetization however, the goalposts do change and the game design must change to incorporate that too. Obviously it is good to achieve revenue for your game so you can continue your craft, but it is a different subject matter and involves other processes to guide game design.

How do you find out what the market wants?

I try to make games that I think is cool and fun, with an idea that it is of interest to a market of choice. It’s always hard to find out what the market wants – they usually don’t know themselves! There’s the old saying where Henry Ford, inventor of the motor car, said if he had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses! At the end of the day , it’s important to be working on something you believe in yourself, so I try and keep that in mind.

So how have you dealt with competition in the industry?

Competition in the App Store, especially in the field of games, is 100% saturated. You will be up against huge companies with massive budgets, all the way to independent small teams of 1-2 who are creating wonderful niche games. You really need to work hard and find a voice in your games to stand out.Its a balancing act of doing something original and unique that also resonates with an audience. We try not to be too niche, but at the same time we know its hard to go head to head with some of the big names on the App Store now. Quality of work is still a good basic component of our games that you can rely on though.

Any major disappointments so far?

Our free to play modelling was very difficult to get right so we will have to think long and hard about our future monetization plans.

What does the future hold for Supermono Studios?

Tenacity and humility. Staying on course when things get hard, remembering that there’s still so much to learn no matter how far ahead you’ve gotten in the game.

What are some important lessons you’ve learnt that you could share with our readers?

I think one of the most important lessons I’ve learnt is that there is really no substitute for experience in running a startup/business on your own. On that, it is also never the perfect time to start, except “as soon as possible or now”! There are a lot of processes and methods you can prepare your entrepreneurship with, but there is also a lot of luck involved. All I do know is, if you do not go ahead and try it, then I can guarantee you will have 0% of becoming successful, whereas if you are brave enough to have a go, then you are at least rolling the dice with a chance of winning!

In your opinion, how could entrepreneurs improve their results?

Iterate and learn from mistakes. Be persistent and use failures as lessons. Understand that what we do will inherently have chaotic results – especially if we operate within society, which we all do, and that markets are irrational, so never lose hope or optimism, but be grounded in reality.

So why do you do what you do? Why entrepreneurship?

Interesting question! I do what I do because I believe one of the big reasons why I live is to turn my ideas into reality. Not all my ideas are actually possible in my skill set and time on this earth to produce, but of those that are – then I want to arrange things in my life such that I can do that. Importantly for me – although I have made a lot of games, I don’t limit myself to them.

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Connect with Tak Fung and Supermono Studios today:
Email: [email protected]
Twitter: https://twitter.com/SupermonoGames
Website: http://www.supermono-studios.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SupermonoStudios

Entrepreneurship

Women on Top in Tech – Tara Velis, Growth Hacker and Digital Innovation Strategist

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(Women on Top in Tech is a series about Women Founders, CEOs, and Leaders in technology. It aims to amplify and bring to the fore diversity in leadership in technology.)

I am talking to Tara Velis, Growth Hacker and freelance Digital Innovation Strategist. Tara was selected and recognized by TheNextWeb.com as one of the 500 most talented young people in the Dutch digital scene during the 2017 TNW edition. Tara is known for her creative, entrepreneurial spirit, which she is using to her advantage in leading the change in SMEs and corporates around the globe.

What makes you do what you do?

I tend to see life as a big, complex puzzle. Because of my curious nature, I am in constant development, looking for new angles and new approaches to business problems. Innovation through technology is exploring ideas and pushing boundaries. The most radical technological advances have not come from linear improvements within one area of expertise. Instead, they arise from the combination of seemingly disparate inventions. This is, in fact, the core of innovation. I love going beyond conventional thinking practices. Mashing up different thoughts and components, connecting the dots, and transforming that into something useful to businesses.

How did you rise in the industry you are in?

I consistently chose to follow my curiosity, which has led me to where I am today. If you want to succeed in the digital industry, you need to have a growth mindset. Seen the fact that the industry is evolving in an astoundingly quick rate, it’s crucial to stay current with the trends and forces in order to spot business opportunities. I believe taking responsibility for your own learning and development is key to success.

Why did you take on the role of Digital Innovation Strategist?

The reason for this is twofold. On the one hand, I got frustrated with businesses operating in the exact same way they did a couple of decades ago. Right now we are in the midst of a technology revolution, and the latest possibilities and limitations of cutting-edge technologies are evolving every single day. This means that companies need to stay current and act lean if they want to survive. On a more personal level, I noticed that I felt the need to use my creativity and problem-solving skills to their maximum capacity. In transforming businesses at scale, I change the rules of the game. I love breaking out of traditional, old-fashioned patterns by nurturing innovative ideas. This involves design thinking, extensive collaboration and feedback, the implementation of various strategies and tactics, validated learning, and so on. I get a lot of energy from my work because it is aligned with my personal interests.

Do you have a mentor that you look up to in your industries?

Yes, I look up to Drew Boyd. He is a global leader in creativity and innovation. He taught me how to evaluate ideas in order to select the best ones to proceed with. This is crucial because otherwise,you run the risk of ideas creating the criteria for you because of various biases and unrelated factors. He also taught me a great deal on facilitation of creativity workshops.

How would you describe your leadership style?

I tend to have the characteristics of a transformational leader. People have told me that my enthusiasm and positive energy is motivating and even inspiring to them. Even though I take these comments as a huge compliment, I am not sure how I feel about referring to myself as a leader. To me, it still has a somewhat negative connotation. I guess I associate the concept with being a boss who’s throwing around commands. But if a leader means listening to others and igniting intrinsic motivation in people, then yes, I guess I’m a charismatic leader.

Do you consciously or unconsciously support diversity and why?

Yes, one hundred percent. I believe that creativity and innovation flourish when a highly diverse group of people bounces ideas off each other. Diversity in terms of function, gender,and culture is extremely valuable, especially in the ideation phase of a project, as it can help to see more possibilities and come up with better ideas.

Do you have any advice for others?

Yes, I have some pieces of advice I’d like to share.
First of all: Develop self-awareness. You can do so by actively seeking feedback from the people around you. This will help you understand how others see you, align your intentions with your actions, and eventually enhance your communication- and leadership skills.

Surround yourself with knowledgeable and inspiring people. They might be able to support you in reaching your goals, and help you grow both personally and professionally.

Ask “why?” a couple of times. This simple and powerful method is useful for getting to the core of a problem or challenge. Make sure to often remind yourself and your team of the outcome of this exercise to have a clear sense of direction and focus.

Data is your friend. Whether it’s extensive quantitative market research or a sufficient amount of in-depth consumer interviews (or both!), your data levels all arguments. However, always be aware of biases and limitations of research.

Say “Yes, and…” instead of “No”. Don’t be an idea killer. Forget about the feasibility and budget, at least in the ideation phase. Instead, encourage your team to generate ideas without restrictions. You can compromise certain aspects later.

Prioritization is key. There is just no way you can execute all your ideas, and, quite frankly, there is no point in trying to do so. Identify the high potential ideas and start executing those first.

Encourage rapid prototyping. Don’t wait too long to experiment, launch, and iterate your product or service. Fail fast and fail often. Adopt an Agile mindset.

If you’d like to get in touch with Tara Velis, please feel free to reach out to her on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/taravelis/

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Marek Danyluk, CEO of Space Ventures

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Marek Danyluk has a talent for assessing the competencies of management teams for other businesses and pulling together exceptional teams for his own businesses!

What’s your story?
I am the CEO of a venture capital business, Space Ventures, which invests in seed and pre-series A businesses. I also own and run Space Executive, a recruitment business focused on senior to executive hires across sales, marketing, finance, legal and change.

My career started as a trainee underwriter in the Lloyds market but quickly moved into recruitment where I set-up my first business in 2002. The business grew to around 100 people. I moved to Asia in 2009 as a board member of a multinational recruitment business with the mandate to help them scale their Asian entities, which helped contribute to their sale this year, in 2017.

My main talent is assessing the competencies of management teams as well as building high performing recruitment boutiques and putting together exceptional management teams for my own businesses.

What excites you most about your industry?
Building the business is very much about attracting the best talent and being able to build a culture which people find invigorating and unique. It’s an exciting proposition to be able to define a culture in that regard and salespeople are a fun bunch, so when you get it right it’s tremendous.

From a VC point of view there is just so much happening. South East Asia is a melting pot of innovation so the ideas and quality of people you have exposure to, is truly phenomenal. The exposure in the VC has taken me away from a career in recruitment. Doing something completely different has given me a new level of focus.

What’s your connection to Asia?
Whilst I came here with work, both my boys were born in Singapore and to them this very much is home. That said, my father in law spent many years in the East so coming and settling here was met with a good degree of support and familiarity.


Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Possibly Hong Kong. It’s the closest I’ve been to working in London. Whilst there are massive Asian influences people will work with you on the basis you are good at what you do and work hard. I find that approach very honest and straightforward.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“Always treat people well on the way up!”

Who inspires you?
I like reading about people who have excelled in business such as Jack Ma, James Kahn, Phil Knight, Sir Richard Branson, Elon Musk, all have great stories to tell and they are all inspirational. No-one has inspired me more than my parents and they are well aware as to why…

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
Pretty much any technology innovation blows me away.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Whilst it is important not to have regrets I do continually wake up thinking I’m still doing my A’ Levels. So, I’d have probably tried a little harder in 6th form.

How do you unwind?
I like the odd glass of red wine and watching sport

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Japan skiing. I love skiing and Japanese food and it’s a time when I can really enjoy time with the wife and kids. I recently tried the Margaret River which was divine, although not technically Asia.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Barbarians at the Gate

Shameless plug for your business:
Space Executive is the fastest growing recruitment business in Singapore focused on the mid to senior market across legal, compliance, finance, sales and marketing and change and transformation. Multi-award winning with exceptional growth plans into Hong Kong and London this year, and the US, Japan and Europe by the end of 2022. We are building a truly global brand.

Space Ventures is interested in any businesses that require capital or management and financial guidance or any or all of the above. We have, to date, invested in on-line training, food and beverages, peer to peer lending platforms, credit scoring as well as other tech and fintech start-ups. We are always interested in hearing about potential deals.

How can people connect with you?
[email protected]

Twitter handle?
@Spaceexecutive

This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews

Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.

Connect with Callum here:
twitter.com/laingcallum
linkedin.com/in/callumlaing
Download free copies of his books here: www.callumlaing.com

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