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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

Is There A Coworking Space Bubble?

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An annual growth rate of nearly 100%, almost five years in a row? More than 60 coworking spaces in a city like Berlin? Are these the characteristics of a bubble? Nope, these are characteristics of a lasting change in our world of work, which has been further catalyzed by the recent economic crises in many countries. But what makes this change different to a bubble? We’ve summarized some arguments of why the coworking movement is based on a sustainable change. However, that doesn’t mean it’s an easy job to open a good working coworking space.

Five reasons why the growth of coworking spaces is based on organic and sustainable growth: 

1. Coworking spaces invest their own money and create real wealth

Already, there is a convincing argument supporting why coworking spaces are not developing in a bubble: the fact that they create real wealth.

Whether referring to the dotcom bubble a decade ago or the real estate crisis in Spain or the United States, the crisis originated in a glut of cheap money, in an environment in which the sender and the recipient were unacquainted. From funds and banks, money flowed in steady streams to investments which offered little resistance and the most promising returns – which only a little while later turned into delusions and ruined investments.

Redistributed risks create illusions. Those people who distributed the money rarely wore the risk of investment decisions. The risk was mainly taken by small shareholders or people who bought parts of those investments. This was because either both parties’ (better) judgement was drowned out by the noise of the market, or because shareholders were unaware of the risk, and were at the mercy of banks and funds for reliable information.

Another fundamental condition for the creation of bubbles are the sheer amounts of money that flow from various locations globally and are concentrated, by comparison, in much fewer places.

Most coworking spaces, however, receive their funding from local or nearby sources and do not operate within this financial system. In fact, the founders mainly inject the bulk of the required investment, and turn to friends or relatives for additional support. They wear the full brunt of the risks that are involved in small-time investment.

They have access to much more information, because it is their own project, rather than a foreign one thousands of miles away. This also includes failures and mistakes that are encountered along the way, but the risk is less redistributed, thereby decreasing the probability of failures.

2. Labor market changes demand on certain office types lastingly

Most users of coworking spaces are self-employed. The proportion of employees is also on the rise, in many cases simply because they work for small companies that increasingly opt to conduct their business in coworking spaces rather than in traditional offices. The industry of almost all coworkers fall within the Internet-based creative industries.

With flexibilisation of work markets, new mobile technologies that are changing work patterns, and the increase of external services purchasing from large and medium-sized enterprises (outsourcing), the labor market has changed radically in many parts of the world.

The long-term financial and emotional security of becoming an employee no longer exists, especially for younger generations of workers. Bigger companies are quicker to fire than hire, and precarious short-term contracts are on the rise. Promising options on the labor market are more often recuded to freelancer careers and starting your own company.

And that’s possible with less money to invest. All you need is a laptop, a brain and a good network. For years, the number of independent workers and small businesses has been growing worldwide – particularly in internet-based creative industries. Anyone who has sufficient specialized skills and the willingness to take risks may adapt more quickly to market conditions if they own a small business or are self employed; more so than if they were to work in a dependent position in an equally volatile market.

Coworking spaces provide an environment in which to do this. Once they have joined a (suitable) coworking space, these factors become apparent to coworkers, who will remain in their space for years to come.

Furthermore, independent workers rarely fire themselves in crises, and even small companies are less likely to give their employees the boot – compared to their large counterparts. This combination enables more sustainable business models – and less business models à la Groupon.

3. Coworking spaces don’t live on crises

Global economic growth is waning while the number of coworking spaces is continually growing. Do coworking spaces thus benefit from this crisis?

The current crises accelerate the formation and growth of coworking spaces, because they offer solutions and space for the resulting problems. Coworking spaces are therefore not a result of a crisis, but the product of change that pre-dates their existence. A crisis is simply the most visible expression of change.

The first coworking spaces emerged in the late 1990s; the movement’s strong growth started six years ago – before the onset of economic downturns in many countries.

4. Coworking spaces depend on the needs of their members

Most coworking spaces are rarely full. Does this mean they are unsuccessful? On average, only half of all desks are occupied. But the average occupancy rate of 50% refers only to a specific date.

In fact, coworking spaces generally serve more members than they can seat at any given time, since members do not use the spaces simultaneously. Coworking spaces are places for independents who want to work on flexible terms. Smaller spaces rely more on permanent members. Larger spaces can respond more flexibilty to the working hours of its members, and, can rent desks several times over.

If a coworking space is always overcrowded or totally empty, the purpose of said space would be defeated. Firstly, it is rather impossible to work in an overcrowded room. Second, it’s impossible to cowork in an empty room. Given the nature of flexible memberships, a coworking space only can survive if they fit the needs of their members. Members would otherwise be quick to leave, and membership would be much more transient.

5. The coworking market is far from saturation

Less than 2% of all self-employed – and even fewer employees – currently work in coworking spaces. Reporting on coworking may increase, but inflated reporting on the coworking movement in the mainstream media is still far away.

Coverage of coworking space are most likely to be found in the career or local sections in larger publications – front cover coverage remains the dream of many space operators. This is because the whole coworking movement can’t be photographed in one picture. What appears to be a disadvantage, however, is actually a beneficial truth: niche coverage allows the industry to grow organically, and avoid over inflation.

Conclusion

Coworking spaces don’t operate in parallel universes – like the financial market. Demand and supply are almost exclusively organic and operate in the real world economy.

For the same reason, there is no guarantee that opening a coworking spaces will be automaticly successful. Anyone who fails to learn how to deal with potential customers in their market, or is unfamiliar with how coworking communities function, will have a difficult time of making one work. In the same way that business people in other industries will fail if they do not understand their market.

Those who simply tack on the word ‘coworking’ to their space’s facade will need to work harder. The structure of most coworking spaces is based on real work, calculated risk, and real-world supply and demand.

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About the Author

This article was produced by Deskmag. Deskmag is the magazine about the new type of work and their places, how they look, how they function, how they could be improved and how we work in them. They especially focus on coworking spaces which are home to the new breed of independent workers and small companies. see more.

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Callum Connects

Dextre Teh, Founder of Rebirth Academy

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Dextre Teh is a consultant and marketing guru, helping F&B businesses to tighten their operations and grow their businesses.

What’s your story?
I help frustrated F&B business owners stuck in day to day operation transform from a glorified operator into a real business owner. I’m a 27 year old Singaporean second generation restaurant owner and a F&B business consultant. Entering the industry at 13 years old, I have always been obsessed with operations and systemisation. At the age of 25, I joined the insurance industry and earned a six figure yearly income. However, I left the high pay behind because it was not my passion and returned to the F&B industry. Now I help other F&B companies to tighten operations and grow their businesses with my consulting and marketing services.

What excites you most about your industry?
The food. I’m a big lover of food and even have a YouTube show on food in development. But that aside, it is really about impacting people through food. Creating moments and memories for people, be it a dating couple or families or friends. Providing that refuge from the daily grind of life. So in educating my consulting clients and training their staff to provide a better experience for their customers, I aim to shift the industry in the direction of creating memories instead of just selling food.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born and bred in Singapore. I love the culture, the food and travelling in Asia.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore hands down. The environment here is built for businesses to thrive. The government is pro business and the infrastructure is built around supporting business growth. Not to mention the numerous amount of grants available in helping people start and even grow business. If I’m not mistaken, the Singaporean government is the only government in the world that offers grants to home grown businesses for overseas expansion.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Learning to do things you do not intend to master is a BIG mistake in business. Focus on what you are good at and pay others to do the rest.

Many business owners including myself are so overwhelmed by the 10,000 things that they feel they need to do everyday. We try to do everything ourselves because we think it saves us money. The only thing that, that does for us is overload our schedules and give us mediocre results. Instead we should focus on what we do best and bring in support for the rest.

Who inspires you?
Christopher M Duncan.

At 29, Chris has built multiple 7 figure businesses. He opened me to the possibility of building a business on the thing that I loved and gave me a blueprint of how to do it. He also showed me that being young doesn’t mean you cannot do great things.

Imran Mohammad and Fazil Musa
They are my mentors and inspire me every single day to pursue my dreams, to focus on celebrating life and enjoying the process of getting to where I want to be.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
Time is always more expensive than money. Money, you can earn over and over again but time, once you spend it, will never come back.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I am a firm believer that your experiences shape who you are. I am grateful for every single moment of my life be it the highs or the lows, the successes and the failures because all these experiences have led me to become the person I am and brought me to the place that I’m at so I will probably do things the same way as everything was perfect in its time.

How do you unwind?
Chilling out in a live music bar with a drink in hand, listening to my favourite live band, 53A. Other than that I’m big on retail therapy, buying cool and geeky stuff.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Bangkok. It feels like a home away from home where the cost of living is relatively low, the food is good and the people are friendly.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Everything you know about business is wrong by Alastair Dryburgh. It is a book that challenges commonly accepted business “truths” and inspires you to go against the grain, think different, take risks and stand your ground in the face of the challenges that will come your way as a business owner.

Shameless plug for your business:
I’m the creator of the world’s first Chilli Crab Challenge. It gained viral celebrity earlier this year with 3 major newspaper features and more than a dozen blog and online publications featuring it in the span of two weeks. In the span of the two weeks, the campaign reached well over a million people in exposure without a single cent spent in ads.

Now I help F&B companies to tighten operations, increase profits and grow their businesses with my consulting and marketing services. Chilli Crab Challenge (https://www.chillicrab.com/nationalday)

How can people connect with you?
You can connect with me on Facebook (www.facebook.com/djtehkh) or visit www.rebirthacademy.sg for more information or book a 10 minute call with me @ www.tinyurl.com/dexclar

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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