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Greetings from UK!

After a month in Newcastle I think I’m pretty settled in. People are very like-minded here, the weather is much warmer than Finland and beer cheaper. Life feels good.

Anyhow because this is my first blog post ever I should maybe introduce myself to those who don’t know me. I’m now third year student from Tiimiakatemia Jyväskylä. Last year I was part of the JES Board (Sorry Jussi for not writing posts when I was actually obligated to!) as an event producer. I have still great passion for events and hopefully as a part of my practical training I have chance to arrange few events here in Newcastle.

At the moment my status is a coaching intern in Business Management Unit in University of Northumbria. It has been great fun to see how there are many promising business ideas among the students. I will introduce you to few them in my later posts.

Katin kuva

Few things about the Newcastle and the area. It’s situated in the northern part of the England and has one of the highest unemployment rate in the UK. Also it’s the place Geordie Shore. If these are not convincing you about the possibilities maybe the next things are: there are two big universities and a lot of international students. Also Newcastle has one big accelerator for startups called Ignite100. Last week I attended to their fifth graduation party and it was great fun to see good pitches and hear pretty interesting ideas. Lot of new app ideas like dubble, an app where you choose to pictures and then you mix them. Sounded pretty cool for me! More about Ignite100 results you can read more from http://ignite.io/2014/11/01/ignite-by-the-numbers/

katin kuva2

Thursday there was a good lecture held by a venture capitalist Jonathan Gold. Gold has created several early stage funds worth in total £19m including the Rainbow Seed Fund and a range of funds in the North of England. So I can say that he had a lot of knowledge about what makes a startup to success since he has been investing in different companies and some of them have been great success and other great learnings. One thing that caught up in my mind is what he says is the most important thing when thinking about investment on startup. It’s the leadership potential of the lead entrepreneur. If I remember right the next thing was the team. So it’s not rocket science to understand that you look potential in people. You want them to get out of the bed when they fail the first time and go forward. That’s what I see when I think those people I have met during my time in JES. Potential.

Next post I will concentrate on that potential I see here and I will introduce you to some interesting startups.

Cheers!
Kati Tikkanen
JES Ambassador

JES Ambassador UK, Newcastle

Interview with Steffen from BetaDwarf

Forced_Black_Logo

You can check out BetaDwarf’s incredible story from here:

http://imgur.com/gallery/yacucU1

The Interview:

What were the top things you learned?

Not to take just anyone on the team, who offers to work for free. His/her work might not be worth the effort in time that you might have to teach them, until they leave a few months later. Not to give slack to anyone in the team. Everyone is here to reach the goal, not to have a nice club. Not taking action demoralises the rest of the team to question why they are working their asses off. The boss is the boss because he has to do hard things like talking to a member who is not living to expectations. Probably not to start off with a 3D-game with internet co-op, single player etc. Rather start with 2D so that you wouldn’t need 6 people working on just graphics. You need super transparency when working with volunteers / not paying people. Do not promise any false hope, (of salary or profit for example). Rushing a skill cap – philosophy. (e.g coding). It’s much more fun to work with something when you’re good at it. Reach a high level of skill as fast as you can before you start doing anything else. Results are also better. Salary system = Team members evaluate each other. You get paid based on how valuable your team thinks you are.

How did you get a bank to give out a $200 000 loan?

1 of the 9 contacted banks was interested. Having earlier funding helped. Title of best game developer in Denmark helped. Used statistics to show how successful similar games were. The bank trusted the level of expertise the team had as university students. They had already made a smaller game that had received praise.

Did any changes happen in terms of team members?

Started with nine. Five of whom are still aboard. 30 different people have taken part in the project in total. Some people lost faith, some didn’t have the balls, some we had to fire because they weren’t valuable enough, even though they were working for free. The overall journey has been really difficult with lots of emotion. Current strength is at 17. At some point we even asked people not to attend school, which was hard.

What was the original scope of the project ?

The idea started out as a Facebook game, then evolved into a running game and then something else. It got out of hand unintentionally. A common problem for game devs. The original thought was to have it done in 6 months.

Was the three-year struggle worth it?

Yes, they had created a win-win situation. A success would mean the game would be published and would be liked by gamers (= revenue). A fail meant they would still have the game and an insane portfolio to add to your CV when trying to apply into the gaming industry – instead of random 3D modelling tasks you normally do at Uni to make your portfolio as cool as possible. The hardest thing was neglecting family relations. I missed many birthdays and even forgot my mother’s 50th birthday.

What feelings / thoughts did you have during the toughest times?

Sadness, doubt, desperation.

With your future at stake in such a way how do you get a team to stay motivated and focused?

Not too hard in a sense. With Forced (the game) we had a concrete goal we were working towards. We would have an epic portfolio afterwards, instead of filling our portfolios by ourselves with random stuff. People believed in the game. They found a potential investor, which made them believe in themselves again and even more. The game was mostly ready, so they took a loan instead to keep the ownership and potential profits. That time was a suitable time in life to do a thing like this, before family life etc.

How would you describe your team now, what team phase is it in?

We have gone through a lot. Very strong bonds have been built that will never break. Like guys in the army. We could improve our dialogue.

Now that you’ve reached the original goal, what is the next step?

To make Forced 2 a good game that is enjoyed by gamers and grow the company a little bit. To make people want to play it more than for 6 hours, like a MOBA like Dota 2, that people play for hundreds of hours. To make Forced 2 as streamable as possible. To get people to want to stream it and get views.

– Any goal beyond that?

No, that in itself is a very big goal.

Jazz Clubs of St. Petersburg

There are several jazz clubs in St. Petersburg. The city is – among its other cultural top-spots – the jazz capital of Russia and its people are jazz enthusiasts. The two most famous jazz clubs are The Hat Bar(Belinskogo ulitsa 9) and Dom 7(Griboedova kanala nab 7). Other jazz joints include the ever so fancy Jazz Philharmonic and Jazz Time Bar.

Dom 7

Dom 7

Dom 7 is the classic jazz bar just off the main road Nevskii Prospekt. It has live music every night from jazz to swing.  The bar is nicely decorated using wooden panels and old furniture along with nice sketchy artwork on the walls. The two storey(wooden wing!) joint offers food and bewerages at affordable prices and has a beautiful dome like ceiling to give it an extraordinary ambiance.

thehatbarThe Hat Bar is the modern equivalent to Dom 7. Music is mostly modern jazz with occasional stops by world-famous artists making secret gigs after their performance at the Philharmonic. The club is situated north from Nevskii prospekt but still in a brisk walking distance from it. The design is modern with big windows giving the bar a feel of openness and fresh air. This is mostly coctail-type bar with some snacks offered. Here’s a small video taken by my friend Charlotte a couple of weeks back.

All in all if you’re planning a trip to the Venice of the North I strongly recommend to find an hour or two to stop by and see if you want to spend the whole evening listening to jazz and sipping cocktais with your friends in good company.

Jazzy and still at it,

OA

Startup scene in Saint Petersburg

Artem and Me

Artem and Me

This week I met up with a young gentleman Artem Ostapchuk who’s the partnership director of local entrepreneurship society Junior Chamber International. JCI is an international organization and Artem is part of its Peterburgian chapter. JCI has several events in a year including networking evenings and regular board meetings. They also host russian-wide start-up competition(for which I was asked to take part of as a mentor!) called St. Petersburg Start-Up Cup.

Artem is an entrepreneur himself, he and his partners have founded osfit.ru that is a fitness tracking software aimed at russian and global market. Against my perceptions he told me that is it not too hard to set up a company in Russia and you might get financing to your idea pretty easily if you just know with whom you’ll negotiate. Artem is looking for partnerships in Finland and is willing to help fellow entrepreneurs with regards to doing business in Finland. Below is a video in which he tells about start-up community in St.Petersburg and his start-up.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rc7C3SK_zTs&w=560&h=315]

For JES it was also a good meeting because we launched the initial talks about a marketing partnership with JCI St. Petersburg!

Everything’s ok, school is easing – still at it,

Olli Anton

The Russian Love Affair

Russians and in particular Peterburgians surprise you with kindness and warmth behind their personal iron curtain. First they look irritated and even aggressive, seconds later they’re smiling and obviously glad you’re talking with them. The key to this sudden change is the willingness to communicate in russian and – to a mild surprise – the fact of your finnish citizenship.

Products home

Products home

As my russian friend put it ”St. Petersburg is half-finnish city.” You really do see the point she was making. Every, and I do mean every single convenience store has finnish products and many actuallly market themselves with slogans like: finnish products, products from Finland to your home(товары из финляндии для дома, see picture the picture above).

Suomalaisen standardin koteja

Suomalaisen standardin koteja

Finnish companies expanding into russian market is no news to finnish people. Commerce journals and newspapers have been touting the importance of russian trade for years. In 2012, the last year of official statistics, the percentage of russian trade was 17,8 % of all foreign trade. Still you will be amazed by the multitude of finnish companies operating in Russia; we’re like ”brothers and sisters” as another friend of mine said it.

In other news, what an experience to see Finland beat Russia 3-1 in their home olympics and still see russians giving applause to the finnish team after the match. I also met the chairman and CEO of the second biggest bank in Russia – Mr. Andrey L. Kostin of VTB Bank. He was sure Russia would win the game, I guess the finnish team had to prove me right this time. More of this encounter in another post.

Have a nice weekend,

Olli Anton

Still at it,

St. Petersburg, Russia