Hello everyone! I am currently developing a video game that will soon be ready to release commercially, and I had to create a company for some contracts, licenses and what-have-you.
I am a code monkey first and foremost with no real business acumen, and so all that stuff is getting a bit overwhelming whilst I deal with the tech side. I had the idea of forming a partnership with somebody more business savvy to help build up the company. Somebody who can help dot the i's, cross the t's and help me navigate it all.
I've spoken with a few people already...but I'm not a dimwit and after looking in to their experience and track records, I often find them lacking (often I seem to know more then them).
So, I wanted to ask here for advice. What are the sort of things I should look for in a potential business partner? Telltale signs I need to look out for, and how I can make myself and my proprosal more attractive for entrepreneurs.
Thanks for reading!
First-off good luck with your journey!
I think you are heading in the right direction. Building up a company from ideas to generating revenues through rounds of fundraising in between it is never a single person task. Founders are good at what they are. They need to find a team who works with them to get there. Problem is obvious! Little startup money to spare for professionals to join. I was starting a fund for digital education (on hold at the moment), so I interviewed many entrepreneurs in the making.
Let's start with your correct analysis. It would be best to find a co-funder with enough background to help dot and cross multiple tasks. How do you find them? My suggestion would be, as follows. Look at people with cross-industry backgrounds and worked with different corporate sizes. They tend to have seen it all from bureaucratic governance structures to the total absence of it. They are likely not to get lost or panic at the many startup pitfalls. Avoid mono backgrounds: the lawyer, the accountant, the HR, etc. Not yet the time, these profiles will be more useful in series B rounds when some proper delegations of duties will be required. Let's clarify, nothing wrong with the backgrounds per se, but you will need to make sure they understand they come to help out, and not be the "Head of Legal". Otherwise, two risks: one they will get bored. Functionally, not enough to do as yet; two, they overdue the first contract they have to review or write. Here the trick is that one day is the VAT filing, the next day is sale pitch and still the following day it is fundraising deck for a round with VC sharp investors.
I hope this will give you some food for thought.
Crikey. "Mr Codemonkey", ha...Michael's fine. I think maybe you took my question to be trivializing the business side of things, for which I apologize if it comes across that way. Either way, you're operating on a few assumptions (admittedly I did not clarify in my initial post that I have already taken what I see are the necessary steps in starting a business).
I'm a very good programmer, but I am not experienced in the world of business. The video game I'm developing came first, and I had not initially planned on creating a company. When I made the decision to release the game commercially I had to create a company for some contracts with freelancers I had hired and to obtain licenses with distribution networks.
I've done a ton of research, read a lot of "books" (ha). My company does have a fleshed out business plan that goes in to the market research I've done, cash flow projections, its assets and capital. My game also has a fully fleshed out game design document and all the research that went in to that. I've spent the last two months dealing with all the business side of things, outsourcing some of the development work in the meantime. I have an accountant, but I do not have an attorney...I thought I would just rely on freelance legal advise until I have the money to hire someone on a permanent basis.
When I say "often I seem to know more then them" I was talking about my personal experiences with some of the people I've chatted with so far on here. Not that I simply know more than everybody, ha. A few haven't known what a business plan is, or show a reluctance to do the paperwork side of things (Perhaps you have too, which is why you come across as curt, haha). A few of them I have found to be dishonest as well, after looking at their digital footprints.
So, to clarify more of what I'm looking for...that's all great, that I can Google "what do I need to start a business", but I have no experience running a business. I'm learning as I go, and I'm spread thin. I'm also a creative director, spinning many plates for the game that I'm developing. This is why I hope to have somebody more experienced than I, who has dealt with setting up legal council, accounting departments, spoken with investors etc. I'm speaking with a few publishers now, and I do feel a bit out of depth with it, somebody that could help me navigate these uncharted waters would be nice. Somebody that believes in the game I've put together and wants to come on the journey with me!
I take your point though...I clearly did not come across well in my initial question. I'll refine what it is I'm looking for in future and work on my patter!
I have some experience in this area that would be relevant, having made an indie title and then sold it to a major publisher, and done tough negotiations with companies similar to EA. I did a second title as an indie, and although i only sold 60k copies, they were $40 each so that isn't bad.
I have plenty of scars from that experience, and learned quite a few lessons. You could use me as an advisor, and i could save you a lot of grief and make it more profitable. I am always interested in seeing people succeed; we live in a world where 99% of the people don't have the guts or the brains to make it on their own, and i admire the bravery it takes.
It is very important to know what you do and don't have in terms of your IP; as a creative person this is your baby, and it is hard to have perspective on who it appeals to, and how it stacks up against the competition.
@Michael, yeah, I tend to be no nonsense in my responses on CFL. But, you're right to point out that there's often a lot of information that's not shared and can result in a misaligned set of advice.
So, revised, my advice is to hire your professional services. Attorney's aren't "freelance" but they can be retained without a long commitment. Those support services: lawyer, accountant, etc. are very popular services in part because it IS a headache to figure that stuff out and risky to make mistakes. What you get by hiring these services is a transfer of liability.
While it's not the same as an operations manager who runs the day-to-day for your company, it is the path you can take today to ensuring your structure is correct, your systems follow standards, and that at least you're not going to get in hot water with government, regulators, or lose your intellectual property. All of which are important. And it seems like you've started in this direction anyway.
Not everyone wants to run a business, and not everyone should. If you really want to be rid of the administrative headaches, you can use your attorney and license the game to another company that does all the business stuff while you remain the game author. As far as someone to act as your general manager, I'm not sure it's really any cheaper than hiring out the services, since there's a lot of front-loaded work and typically far less ongoing work, at least until you reach a certain size.
There's a company I'm working with right now that is a bit similar in some regards. It has an inventor who likes to tinker. He had a good idea and built stuff, but he wasn't operating a business. He kind of wished he could share his inventions, and he made some sales, but it wasn't what he was best at. He connected with a family friend who had experience running companies, and after some wrangling, they re-formed the company, retained him as inventor, and two partners besides the inventor became the new company. It grew organically for a few years, now it's getting a lot more formal structure because it's no longer owner as primary salesperson, and there are 12 people working, not just a couple of guys in a little office.
That's not to belittle them in any way. And the startup wasn't without mistakes, even with more skilled partners.
What you need to decide is what you want your role to be, what amount of control (direction) you want to have, and what your vision is for the product(s). Maybe you should find partner(s) to run the business with you. Whether they're co-owners or not is up to your preference. What's most important (other than skill set), is that you both or all share the same vision for the company. Vision is the ideal experience of your product and company for customers, both external and internal. Without an identical vision, there's a lot of unnecessary friction that can end up tearing the company apart.
Otherwise, look to an attorney who works on licensing. While this doesn't find you a publishing partner, it does put you on the path to not needing to "run a company" in the same way.
Good luck. It's a bumpy path at times.
Don’t take @paul serious I don’t think he has much idea of what he talks he tried the “super-smart approach” on one of my posts too without really knowing what the post was about. I don’t think he is an advisor or any marketing expert at all.
I used to be a contractor in the past so I know a few things about sales (Outbound and inbound). i am specialized in product, go-to-market and brand strategy. So if you need help with that will love to give a hand too. I can’t be a cofounder as I dont know much about video games. But if you need any advise with partnerships or cold out reaching people DM and I will try to give you the best practices.
Check out my linkedin profile and message me if you like what you see.
Daniel Robert Abraham on Linkedin.
@isabela, you're entitled to your opinion. I'm not going to tear you down. Check my resume if you want to know the results of my marketing strategies for the last couple decades.
My immediate suggestion is that you stop all code-monkeying today. Your business will struggle significantly if you don't take the time to work on the things that should always come first.
Skipping ahead, what you're describing above is not a business partner or co-founder. It could be as simple as hiring an attorney and an accountant on an hourly basis to make sure your structure is set up properly and to guide you through the basics that will protect your future assets.
Read a business book. Any. Seriously. You do not know more than everyone else, but you probably aren't finding the right people to support you because you lack experience with communicating your ask properly. You attract what you describe.
So Mr. Codemonkey, all business ideas need to go through marketing strategy validation as their first step. There are a lot of smaller steps within that. But before you write the first line of code, if you hope to ever sell your game to more than a few people you already know, a significant amount of research and proof needs to be gathered so you have the best chance of building what people want, what they'll pay for, knowing where to find them, and understanding what it will take to persuade them to choose your game.
Here is a template that you can use to work on your plan, to make sure you haven't overlooked key components of what makes an idea turn into a business, and to give you some structure that will help protect the product you create going forward.