What do you do when the bottom drops out from your career? How do you cope when all of your plans go up in proverbial smoke? If you are Vladimir Funtikov you create your own company.
In 2007, Funtikov worked as a java developer, spending a few years working in a company developing mobile games. Then, the economic crisis of 2008 hit, and the company downsized, making the decision to get rid of the Estonian office. As Funtikov tells us on a sunny Thursday morning, sitting comfortably in his office in Tallinn, Estonia, “We were victims of the economic crisis.”
Funtikov had just finished his studies at the time of his layoff and received his bachelor’s degree. Although he had offers from other companies, he decided to “take a chance and try to develop something new.” That something new is Creative Mobile, an Estonian based independent game developer/publisher, which he co-founded in 2010. Being single without kids gave him the opportunity to take a chance. And Funtikov had always dreamed of starting a start-up. As he put it, “It became an obsession for me.” He knew that if he didn’t take the chance when he had an opportunity, he may never have another one. Now he is the Group CEO of Creative Mobile.
If at First You Don’t Succeed…
Not everything went smoothly for Funtikov and his fellow co-founders at first. It took them three or four tries and a year and a half before they really made it. “For the first year or so, we had trouble because the market was tiny and our games were pretty bad,” he explains. When the Android market started growing, and they improved the quality of their production, they found success.
Funtikov admits that Creative Mobile started making money at the point where “we were about to give up.” When they started the company, they had one game, and it “wasn’t good enough.” After investing six months of their lives into making the game, it failed. They had one more shot at becoming a profitable company, and they took it. Fortunately, for themselves and the gaming world, they succeeded.
Be Prepared to Change Your Business Model
Creative Mobile succeeded because its founders were willing to change their business model. They began by making paid games, following the Apple app store model. However, they discovered that model just did not work for Android games because it is a different market and audience. They switched to offering free games with advertisements, and eventually started making money. “Just enough to pay the bills and take a couple of more guys in,” Funtikov says. The second game they made using the same model also made them some money. That game became their “real breakthrough.” Creative Mobile has now about 87 employees.
Don’t Be Afraid to Step Out of Your Comfort Zone
Funtikov is an admitted introvert. He is not the kind of guy who naturally takes to working crowds or being in the spotlight. Yet, as the Group CEO of Creative Mobile he has to meet 20 to 50 people a day. He has to smile and make a good impression. That is not an easy feat for a guy who prefers “being in the room on my own with a computer screen, staring at it for hours.” He has learned to become good at things he used to be scared of even trying.
He is only 27 years old, and in Estonia it is not common for someone so young to succeed with a successful start-up. Some people in his native country don’t even believe his success is real. “Every once in a while there’s an article about us and people who read the article post comments saying this is fiction, this is not real,” Funtikov explains. However, he doesn’t pay much attention to it because he doesn’t “do business with these people.” What matters most to him is how people in the industry, in the business world treat him. “And I have no problem with that in Estonia,” he says.
This article appeared on the August 2014 issue of Nordic Business Report. Read the full magazine here »