21st & 22nd of May
Maribor, Slovenia
Thursday, March 29, 2018

How to grow into a unicorn? With an understanding of markets, hard work, the right values, and an incredible team!

Outfit7, the first unicorn of Slovenian founders, recently had 7.7 billion downloads of its Talking Tom and Friends apps, which reach more than 350 million monthly users! We talked to Žiga Vavpotič, the chairman of Outfit7, about the key elements and a pinch of magic behind the incredible success of company – at first a startup, today a globally established family entertainment corporation. In his recognizable style, he also summarized the key advice on the dos and don’ts for everyone who’s heading on the startup journey. “Try to understand the global market and its needs. Enjoy the work and have fun. Look for people who are different from you but share the same values. Team work is key to success. Learn from mistakes. It’s cheaper to do this on mistakes of others than on yours.” Those are of course the dos. What about the don’ts? “People aren’t a means for achieving your goals, so show respect to them with your actions. Don’t be malicious and envious. Karma is a bitch, if nothing else! Don’t avoid problems and don’t let them stop you. Maybe just a hint – I look at them like a chocolate cake. They can be delicious and enjoyable, but there has to be the exact right quantity of them in life.”
 
When you look on your work in Outfit7 over the past year and a half – what do you think are the key factors behind the incredible success of the company and its apps and products?


We are actually not talking only about a year and a half. Company success is a long-lasting process. When I watch the rise of ICO stories, I am truly afraid that many people, especially the youngest, are getting the wrong preconception that millions and success come overnight. Founders of Outfit7 had an incredibly good idea, they knew how to enter the market at the right time, with the right product. And, what was key – they rolled up their sleeves and truly put a lot of work into it. They managed to recognize another need of the market, they instilled their values and some magic into their product and company, which brought the brand Talking Tom and Friends to today’s success. Hard work, right values, incredible talents and teamwork are definitely key factors for success. Respect and a desire for understanding users, following global needs and changes, and maintaining our mission – spreading happiness, finding and encouraging the child in all of us – are definitely the right companions in this process.
 
What do you think are the key turning points or external factors – technological, staffing, marketing, product … – because of which Outfit7 transformed from a startup into a globally established family entertainment corporation?

In case of Outifit7, the key external factor that influenced this success was definitely the rise of smartphones and with it, the increased need for various apps. I always admired the wisdom, knowledge, market understanding and opportunities, and the right decisions of Samo and Iza Login and the original team. Back then, it was definitely the right decision for the company to start developing fun apps, not traditional mobile games. What followed was also a series of correct decisions inside the company. Of course, mistakes also occurred. With the latter, the most important thing was what we learned from them. The company knew how to find the right focus and potential in the key periods and, at the right time, they didn’t only do mobile apps but also added video content, understood the importance and dimensions of mobile advertising, and intertwined their business model with a so-called freemium model.
 
How important was focus on the casual and universal story, personified by Talking Tom?

Of course, this focus allowed us to encapsulate the global market. At the same time, it was incredibly important for us to recognize the importance of the development of the Chinese market … One of the key factors are, of course, people. We had and still have an excellent team. I could go on. Again, we see that overnight success is the consequence of seven years of hard work, many factors and turning points. Of course, we can’t go past the sale of the company, with which we got a new owner who their own views on our operations. We have the incredible opportunity to learn about cultural differences, to find synergies for the biggest market in the future that’s already important today – China. At the same time, the owner trusts all of us, encourages us and supports us. And that’s a good starting point. Of course, we are most proud of all employees who contribute to this global success. We recently said that we have 7.7 billion app downloads, which is more downloads than there is people in the world. This is a unique global success for a brand in the field of mobile app entertainment. It’s right for us to be proud of this, but more than 350 million monthly users, and I always emphasize this, is mostly a big responsibility. But, of course, this is also excellent motivation for the future, and we are currently developing a lot of interesting stories that will soon come to the market.
 
Where and how does Outfit7 look for the best staff, talents?

Our doors are always open. In Outfit7 we say that we love to play! And to play well, you need good company. I dare to claim that with our actions, we show existing employees that we value and respect them. At the same time, we want to be joined by the best. We try to be as innovative as possible. Of course, we make use of all traditional methods, but at the same time we increasingly see what the global battle for talents means. This prompts us to think, daily, about how to get them. The local environment is definitely important – in Slovenia, we have the Ekipa2 company, but with our reach, we need to think globally. Every day, we enjoy diversity, we have 18 different nationalities in our group, the intertwinement of different cultures inspires us. Everyone shares our values, but at the same time we feel a certain richness in diversity.
 
And how does Outfit7 see collaboration with startups? Does it pay attention to certain teams or the solutions they’re developing?


That was never in the company’s DNA. The demands of the market and the owner still dictate carefulness in focus. Even though we are a billion-dollar company, it’s right for us to internally keep all the advantages of startup operations. We recently became more open to collaboration with various studios that develop mobile games for us. I have to admit that we are very demanding when it comes to this. We are definitely recognizing the importance of opening our doors to collaboration with startups in the future. However, our current main goal is to strengthen production, where all praise goes to executive director Jure Prek, whose team established the possibility for launching four mobile games, which means more than 100% growth.
 
How do you see, monitor, and comment the development of the Slovenian and regional startup scene?

Right around the time when I was deciding on joining Outfit7, I helped establish the ABC Accelerator. Later, time didn’t allow me to play an active role, but this story definitely contributed to the expansion of the startup scene. Slovenia had a bunch of pioneers in the field of startup companies, and they broke significant new ground. Many individuals can take credit for these breakthroughs. But it is true that I am sometimes also critical towards the startup scene and say that the lack of tight collaboration between all stakeholders is what separates us from incredible global success. This, collaboration, is missing in Slovenia. I wish that there were many successful stories. There’s too little space to mention specific names that often inspire me. I always say that the more successful people there are, the better we will do as a society. And you can feel that this will happen. It’s bubbling and happening. I promise to be amongst the first to applaud all these successes. And if I can help in any way with my views, advice, I do it gladly and will continue doing it.
 
What about on the global level – which emerging technologies or solutions designed by startups do you think will most drastically change the world as we know and live in today?

Artificial intelligence and big data are definitely stories that we shouldn’t overlook. And they will influence our future. On the one hand, this development thrills me, but on the other, it worries me. Will greed fool us, will we forget about sustainable development and dig our own graves? More than technological development, I am excited by the search for a certain equilibrium between the positive influences of technology and authentic human contact. I hope and believe that technology will not substitute a warm smile and hug. This is already happening and becoming a big challenge of humanity. I admit that because of this, I sometimes find shelter in silence. And run away towards art.
 
What do you think are the best examples, motivational value or key messages that the story of the first unicorn by Slovenian founders brings to founders at home?

This story can be an example, motivation and indicator that even someone who is from our area can understand global opportunities, create an incredible international business success. I’m grateful to have been able to join this company, had such good mentors, teachers and friends. I think of it as a special, personal privilege. But I don’t respect only the business success of Samo and Iza login. They mostly earned deep respect from me as people.
 
If you needed to give someone starting their own startup three key “do and don’t” pieces of advice, what would they be?

We all want instant recipes. They unfortunately don’t exist. I think everyone needs to create their own dos and don’ts. But still, if I try to summarize what I believe in and start with the dos … Try to understand the global market and its needs. No matter what you do, enjoy it and have fun. Look for people who are different from you but share the same values. Teamwork is the key to success. Learn from mistakes. It’s cheaper to do this on the mistakes of others rather than your own.
 
And the three don’ts?

People aren’t a means for achieving your goals, so show respect to them with your actions. Don’t be malicious and envious. Karma is a bitch, if nothing else! Don’t avoid problems and don’t let them stop you. Maybe just a hint – I look at them like a chocolate cake. They can be delicious and enjoyable, but there has to be the exact right quantity of them in life.
 
What is your personal advice for all startups that wish to succeed in the games and entertainment industry? Which technologies and types of content do you think will mark this industry the most in the future?


They will need to find their own place under the sun, because the beach is rather crowded. Also, and especially, because of that, they will need to be different, they will need to find something that will be the next Talking Tom. Of course, I will advise them to tug at our sleeve if they have a good product, because today, it is a lot more difficult to succeed on Apple and Google platforms than it used to be, because there are more and more providers. It’s smart to find partners such as Outfit7 that can help you succeed. Because I hedge my bets on people, not on technology, I think that what will remain crucial for success is finding that special feeling, taking care of a person’s growth and finding their interests.

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Get in touch with Outfit7

If you wish to meet the team that stands behind Outfit7 startup activities and meet it at this year’s PODIM Conference, get in contact with Nina Piuzi (nina.piuzi@outfit7.com).