Saturday, March 12, 2011

52nd Time's the Charm

"One afternoon in late March, in their offices in downtown Helsinki, Jaakko Iisalo, a games designer who had been at Rovio since 2006, showed them a screenshot. He had pitched hundreds in the two months before. This one showed a cartoon flock of round birds, trudging along the ground, moving towards a pile of colourful blocks. They looked cross. "People saw this picture and it was just magical," says Niklas [Hed, co-founder of Rovio]. Eight months and thousands of changes later, after nearly abandoning the project, Niklas watched his mother burn a Christmas turkey, distracted by playing the finished game. "She doesn't play any games. I realised: this is it.""

By now, everyone (including me) has heard of Angry Birds, the hugely popular game and bestselling iPhone app of all time. Apparently 75 million people play it and waste an estimated 200 million minutes a day playing it.  The Finnish company that created the app, just raised $42 million in new capital to fuel new creations.

The nearly instant success of companies such as Amazon, eBay, Google, Facebook, and Twitter often give us the impression that successful products spring from the first idea - or first few ideas -  of an inspired genius.  Instead, those are the exceptions.

Some things I like about the Angry Birds story:

  • The company had developed 51 other games before they became successful with Angry Birds, and it was on the verge of bankruptcy less than two years ago.
  • No one had any idea during the development process that Angry Birds would be such a hit - they nearly abandoned it several times
  • The founders did not fire Jaakko Iisalo even though he had previously pitched hundreds of dumb and/or unsuccessful ideas to them.  What if they had said "This guy is a loser; let's ignore him"?
More in Wired.