Starting a Game Development Company
Interview with Creo Ludus Founder Dylan A. Tredrea
Starting a gaming company sounds like fun, but there are a lot of mistakes to avoid. We talk with a game company founder to gain some insights on what it takes to succeed.
Based in Clifton, New Jersey, Creo Ludus is a fast-growing company founded by a passionate entrepreneur.
We spent some time with the founder, Dylan A. Tredrea, to learn more about his startup experience.
Tell us a little about your firm. What are you doing exactly?
Creo Ludus offers game development and consulting services, particularly for serious games (educational, training, etc.) though we've taken on ad hoc entertainment work from referrals as well.
When did you start the business? What were you doing before you started it?
I started the company this year, although the background work has been going on for several years.
Previously, I was the Director of Sales for a technology start up. This is my first business.
Where did you get the startup money?
We actually started with near-zero start-up capital.
Our team is comprised of some of the most sought after and experienced game developers, who are taking time off, between projects, looking for side work, etc.
They work remotely in most cases, giving us both the advantage of low overhead and being able to maintain the resources as they move around and do odd things with their lives.
These 'pros' oversee the entry level work of recent graduates, which we've brought up from our partnerships with area colleges and cherry picked the rock stars.
Basically--we designed the business model with laser like focus on developing the games industry's most scarce resource: talent.
It's a simple approach different for every industry, but basically we attack the one thing everyone is fighting for head on and design the business from the ground up to exploit any possible opportunity to help that effort. From this ground work we developed an innovative way to give ourselves an edge, basically by trying everything and anything and investing in what delivers.
That sounds like a very smart strategy. So who are your main competitors and how do you compete against them?
Our competitors are all over the world, there are a ton of games studios from here to the Congo... well maybe not yet but any day now!
Business comes from relationships and experience, so it's all about building relationships with potential clients and leveraging the experience you have in any way possible. To get to the first stage of success (i.e. getting someone to write a check for our work) we started doing non-commercial projects with area colleges, and this lead to great relationships with faculty, administrators, etc--people who are always hit up by companies looking for service providers.
Through some hard work (and luck) with PR and good old school hustle we were able to generate some attention from this 'experience' to get our first batch of contract work.
Has starting and running a business been different from what you expected?
Not really. It's just a whole lot more fun than I had imagined.
I had already been doing the sales/business at the start-up where I was responsible for working with game developers, animators, and filmmakers so that was old hat. From running the development projects in our academic partnerships, I had a basic, but basic enough, handle on running projects.
Of course the challenges keep coming... and coming... and coming, but the first touchdown is the hardest -- so after getting comfortable in those worlds, it wasn't too tough to bring them together for our own show.
Is there anything you wish you had done differently?
A few things.
Early on we had a management structure that was democratic--yes, we would make every decision as a group. That was long before the company was officially founded, but that was a huge mistake.
Everything was a mess and we ended up pretty much firing a lot of close friends and partners, so we could have a management team that could be effective. Very happy we made that decision before anything big was on the line.
What have you done that has been very effective in helping to grow the business?
I'm not a programmer, a designer, a creative writer, or anything like that, so I always have this inner fear that people in the industry look at me with the 'so what do you do....' face that film producers get.
On the business side, what you do is look for and create opportunities and connect the dots to make them happen. Sorry for going into abstractions, but to give you an example we had a client who wanted a game concept for this particular market, with a particular goal. So as with everything, I just talked and thought about it as much as I could. With the client I went through all the ins and outs to get what they wanted from every angle and aspect, while constantly comparing this in my mind with what tools, resources, and talent we had available and if there was some way I could squeeze those together to give this guy what he wanted. Ultimately, we were able to deliver.
That's really it honestly, just finding someone who wants something you can do, and internally building up a team to expand what you can do based on what your experience, research, and common sense tells you the market needs.
What advice would you give to somebody else who wanted to start a game company?
Start making stuff--now!
Making games is all about showing you can do it--because, well, it can get pretty hard. So get all the tough lessons out of the way early, power through the tough times, and finish projects.
It's a business with unbelievable growth potential--maybe grandma will come around to the wii or maybe not, but every new person born is a gamer for life so we'll be in the 'ground floor' of this business for at least another decade.
That's great advice, Dylan. There's a point at which you have to stop talking about starting a company and just go for it. Thanks so much for sharing your entrepreneurial experience with us, and good luck in growing your gaming business.
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