The Entrepreneur: Andrew Stalbow, Seriously
Former executive VP at Angry Birds' creator Rovio, Stalbow tells Growing Business of his plans to build the "Pixar of Mobile" and scale to $200m
Founder: Andrew Stalbow
Description in one line: Building the ‘Pixar of Mobile’; our first app is called ‘Best Fiends’ and is available for download at download.bestfiends.com
Previous companies: Rovio (Angry Birds), 20th Century Fox, Vodafone Group
Turnover: $20m+ (2015 gross revenue)
12 month target: Significant growth
Describe your business model and what makes your business unique:
- We build entertainment brands on mobile devices with a very talented creative team
- Our first app is a game called ‘Best Fiends’ which is available on app stores worldwide and has been downloaded approximately 30 million times. It generates revenue from in-app purchases and advertising.
- We treat our app as a service and update it every three weeks.
What is your greatest business achievement to date?
At Seriously, that’s a no brainer. The greatest achievement has been bringing on board what I think is the world’s most talented creative team of people; be they in marketing, product development, music, animation or character design.
What numbers do you look at every day in your business?
Retention (how often people come back to the app), engagement (how long they stay for), download numbers, DAU (daily player base) and revenue.
To what extent does your business trade internationally and what are your plans?
Mobile is a global platform. Our audience is spread fairly evenly throughout the world, which is a positive sign for the potential of our first property. We have made a good start in the US, Europe, China, and we purposefully designed our first game to be accessible whatever your language/nationality and wherever you are in the world.
Describe your growth funding path:
We raised seed funding on the back of a nice strategy and a talented team, and then we raised a Series A once we had some momentum with our first product. We purposefully have investors from the US, Europe and Asia which we think gives us an advantage as we grow.
We assume each funding round will be our last and build our cost structure accordingly. I would like to think that Seriously will have multiple brands and revenue streams in a few years time, and that we will be in a good position to IPO. But for now it’s one step at a time.
What technology has made the biggest difference to your business?
IOS and Android are game changers. We believe the next generation of entertainment brands will be built on mobile first, and the ability for content creators to distribute directly to their audience is a great opportunity for us.
Where would you like your business to be in three years?
Over $200m annual turnover, two intellectual properties on the market, and over 10 million daily players.
What is the hardest thing you have ever done in business?
For Seriously, the biggest challenge was getting started. You have to ignore the job offers, and people telling you it’s too hard to raise money; that you won’t be able to cut through, that marketing costs are too high and there’s too much competition.
You find out who your business friends are when you start something new for sure.
What was your biggest business mistake?
Not starting Seriously a year earlier.
Piece of Red Tape that hampers growth most:
I try not to let too many administrative tasks get in the way of focusing on the core business.
What is the most common serious mistake you see entrepreneurs make?
Lack of focus. Especially when businesses are growing, it’s really important to get the balance right between having the kind of organisation that has a mindset to try new things and focusing on the core elements that can really scale for you.
How will your market look in three years?
Our first game has performed well on iOS in China, and we just launched our first game on Android platforms in China. We have spent some time in China where it is amazing to see the hard work, commitment and ambition of local companies. I expect to see Chinese developers and media companies increasingly looking to expand outside their domestic market. I also expect China to become as big a market for mobile entertainment as the US.
What is the single most important piece of advice you would offer to a less experienced entrepreneur?
Build the best team possible. Nothing is more important that that.
I’m from the UK and support Watford Football Club. One of the nice things about living in the US is that all the games are on TV here, so I try not to miss them.
Executive education or learn it on the job?
Individually it doesn’t matter, but your team should contain a good mix of both.
What would make you a better leader?
Apparently I am not very patient.
What one thing do you wish you’d known when you started?
I wish I’d known that especially in the first year or so, as you go from zero to something, the highs and lows can be a little dramatic. So I guess I could have prepared myself (and my wife) a little better for that!
One business app and one personal app you can’t do without:
I don’t know if it counts as a business app but I would find it very difficult to live without Uber. Luckily I am totally addicted to Best Fiends, so that’s my favourite personal app for sure!
Ben Horowitz’s book The Hard Things About Hard Things is a great pre-start-up read about how tough it can get. I also enjoyed The Innovator’s Dilemma by Clayton Christensen.