If you didn’t read overview, go here please: Mingle Games goes to AppCampus! – Overview
The first week
On Monday I managed to arrive to AppCampus and meet all other attendants, our mentors and coaches. Sensei Mike Bradshaw was not there as he had injured himself, but capo of AppCampus Paolo Borella made his job well, as did the rest of AppCampus team. The welcome was more than warm. We were explained what we would do and what were plans for few following days. They were interested in knowing any issues we had. I must say, I was quite surprised how important for AppCampus our satisfaction was. But there was no time for rest. We started to work from the very beginning and before I even realized, it was end of the day and I had my head full of ideas and techniques how to be better at pitching, as what I showed there was at the opposite side of greatness. I never did worse pitching in my life! Our pitching coach Juha Ruohonen made sure to kick our butts!
Tuesday was not different, we worked in groups about branding and positioning our apps with Michiel Maandag from MondayBrand, expert in branding! We got lots of great ideas how to improve brand, make great name and categories. Working hard until late night was not required, but it was logical step for me as that was the only time I had to actually do something on our project. The feeling was rewarding though, as atmosphere on AppCampus was more than great and motivating. We had a nice session with Pauliina Airaksinen-Aminoff about identity of the company and it was also great surprise when Timo Mustonen from Nokia gave every team brand new Nokia Lumia 920! I must thank him and Risto Tattari for this great gift and will to help us as much as possible from Nokia side!
On Wednesday we talked about design with some design experts like Christian Lindholm and his team . This was particularly interesting and I got some nice tools to help us with general design and also Windows Phone style Metro. Later in the evening we were invited to Startup Sauna for BBQ party and networking. Well, the weather was quite unfortunate, as it was raining heavily, so instead of BBQ it was huge pizza party. I couldn’t complain about that! We met lots of interesting people from startup scene and there were some interesting people like one from Rovio etc. Always good to get some feedback about your own game from other developers!
On Thursday we had one of one sessions with designers from Wednesday. As they saw Dark Lands graphics, they gave me some nice feedback about design details we can improve. I was very pleased that every designer considered our game art interesting and had just little details to improve about it. We also had a talk about customer development. In this part I didn’t really learn anything new, but it was essential to know. For many other people it was quite important to get to know the basics. As always, I wanted to work on our project as much as possible after a hard day.
Friday was quite calm, as there was just another design session and little feedback about user experience from Toledo folks. Both brothers know a lot about design and user experience. For the rest of the day I tried to catch up on work a little, as there was little free time I could use for a work. At the evening Startup weekend begun and I was there just to observe and network. I didn’t really have strength or interest to participate, as my only focus then was (and still is!) to make Dark Lands as great as possible.
The whole weekend was about Startup weekend activities, I spent most of the time there and did some work, but was also talking and meeting people that participated. I would not go much into details, as this was side event. You can also find there list of people who were helping on AppCampus and Startup Weekend, as I did not mention everyone because I am just overviewing. Sorry guys!
The second week
Monday started slowly, as we had another session about pitching. This time the focus was on slides and how to make them interesting and not boring. Sensei Mike did good job there. After good lunch I was back on first technical training about testing WP apps and testcases for that. Tiina Muttilainen, quality assurance manager of AppCampus, made it very interesting with some practical exercises on broken WP app. It was very entertaining and useful. I sent right away all the guidelines to my team that was working hard in Prague on Dark Lands.
On Tuesday we had another overview about customer development with one-on-one approach. This time I had pleasure to consult with Will Cardwell, Senior Advisor. He was eager to assist me in many ways and to help me to find good people for our need. After one on one sessions we had some behaviour class! They taught us how to behave at networking. That was very funny class, where we had lots of laugh and good time! In the evening some of our AppCampus attendants were organizing farewell dinner, as they were here just as guests. Most of people came and we had good dinner in online slots chinese restaurant, few beers and lots of laugh and good talk. As most of us were lovers of extreme spicy and hot food, we made chilli party! Some people had problem breathing Will miss you guys! It was nice to have you here! Stay in touch!
Wednesday was full of one-on-one sessions, when I met Pauliina, Christian and Michiel again and they helped me to set my thoughts how to brand my company, put own philosophy and thoughts behind it and make it as much attractive as possible for target players I want to get. Thank you all, your advices were priceless and it was very motivating! As we are mainly developers in Mingle Games, this was why I really came here. To learn about business, promotion and to get as many connectios as possible for future cooperation. Very happy so far! After events we got little loose and did… Harlem Shake!
The whole Thursday was about technical training. We got some overview from Drazen about Windows Phone Hero Apps features. It basically means how to become featured by Microsoft, what they expect from apps and other good things to know. Next, we went through metrics and analytics tools by Niko Vuokko. This was nothing new for me, but many people found great interest in it. Then Teemu, big fan of Sauna, showed us great things about Azure and how we can use it for our projects. Now, that was handy! I must say I am very excited about Azure and the possibility to have lots of features free there, when we are part of Bizspark program. The rest of the day was talking about outsourcing and some tools to help design as Blend & Sketchflow, but these were not much of my interest as it fits more application developers, than games. The day was quite exhausting, so I was happy when it ended.
Friday was all about visits. First, we first started discussion with Kiosked and Quuppa companies. They brought up their own projects and we were discussing the approach, the strategy and many other things. It was open discussion and it was very interesting to see how other companies work. Later we moved to Nokia and had some overviews of mobile strategy they are having right now. Yannick Debaupte was speaker and he gave us great overview and was eager to answer every question we had. I must say, Nokia offices are good looking and have very calm and relaxed environment for first impression. Also they served nice and tasty lunch. Yummy! The rest of the day was just some overview of the pitching and working alone on project. Finally I had time for that!
As I didn’t stop for whole two weeks, I decided to make some free time on weekend. First of all I slept very long! It was just awesome Then I finally washed my piled dirty clothes in the closest laundry. I had some nice time at coffee place with live music. I also took a boat sightseeing trip over islands of Helsinki. I was happy to relax a lot and gained strength for another amazing week!
The third week
Monday was all about digital marketing. This was something I was really looking forward to! Marketing specialist Jussi Wackling from OBE did a great job showing us tools for SEO, how to correctly use social media and other tricks that were priceless. This was very good for me and I learned a lot. Also Alan Mendelevich from Adduplex presented their monetizing platform with cross promotion possibility for Windows Phone. I was happy for this day.
Tuesday was one-on-one day where I personally met Jussi and Alan and fine tuned some ideas from Monday. Other than that it was one of few calm days, where I spent the rest of the day working and nothing much happened. I used this free time to set my booth about Dark Lands for Friday to come.
Wednesday was also quite calm day, we had some more one-on-ones and then we went to visit Microsoft office in the afternoon. It was very nice visit, where we did pitching about our own projects, getting to know better people from Microsoft and creating good connections. At the end they presented us their offices and unique way of working, where nobody has own working table. Very innovative and refreshing. Offices were very nice with lots of relaxing places and kids corner! Oh yes, you can take your own kids to be with you at work and play there! This was very appealing for me as I am proud father myself. After that we went to Startup Sauna to have some BBQ event, meet new people, drink some beers and have good time together.
Thursday was a special day! We went to training center of Nokia in Batvik. I must say in advance, that this was the most amazing day of the whole AppCampus. It was fantastic to be in forest, where was one building with awesome view to the sea! The air was clear and great and we had some sessions from Nokia. I must admit these were not much valuable, as they were talking about general things that we all already knew. But after that came the major part of the program – we all went to traditional Finnish smoke sauna! No better way to get close to people then sweating together in very tight room full of naked men! And with us, there were not only AppCampus attendants, but also high valued people from Nokia and AppCampus leaders. After the sauna we were running to jump to the sea to cool down! How fantastic was that! Then to get some beer, cool down and again to sauna. I made something like 6 cycles and felt like I was in heaven! There was quite funny situations as few people overheated sauna and only the bravest ones were able to stay inside. Then also some funny jumps to see and so on. I must say, I never saw as many happy faces as that day. It removed all stress and worries. They topped it with great dinner and awesome wine… after that we all got to bus and traveled back to the hotel. I slept like a baby!
Friday was our booth day! It was also first year anniversary of AppCampus. We presented our projects to various people and it was great to see their reactions. Dark Lands was producing WOW effect on many people and that made me really happy. The day was long and repeating over and over again pitchings and showing demo took toll on my energy. I was so tired at the end of the day that I was only wishing to go to sleep. Check this blog about our booth day.
This weekend was quite hard for me, as the long time without my daughter and wife made me wish to go back to them already. I tried to relax and just waited for the final week to start, so started to countdown the remaining days. Whole month away from loving family is long time.
The fourth and final week
Monday! Paolo made for us an overview of all support we could get from AppCampus, Nokia and Microsoft for our projects and what were the criteria for those supports. It is very handy to know and very exciting to use them! Later that day we had talking from lawyers about legal stuff of companies, contracts and other boring things that are important but nobody likes to deal with them For me this was not really interesting as my beloved sister is a lawyer, so I have always help from her Love you Jana! In the evening people from Design Experience prepared special dinner for us. They brought french cooks to AppCampus to prepare us delicates of food to experience design part of the food and excellence of it with drinking rare wines, original champagne and to enjoy life itself. Also by combining and braking rules of cuisine that actually produces unique experience. I also met some new interesting people. I must say I will not forget that day.
On Tuesday we had more sessions about press releases, how to write them, how to attract press to our projects and other very handy tactics. After that we visited Rovio to have short Q&A with Peter Vestabacka. It was also nice to hear from Rovio opinion on our own project and a way you go. Also the office of Rovio is quite funny and nice to look at. Lots of birds there and for some reason they were angry! We finished sessions with storytelling and some interesting people talking about it, for example USA embassador! It was quite interesting. The end of the day was a Startup Sauna demo day, but for some reason I was too tired and in zombie mode that most of people recommended me to go to sleep… so I did and it was good decision! Next day I was so fresh and full of energy!
Wednesday was investor day! They introduced us to angels way of thinking and venture capital way of thinking, what should we be aware of and what to expect from them. This part was quite interesting, but also not much new for me as I was talking with investors a lot in the past. Then we had one-on-ones with actual investors. They were not really looking for investment, they were there more for coaching. But some showed interest in our project and they would follow us and we would keep in touch. Just another networking and possibilities for the future. The end of the day was again in Startup Sauna and we had some nice BBQ there and also few beers. My first day of drinking.
Thursday was final one-on-one sessions and we just covered final feedbacks with Paolo and got some final advices about pitching from Mike. Nothing much was happening from that point, just some extra work we did and we had some good dinner together with all AppCampus attendants and some beers… my second day of drinking
Friday and the last day! It was just about final presentations of our own projects, final pitch, some celebrations, photos, giving certificates etc. It was nice to cover up everything and enjoy some time. We started to drink soon and we carried on until late night with all who didn’t already leave home. We met in some pubs in Helsinki and had a great time! Saying bye to all was hard, as we had very good team spirit and few of people became my friends. Will miss you all! And the third day of drinking… this was too much for me, I will not touch alcohol at least for a month now!