In episode six, Nikki shares her experience in “taking the leap” to start her own gaming company, how her network helped her establish the right team and secure investor partnerships, and why she’s working to build up the virtual reality community in Ireland.
A little about Nikki:
Nikki is the Founder and CEO of WarDucks, a game developer based in Dublin, Ireland. She is one of a very small number of female CEOs in the gaming industry. She’s also a trailblazer in the virtual reality world, which we will get into later, and Before starting her company two years ago, Nikki worked on the games business at Facebook.
- Their mobile virtual reality game soon – Working on casual game called Sneaky Bears. Excited to bring a high quality game to this new space. Premise: Teddy bear factory has been taken over by an evil bear named Frank and turned the bears against you – purpose is to find and defeat him. Very great feedback so far!
- Why be one of the first to tackle VR? – Past games launched on Facebook and mobile, but there’s a huge amount of competition here, very high user acquisition costs. Mobile VR is a massive opportunity with very few competitors for now. People are creating content for these entry-level devices, but they are not high quality. Saw a gap for a fun, high-quality experience. Still very early, learning so much about how people are interacting with these devices. Working with Samsung gear and Oculus teams to determine what will fit the audience.
- Building a VR community in Ireland – Nikki runs an Irish VR meet-up for anyone building in the space (talks, demos, etc.) – developers as well as the public show up. So much interest in this space. Great turnout – always have to turn people away. Also created a Facebook group: VR Community Ireland, where the community shares any VR news and developments.
So exciting to be at the forefront of this, to see the excitement at the meet-ups.
- Motivation to leave job at Facebook for her start-up – Was working on the Games team with successful games studios every day. Definitely difficult to leave the salary, benefits, and security, but felt she had to do it. If I didn’t do it then, I would never do it. I haven’t regretted it for a second.
- Challenges in this experience – A lot of what she does is a challenge. It’s a learning curve, which is really enjoyable. Everything is new. Difficult to pinpoint 1-2 challenges, since every day is a challenge.
Every day is a challenge…with every challenge, you overcome them and you just get through it.
- Securing funding – Bootstrapped initially. Enterprise Ireland classified them as a “high-potential start-up.” Nikki had worked with this board while at Facebook, so they already new her. Then secured private investors – some who she had already known, others who she was recently introduced. These were her only pitches, were lucky not to have to go through hundreds of pitches. Now fundraising again. Have a strong team, which investors really care about.
- Building the right team – Keith and Darren had their own studio called Glass Robot Studios – Nikki met them through Enterprise Ireland. They were very talented – she recognized they could join forces and with their development talent and her business/marketing focus to form WarDucks. Rest of team hired through regular interview process.
- Being one of the few female leaders in gaming – Tries to steer away from thinking about being a woman in a male-dominated industries. She is a minority, which doesn’t make sense since women play more games now than men. Anything we’ve have achieved if because we’re a strong team and we create good products. The minute you start thinking of it in terms of being a woman, the more you differentiate yourself from the others. Her experiences have been positive, her investors have been 100% supportive and never questioned her abilities. Women do shy away from this industry but things are changing. Women support each other well. We’ll see more of a shift over time.
It’s just about women thinking that they can do it and making the leap.
- Advice for others – If thinking about doing something similar – advice is to take the leap, just do it. We put these things off and often people just don’t act. She’s had a good experience acting on her dreams. “JUST DO IT!”