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SUPERCELL - Super Culture > Super Results


Last week I was delighted to join a small group visit to Supercell where we listened to a presentation by Game Lead Jimmy L. who also led a tour of their new corporate headquarters in Helsinki. Supercell was founded in 2010 and during the past 10 years released some of the world’s most successful mobile games: Hay Day, Clash of Clans, Boom Bach, Clash Royale, and Brawl Stars. The company employs 370 people from 40+ different countries and besides Helsinki has offices in Tokyo, Shanghai, San Francisco, and Seoul. In 2016 a majority of Supercell was sold to Tencent Holdings which valued Supercell at €8.4 billion. The company’s revenue for FY2020 was €1.30 billion and profits before taxes (EBITDA) €407 million. Rather than talk much about financials or other gaming metrics, Jimmy’s presentation focused on Supercell’s corporate culture, noting it is the way they go about performing their business that has produced great results (admittedly along with great timing and some luck). I found the discussion particularly interesting given parallels to Formula 1 team cultures that enable high performance in a highly competitive industry as discussed in my co-authored book, “Performance at the Limit, Business Lessons from Formula 1 Racing.” Co-founder and CEO, Ilkka Paananen has stated that he views game development teams as if they are sports teams and they need to be built that way. He says, you have a few stars players but at the end, having very talented people who know how to work together is more important than any individual’s unique talent. Here are a few observations about Supercell’s culture as shared by Jimmy Lee and Ilkka Paananen in his public interviews: · There must be trust between people and teams at all levels of the organization. · Culture is about achieving the best with the least people. · Each game has a dedicated team that takes responsibility for delivery including development, experimentation, roll-out, and perhaps potentially killing the project. The upper management layers of the company are services and resources for the teams, not the other way round. · Quality is paramount. · Implicit transparency is required. All decisions are explained, all numbers shared, and there is nothing put under the rug. · Supercell kills many more games during development or after beta testing than it delivers to the public. There is no disgrace in failing and nobody is blamed. · The company celebrates successes with cake; and it celebrate failures with champagne, while sharing the experience of failure and what can be learned from it. €1.3 billion in revenues with only 370 people speaks volumes about the importance of sustaining a corporate culture that supports their distinctive vision – “to make the best games that are played by as many people as possible, enjoyed for years and remembered forever.”

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