If you want to be a successful entrepreneur in games then "don't be a pussy." So says Neil Young, CEO and founder of Ngmoco, quoting advice given to him prior to founding the mobile games company.
Young, speaking at the Game Developer's Conference 2011, was offering insight into lessons he has learned in the two and a half years since Ngmoco launched. The company was bought
for a reported $400 million in October 2010 by the Japanese firm DeNA.
The advice was given to Young by 68-year-old serial entrepreneur George Stevenson, father of Bob Stevenson, co-founder of Ngmoco.
"George is this incredibly opinionated guy but he gave us pearls of wisdom early in the life of our company," said Young. Stevenson advised the Ngmoco founder, who previously worked for Electronic Arts: "Do not be a pussy when John Riccitiello calls you up to make digs at your new venture. You can't be an entrepreneur if you're a pussy."
Young also said that Stevenson advised him to sever ties with his former employees in order to avoid the temptation to return to them in tough times: "He told me: 'If you don't fully burn your boats then you can't fully commit. There will be times when it's dark and scary and if you're not fully committed you'll give in.'"
Finally, Stevenson advised Young to create his company in a "large macro", a marketplace in which large growth is a possibility. "Start-ups are hard," said Young. "It takes the same energy to create a new company in a small macros than it does to create a new company in a big macro. It was great advice for any entrepreneur."
Young also emphasized the importance of culture in building a successful company. "The work is a product of the culture," he said. "The culture of the company you build determines the work that gets created. The culture, therefore, has a direct relationship to the work."
Young said that he and his team discovered that culture is dictated by three factors: tone, team and organization. "These are the three elements that can be adjusted to change the culture of any organization," he said. "If the work is a product of the culture, then the culture is a product of team, tone and organization."
On the subject of raising venture capital to fund a start-up, Young advised entrepreneurs to raise money when you can, not when you need it. "This helps ensure you make the right decisions," he added.
Young also stressed the importance of learning from failures in order to build institutional knowledge within a company. "Failures can give you profound insight and profound insight gives you a competitive advantage," he said. "You have to be prepared to throw away your entire code base if necessary, based on the pivotal insights failures can provide", he said.
"But make sure you protect the people who have learned through these failures," he added.