Saturday, November 24, 2012

Chris Curry (Marqueo) The Artist

When time permits, please check out my good friend Chris Curry's site ( to look at some if his pieces. They are great works, and Continue to be amazed at his talent and ability. From Madison Avenue to Soho, it doesn't matter, Chris gets it done.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

‘Angry Birds’ Fuels Finland Game Boom as Investors Seek Next Hit

'Angry Birds' Fuels Finland Game Boom as Investors Seek Next Hit

The success of "Angry Birds" is helping Finland's other mobile-game fledglings take wing.

Enticed by the title's rapid rise to fame, venture-capital investors are flocking to the Nordic country in search of the next hit. The game developers attracting attention include the makers of "Clash of Clans," "Hay Day" and "Hill Climb Racing." Each of those has had millions of downloads, joining "Angry Birds" in Apple Inc. (AAPL)'s application store's top lists.

Expanding at an annual pace of 57 percent, gaming has emerged as a niche growth industry for the country of 5 million seeking to diversify its economy as once-dominant mobile-phone maker Nokia Oyj (NOK1V) shrinks and cuts thousands of jobs. "Angry Birds" maker Rovio Entertainment Oy attracting $42 million in venture money in 2011 has helped local rivals including Supercell Oy and Grey Area Oy also lure international backers.

"There's an amazing critical mass here," said Sean Seton- Rogers, general partner at London-based Profounders Capital, who joined thousands of investors and entrepreneurs in the Nordic region's biggest startup event, Slush, in Helsinki this week. "Once you start having a viable ecosystem, it feeds off itself."

Helsinki-based Supercell's "Clash of Clans" was the top- grossing iPhone app in the U.S. as of Nov. 21, meaning its players spent the most money, including in-game purchases, according to Oulu, Finland-based Fingersoft Oy's "Hill Climb Racing" was the most downloaded free game. Rovio's "Angry Birds" was named the most downloaded paid app ever this year by Apple, and its "Angry Birds Star Wars" edition is the most popular paid app now, according to

Mobile Boost

While Finnish startups are benefiting now from the extra engineering talent available as Nokia cuts jobs, the country's gaming industry is decades-old and began developing in the era of personal-computer titles. A shift in player preferences toward mobile phones and tablets, resulting in Rovio's success, gave the industry a shot in the arm, Seton-Rogers said.

"The market has really grown with the growth in mobile gaming," said Seton-Rogers, who helps manage 30 million euros ($39 million) of venture funds and first invested in a Finnish startup, mobile gaming cross-promotion network Applifier, last year. "As that's taken off, people pay more attention now."

Supercell got a $12 million investment last year from Accel Partners, which also has a stake in Rovio and was an early backer of Facebook Inc. Grey Area, maker of the location-based multiplayer game "Shadow Cities," has raised money from investors including Index Ventures and London Venture Partners.

'Insanely Powerful'

While Finnish game makers compete in some areas, they cooperate in others, sharing experiences as they seek global growth. Helping with that goal is Startup Sauna, a non-profit organization focused on polishing small businesses into world- beaters, based on pro bono input from coaches like Rovio Chief Marketing Officer Peter Vesterbacka and Supercell Chief Executive Officer Ilkka Paananen.

"It's all about the community, which makes it insanely powerful," said Vesterbacka, a co-founder of Slush, welcoming visitors in his trademark red hooded sweatshirt to the event whose attendance doubled from last year to 3,000. "It's cold and dark, but once you get inside, there are amazing startups."

Developers also tend to move around, spreading talent. Supercell CEO Paananen, for instance, has held top positions in companies including Digital Chocolate Inc. and Sumea Oy, which developed games in the early 2000s in cooperation with Nokia.

Gaming Cluster

Finnish game-industry veterans including Matias Myllyrinne are embracing the new competition. Myllyrinne is the CEO of Remedy Entertainment Oy, the developer behind "Max Payne" and "Alan Wake," which beat "Angry Birds" for Time magazine's game of the year in 2010.

"It's absolutely fantastic -- the birth of a gaming cluster is good for everybody in the field," he said in an interview. "The threshold for me to call up the guys at Supercell or Rovio is not very high, and vice versa."

In a change of pace from blockbuster titles developed for Microsoft Corp.'s Xbox 360, Remedy has also tried its luck in mobile gaming, selling more than 10 million digital copies of "Death Rally".

"We've started looking at tablets and mobile phones, there are fine opportunities for us to bring our knowhow," he said. "One can go see 'Lord of the Rings' on a big screen or watch YouTube clips, they serve a different function."

Plush Toys

As mobile games typically cost a maximum of a few dollars, and many are free, the revenue the startups generate from game sales is limited. Many target extra revenue from selling ads and in-game features, as well as merchandise such as the ubiquitous "Angry Birds" T-shirts, plush toys and candy.

The game industry in Finland grew 57 percent in 2011 to 165 million euros, according to the Finnish chapter of the International Game Developers Association. Growth has continued this year, with Supercell alone now grossing "clearly above" $500,000 a day, helped by "Clash of Clans" and "Hay Day," Paananen said in an interview. Apple takes a 30 percent cut of what a game on its system grosses, with the developer keeping the rest.

To help fuel the growth, Finland's government is planning tax breaks for minority investments in unlisted growth companies. Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen attended Slush, wearing colorful nail polish as he made his opening remarks, part of a publicity stunt for guitar-learning game "GuitarBots."

The nascent political support, coupled with the thriving game-industry community and the "Angry Birds" success, make it easier for startups to stay in Finland and less necessary to relocate to Silicon Valley to gain funding.

"Helsinki is the best city in the world to build games at the moment," Paananen said. "People understand that it's possible to become global from Finland -- to have an example like Rovio is very inspiring and motivating."

To contact the reporter on this story: Kasper Viita in Helsinki at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Christian Wienberg at

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Friday, November 16, 2012

Digging Google Analytics

I rarely have time to explore the new features in Google Analytics, but I stumbled across this one, which gives me some great information as a casual blogger. I can imagine the benefits to businesses in understanding their traffic and their customers.

Thursday, November 15, 2012


All too often, I feel like the dumbest person on the planet. I am disregarded in many ways. But, this news about Starbucks and Teavana is very interesting. Here's my comment to a conversation in 2007, and 2009.

  • I think this report is a good approach at addressing the essential aspects of the brand that have led to the unusual success of Starbucks. The inclusion of marketing concepts like aroma show the complexity of their brand appeal, and the expertise of John and Paul, with respect to addressing these current sales issues.   However, I don’t think their problem has to do much with product or process, but evolution. Once Coca-Cola had done all they could do for the soft-drink, they tried to create the New Coke to get beyond the stagnation they were experiencing in the market. They brought back Classic Coke with great success, but that still didn’t address the problem. It wasn’t until they began to diversify their product line and expand their brand to different beverage market segments that movement began to happen again for them.The most amazing thing about the Starbucks phenomenon is the speed of their growth, but its growth nonetheless. I’m not sure they can do much more to improve on what they have accomplished, with respect to the retail experience. I would rather see them begin to expand their brand from maximizing the coffee experience to maximizing the warm-beverage experience. By expanding into the tea market and emphasizing “relaxing stimulation”, I believe they would find more success than improving on something that has succeeded beyond the understanding of the market.I’m a big fan of Teavana, which in my opinion is a spinoff of the Starbucks experience. They’ve taken the tea concept and built a great product and accessory line around it. As I see this retail newcomer expand in the U.S., I realize the product cycle for these types of retail environments is coming to an eventual end, in terms of unusual growth. Before the Starbucks concept totally loses its appeal, why not acquire an alternative experience like Teavana to support the brands mission to enhance the warm-beverage experience?Although Starbucks didn’t invent coffee, I believe their strongest segments (obviously without justifiable research data) value both innovation and exploration. I would venture to say the average Starbucks customer is progressive, compared to the norm, but they lack the time to explore authentic and culturally-enhancing products. Through convenience and iron-clad mainstream brand control, Starbucks has offered this opportunity for Americans to consider themselves unique and different, in a mainstream way. To capitalize on this appeal, I think, would create various opportunities that are not available to existing companies who have failed to initially address the cultural, explorative and enlightening aspects that the “New America” values today.Again, I’m a novice at this, but I hope this helps.
  • Kenyatta … I agree totally with you that the problems SBUX is facing has a lot to do with its hyper-speed evolution. In the past, it would take business six-decades to reach the place SBUX did in three-decades.Not sure the tea opportunity is big enough to make a difference at SBUX. Since we are talking tea, I have to express my disappointment in how SBUX has handled the TAZO brand. SBUX bought the offbeat but high-quality TAZO tea brand in around 2000. They’ve buried it. They’ve homogenized the funky TAZO personality–the package redesigns have sucked the creative soul outta the tazo brand). They’ve blown it with TAZO. TAZO is irrelevant to SBUX. Back in the day we SBUX-marketers were hoping the company would open up TAZO retail stores, but they didn’t.Teavana has been increasing their presence. I’ve been to a few and found them to be adequate. But adequate ain’t good enough. They do nothing remarkable beyond selling tea. It seems they are trying too hard to be the SBUX of Tea than to be the Teavana of Tea. Dig?

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Don't ask my why I love this movie, but it helps me get focused. I need to focus more.