Tampere Ambassadors had a chance to meet with Mariina Hallikainen, CEO of one of the most successful game companies in Finland on Tuesday 4.12.2018. In their cozy office, Mariina shared what made their company successful with a revenue of 6.2 million euros in 2015. Their big hit game, Cities: Skylines, continues being one of the most popular simulation games.
Starting with a group of other 4 friends, Mariina was the only member that did not have a background in game development. She dealt with all non-game developing stuff, such as searching for publishers and figuring out how the game industry works. She had to knock on the door of the big game companies to learn everything needed to start and run a game company. This is an example of highly supportive, and openly sharing Finnish business environment. It promotes knowledge transfer from successful companies to newcomers, instead of narrowing down the entry door to reduce competition. In Finland, successful entrepreneurs share their tactics to help start-ups enter the field and be successful. Mariina said that she is willing to help successors, because that will make the Finnish game industry develop actively and become more attractive to foreign investors. This in turn will be beneficial to her company as well. We witness this spirit spreading around Tampere through activities as Entrepreneur Training, Open Day to Crazy Town, Tribe Tampere, Startup breakfast, and many experience-sharing seminars with successful start-ups.
An important factor contributing to Colossal Order’s success is that the company respects the well-being of employees. Colossal Order focuses on occupational health and does not recommend staff to work over 7.50 hours per day. This is unusual in nowadays competitive working life. The relaxing and balancing approach in Finnish working life is one thing that is hard for foreigners to understand. Mariina believes that healthy and happy employees are more productive. She set a culture for her team to work effectively during the 7.5 hours and take time for their personal life. Mariina implemented the ‘no-crunch’ policy in the team since the beginning days of the company nearly 10 years ago. In the company’s office, there is plenty of common space for team activities, a cozy kitchen and even a well-equipped gym. In reality, to build such a culture is not an easy task in the beginning. It is because the highly competitive business in the game industry stimulates people in the field to work hard, or super hard to produce a perfect game. Mariina knows well how long a task would take, and has a realistic expectation of what is good enough. She does not want to exploit her team’s labor for a perfect product. This helps her avoid ‘harming’ employees with unnecessary stress and overtime. Her strong leadership eventually creates a sustainable working culture among her team.
Although the company strongly focuses on developing games for entertaining purpose, their success drew attention of city planners. In 2016, the city of Hameenlinna used Colossal Order’s famous game ‘Cities: Skylines’ to crowdsource ideas for its city master plan. This is an example of local governments being innovative in urban planning, as well as their openness to engaging public and private sectors in co-designing public services and public policy.
With our visit to Colossal Order, we gained an insight into the Finnish business environment: mutual support among entrepreneurs, and the Finnish philosophy of work-life harmony. Together with an increasingly open government, it is evident that Finland is creating a desirable environment for start-ups and innovation to flourish.