1 year of YetiZen—what I have learned from running a gaming accelerator
June 21, 2012
This last week marked the end of the first year and a half of operations of the YetiZen Games Accelerator program. We have had 16 startups graduate over three 3-month rounds. There have been several successes and learning opportunities for both YetiZen and the startups in this time (in the near future we will be adding a post on the YetiZen blog on the most prominent success stories of these startups).
In the process I have realized that regardless of the type of game startups certain philosophies are critical building blocks of successful companies. While these philosophies show up in an entrepreneurs’ business grow and expand over time and shift in priority, at their core, these philosophies are fundamental building blocks for all gaming startups
Philosophy 1: Grow a value network
YetiZen would not be what it is today without the hard work and passion of our YetiZen family of mentors. These are 150 people with amazing achievements in their careers as entrepreneurs, game designers, producers, artists, investors and many others who put in their time and life force every 6 months for an entirely new crop of YetiZen companies.
These relationships are characterized by mutual trust in each other’s professional competence. The mentors and board of advisors trust us to comb the world for the best set of founders in every round who are developing an innovative business exploiting a large opportunity and who have the professional skills to leverage the brain trust and opportunities available at YetiZen. We on the other hand trust the mentors to provide the best education and opportunities possible for our startup companies. After 3 rounds of this we have developed close 1:1 relationships with each of the mentors marked by critical advice and feedback on YetiZen processes, our companies, and opening doors for YetiZen and our companies to exciting new opportunities for collaboration. In return my cofounder Japheth and I ensure that we help our mentors in anyway we can and respond to all requests within 24-48 hours from when they are made. The mutual camaraderie and support has become an attractive vortex in its own right and I am happy to report that our mentor network now grows through inbound interest from potential mentors with no effort of our own.
Too often in business, networking has become interchangeable with sportive schmoozing—an exercise in meeting as many people as possible and asking for favors. While there is nothing wrong with this approach it is less effective in building a powerful organization, as it is unable to sustain mutual value exchange between the highest performing individuals and therefore may not attract the best allies towards you. A value network like the YetiZen mentor network on the other hand is characterized by trust, mutual value exchange, respect for professional judgment, and complimentary core values (though not the same).
In a future post I will write more about what I have learned about creating and sustaining a value network but for now I simply encourage you to keep an open eye and mind as you build your business—you never know if the next person you meet may be a key ally in your value network or introduce you to those who are or open doors you did not know existed. It also goes without saying that people may not remember what you did but how you made them feel (from Maya Angelou) so keep your ego in check and don’t burn bridges inadvertently…