Interview with Kelvin Koh, Founder of game development company, Delta Duck Studio.
After attending the Games Innovation Programme at SUTD, Kelvin became aware of the immense potential that games offer to society. Post graduation, Kelvin and his classmates started Delta Duck Studio. When asked about why he started a game development company, he aptly replied:
“Games are a great medium to not just entertain people but also improve people’s lives in other ways like making education more engaging.”
Till date, his company has launched a flagship Chinese language game titled ‘Chiro Heroes’ in mid-May 2015. They are working towards the launch of their upcoming game MonsterBattle RPG (www.monchron.com) with unique tic-tac- toe battle mechanics that will engage and entertain players by this year (2017).
Kevin’s vision is to eventually develop more games that not only entertain but also benefit people in other ways.
1. What were you doing before you decided to start your business?
I was still studying Business at Singapore Management University. Went for internships and exchange programs and also tried to kick start a few side gigs as experiments for research purposes.
It was a big step to start our business post-graduation because we were very new to the business and had a lot of uncertainty. I must admit that we’ve learned so much as a result in a very short period of time.
2. How did you get into your current line of work/ why did you decide to do it?
The Game Innovation Programme internship at Singapore University of Technology and Design’s (SUTD) Gamelab served as an entry point for my interest in the games industry.
I decided to start mainly because I found a team of people I felt I could work with in the long-term and who also shared the same passion and vision for creating really awesome games. Also, we did the research to discover that the game industry is quite a lucrative market: We can monetize via licensing, development, franchising and numerous other ways.
3. What would you say was your greatest difficulty getting into it? Did you have to make any sacrifices?
Starting before graduation gave us some time to think and tread the waters of entrepreneurship before diving in. However, taking the plunge without any experience (many in our industry normally works for a few years before starting), made it more difficult in terms of knowing what the best practices are, building credibility from scratch to attract clients/investors and building capabilities.
Thankfully, we managed to snag a couple of long-term projects including one game research project with an educational institution. It’s helped us bring in some cash flow while we develop new games, accelerated our learning curve and also helped our fledgling company build some credo. Trawling procurement marketplaces have really helped us get by with new projects.
We started without investment and have been bootstrapping ever since but we are working for long term success so I’m optimistic that the payoff will be worth the short-term financial sacrifices.
4. How are you marketing your business/getting, clients?
We are always on the lookout for projects that overlaps with our industry while working on our own game IPs. These projects are often referrals from people in the industry as well as other media sectors.
Also, we find projects on platforms like ThunderQuote and GeBiz. For our own IPs, we prefer partnering with publishers and marketing partners who have platforms that can market our game better as we get to leverage on their networks. If you don’t have the capacity or reach at the beginning, collaborate to get infront of other people’s audiences.
As we start to get more projects, our portfolio becomes more robust and that eventually will help us secure more work as well as increase our clout in the marketplace if we ever want to venture deeper into the game IP part of our business.
5. What would you say has been the greatest lesson so far since you started the business?
Learn, adapt, iterate or die. Small businesses have the flexibility to be nimble in the day-to-day operations and have to continue to do so to navigate the often unpredictable nature of business. Thus, learning how to adapt and iterate in the different areas in business, whether is it development or negotiation is crucial to moving one closer to success.
It’s key to keep learning from your customers and competitors to stay ahead of the curve. This is especially true in games development where we iterate our games regularly, sometimes even weekly, improving on the design and stickiness of the game mechanics to improve retention of players.
During negotiations, the principle of iterating also applies. During the process, we get to know the other party better, we learn more about their positions and interests and try to adjust and align our offerings or even add new features that can convince them better.
As a fresh grad, you’ll lack the experience, but you can make up for it by moving quick and learning from the mistakes of others.
7. What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?
Build foundations before experiments. This does not only apply to the financial side of the business where deciding on the base business model is important but also the intangibles such as values, culture, mission, and vision.
Some examples include: deciding on a business model that gives you a greater chance to succeed, adopt best practices, processes, and systems for the team to run efficiently and create an environment for each and everyone to feel empowered. Once you have a strong foundation, you can experiment with new approaches or ways to improve and become even better.
8. If you had to offer a piece of advice to someone that had zero experience or connections getting into the business, what would you say?
Find mentors who you can trust and communicate and learn from them frequently. Try to find a mix of mentors who are inside and outside your industry as well as different specializations in the business (business and technical mentors), so they share experiences and knowledge with you to shorten the learning curve in the many areas of your business and industry.
Experienced mentors can give you insights into pitfalls to avoid and also connect you to people that can help you.
9. What have you started trying this year that has been working well for your business?
Following up with business connections built over the last 2.5 years. This year, there have been new opportunities that came to fruition because of the networks built within and outside the industry.
You’d be surprised at how many people neglect to keep in touch with old, warm connections. They are much easier to close for repeat business and are typically open to recommending you for other opportunities.
Hopefully, they will propel us to success in the 2nd half of the year as we plan to launch multiple products with some of the partnerships we established.
10. What have you just learned recently that just blew you away?
That the advent AI will replace a big proportion of human jobs. It’s scary because it could mean major changes in how businesses and society will run as a whole.
One important area will be how the laws and governance will require a paradigm shift to regulate and support society in a manner where we can still have positive outcomes as a whole.
We’ll need to continue to switch things up according to how the industries change.
11. What is one book you would recommend that every new business owner or freelancer be reading?
“The Entrepreneur’s Manual by Richard M White. Published in 1977 but the principles are as relevant as ever. Covers topics from market research to financial prudence but it resonates very well with any current or aspiring entrepreneur who wants to improve their strategic and systems thinking. “
12. What are a few tools (digital or offline) that you feel everyone should know about?
Google Apps for Business – To store and share files and work on documents together. It has saved us numerous hours collaborating digitally and you get your own domain email that’s hosted on Google Mail.
The Whiteboard – Analog is still the best way to brainstorm or discuss ideas in my opinion and writing or drawing on the whiteboard it facilitates the organic nature of those activities. Must have in every office.
13. How can people connect with you?
This interview is part of our Expert Interview series where we endeavor to interview entrepreneurs or successful freelancers with interesting and useful stories/lessons on starting and running a business.