Charles Huang, Co-Founder of RedOctane, the organization behind blockbuster Guitar Hero, spoke at an intimate gathering of 60 startup entrepreneurs yesterday, as part of the SparkLabs incubation program. His success with Guitar hero ranks in the top five biggest gaming hits ever, yet his modesty was clearly apparent as he spoke honestly about three elements required for success as a startup.
Firstly, startup entrepreneurs must have unrelenting passion for what they do and belief that the hardship involved will eventually pay off. In Charles’ case this required mortgaging his house to fund his business in the early days. The eventual outcome: Being turned down a Guitar Hero pre-launch $3M request for investment, but selling up for $150M to Activision less than a year later.
Secondly, startup CEOs must be graced with good luck. Charles has seen both sides of lady-luck. His first software business had to close due to running out of funds. Yet, two months after shut down he was contacted by investors, a little too late, proving that great ideas have to come at the right time to make it.
Thirdly, in Charles’ words, “you need to be in business to be in a position to be lucky”. As a result of his first failure Charles learned the lesson of keeping a business afloat, no matter what. If your company ceases to exist you cease to have a product to sell and you close the door on any opportunity for good luck. He stressed the importance of thinking about a sustainable business model from day one in order to hold out until the right opportunity arises. Essentially, big user numbers are only worthwhile if they bring in the bacon.
Charles was also in Korea to speak about how to achieve cross-border sales of pop-culture (music, film, games, etc). He attributes an important element of success in this area to cross-promotion, citing the collaboration of Jacky Chan and Chris Tucker in Rush Hour to achieve sales in both America and Asia.
He also highlighted the importance of marketers considering alternative means of distribution. The massive success of Psy’s Gangnam Style, for example, was the result of initial promotion through YouTube, rather than through the traditional channels of radio and TV, which would have been impossible to achieve for a relatively unknown Korean singer promoting a song in his native language.
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