Martin Lau did not only give a talk at Slush, being one of the biggest names in Slush’s 10-year journey, but he also took the stage together with Ilkka Paananen of Supercell. This was a first for them and now they share some insight to their game-changing partnership.
Since 2007, Martin Lau has been an Executive Director and President at Tencent Holdings. Tencent doesn’t need much of an introduction, being an internet industry giant in its own right (ranked world’s tenth most valuable public firm worth some $277bn, to give some context). On the other hand, Finnish Supercell is world’s leading mobile game developer with more than 100 million daily users.
Around 2012, Supercell came about with Hay Day and Clash of Clans, caughting Tencent’s interest. Lau revealed, that at the time Tencent made an offer to Supercell, that Paananen and his team refused. Instead of buying a majority, they offered to buy 20 percent.
“I made big mistake of not meeting with him (Paananen) at that time. That was a 3 billion dollar mistake”, Lau explains and laughs.
Paananen had been in touch with various people from Tencent since 2012, but he didn’t meet Lau in person until 2016. It was only few months later when Tencent bought 84 percent majority stake in Supercell. And Lau, that was the beginning of a beautiful partnership.
Built on patience and trust
Traditionally a lot of big companies would acquire companies, but Lau explains that Tencent prefers investing and partnering with them. This worked really well for Supercell, too.
“We wanted to find a partner who valued our independence and understood the people and culture. Partner who also thinks long-term”, Paananen nods and explains the process.
Setting long-run goals is what soon revealed to be the uniting factor with Supercell and Tencent. It was only one month after closing the deal when Supercell started having issues. It was hard time for Paananen and the team, as they saw their hit games dropping from the top 10.
“I gave Ilkka a reassuring call because we believed in the team and their vision in long term. I wanted Ilkka to tell that to everyone in the team”, Lau says.
“Making a call like that, during rough times, tells a lot about Martin”, Paananen says with gratitude in his voice.
Independence makes an impact
Lau emphasizes, that exceptional company culture is behind Supercell’s success. This flat organisational structure is all about independence, responsibility and trying to create the right kind of an environment for each team.
“This is where the magic lies, in our development teams and their great work”, Paananen adds.
Great things happened when individuals have the possibility to make an impact.
“There’s an incredible amount of energy at Slush. If you look at Finland, it’s very advanced country with strong egalitarian culture where people respect and enable each other to do great things. I feel that Finland is giving an aspiration to the world of where it should be going towards at”, Lau says.
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Photo: Kai Kuusisto