How are things in your home country of Lithuania? Do people worry, after Putin’s nakedly bad behavior over Ukraine, that he might turn his attention to your country and the other Baltic states and try to gobble you up?
We don’t feel any major differences; life just goes as it did before. We value human rights and freedom, hence events in Ukraine doesn’t happen without notice. I’m sure you’re aware of the events took place here in Lithuania back in 1990 when we first declared our independence from USSR. We support Ukraine in its battle for freedom and unity.
Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and your family, where you grew up and your education? I think you are kind of a mystery man.
I was born and grew up in the Soviet Union, in a family of educated people. After the independence declaration, the age of opportunities arrived and the people who had trading businesses, like importing goods from the western world became the first millionaires… I told myself: “I’ll be rich one day!” So I entered school, later graduated from Vilnius University with a Masters degree.
My first employment after school was in a financial institution, but after a year I realized that I couldn’t do it anymore and I established a real estate company. At the time real estate mediation was a profitable area and after a while I successfully got up to speed with the market. I was doing quite well with my business up to 2008, when the global financial crisis hit me badly and eventually I had to halt my activities and shut down the company.
Although it didn’t appear like the end of the world, I had a lot of time to waste and think of other ideas which could help me reach my initial goal – to become rich! I started using Google to learn programming basics.
Where do you get your wonderful ideas? Is there a particular creative process you go through?
Usually I don’t lack ideas; they appear in my head almost automatically. This could be an influence of documentaries and feature films, which I like a lot. I always observe and make my own conclusions around any information I receive.
Any anecdotes to go with the creation of ‘Kill the Boss’? That’s definitely one most people out there can relate to.
As I’ve mentioned before, employment sounded like a joke to me and I couldn’t stand that. I always react with humor to the stories people tell about how they hate their bosses so I always recommend sticking the boss to a rocket and creating something on your own.
I read a quote of yours where you said that creating games is a very hard and time-consuming process. Could you discuss that? How much time can it take to come up with something new?
Ideas come up quickly but to make them a reality is something that takes a lot of your time. The majority of the best ideas of mine are still pending and waiting for their time to come. I need a team of people to make them come true. Meanwhile I do what I can, utilizing the resources I have in the best way I can alone. Most often I work 20 hours per day trying to accomplish the goals I’ve set.
And speaking of creating brand-new games, there are almost instantaneous rip-offs of your games (and others) by many dishonest people out there. How do you feel about these criminals? Do you have a position on international intellectual law?
It makes me mad when you see people stealing something you’ve just pulled from a brainstorm. There is no way someone else had the same pattern of mind in their head to come up with the same idea, is there?
I invest time and financial resources into marketing and brand making. Suddenly it takes you to the top of the AppStore and then you see how others start to catch up with their copycats.
I’ve tried to fight them off but they appear on a daily basis from different sides of the world. That being said, I’ve actually managed to remove several games from the Google market; some of them even copied my name as a publisher title.
I don’t see value in wasting time trying to raise an action against each and all of them.
Can you talk about what you worked at before gaming? I read you were in real estate. It’s all a bit vague. There’s certainly a huge difference between, say, being a real estate salesman or broker and dealing with creativity and technology. It means you can wear a lot of hats. How are you able to do that?
I like challenges and science even though it has nothing in common with what I was doing before. There is no better satisfaction than learning something new and, with some hard work applied, creating something to share. If people like what I do – it inspires me to go an extra mile.
I’ve heard that successful people like Harley Davidson, the founders of Skype and many more had to drastically change their field of interest to achieve something more.
Did you get a traditional education… are you ‘book learned’ or from the more street-type school of hard knocks?
I have the only one tutor; that’s the Internet. When you’re interested in something – there is nothing that can stop you finding knowledge; that’s how technology improved during the last decade. Moreover I live in a country with the 2nd or 3rd fastest Internet in the world. You must be persistent, that’s all you need.
I read a quote from you saying that when your first puzzle game, ‘Black Eye,’ was released your “expectations were unrealistic.” Could you explain?
As I’ve learned the hard way, it’s not enough to buy a Mac and create a game following tutorials. You must know how to distribute it and accelerate it. Nevertheless, once I published my first game I was expecting people to be attracted to it and actually “see” or evaluate the effort I’d put in; pretty much the same case when a child draws something on paper and shows it to his mother… Only she honestly appreciates it; it has no value to anyone else. The same happened here.
There are many games like this out there, there are some brilliant ones though, but no one knows about them just because of the rating algorithm Apple applies. If you’re not on top, you’re nothing.
With all of this experience, all the tries and fails, I’ve realized that the main additive to every business is marketing, and this is something I’m good at: I even have a masters diploma for it. Since the niche is very specific and new, there are no books you can read and learn from – I started analyzing by applying old-school marketing principles, which don’t change over time.
You are a great example of modern entrepreneurship. In a time when there is often a ‘brain drain’ from small countries, what made you commit to staying at home?
Being a citizen of a small country with a great and proven economic rise, you want a better life and as fast as possible. With that not being enough, many skilled specialists leave their families and friends to look for an easier life or money. The ones that stay create value and based on the latest reports Lithuania is one of the leading countries not only in the region but also in all Europe. I’ve challenged myself to create value in my motherland by running a global business participating in global markets while creating value locally. Application development is one of the ways which allows me to contribute.
Do you have any advice for anyone who might want to become an independent gaming entrepreneur?
Oh yeah. If you have an idea and persistence, first what you have to do is to stand back from all the haters or people who don’t believe in you. You have to be ready to work as many hours as it requires to get to your goal. If you want to create something new, I mean new new, not something old-new, you must create, not copy. You shouldn’t be afraid to learn new things daily.
After a while, with a lot of time and work spent without any revenue, most likely something will start working out and if it does, it won’t mean that it’s the end. It will be just an opportunity to start something bigger. With all that in mind, if you want to achieve and be successful, work for yourself, not for someone else.
Is your country’s government receptive to helping entrepreneurs like you and technology in general?
Yes, in general there are plenty of them, some EU-funded, some local, but in most cases you have no time to waste in completing all the application bureaucracy procedures. The nature of the creator is against paperwork activities. In most cases, people who as are good at legal form filling cannot create. It just doesn’t fit together.
Could you talk about your own favorite games: The kind that got you interested in gaming in the first place?
My favorite games are economy- and logic-based games, like tycoon-style games.
Do you think that communism and its after effects have influenced who you are and your attitudes?
I always hated the system our great country was put in against our will. Without all of that our country would be at least at the same social and economic figures as Nordic countries are now. It will take couple of decades till we catch up with the rest of the world. So we’re happy to be independent, with human rights and freedom of mind. There are a lot of people here who are not afraid to absorb knowledge and valuable information to show the world who we are and that size doesn’t matter in this case. Answering the question, I must confess that communism put us into a hole from which we’ll get out of very soon.
On the other hand, visit our country and you’ll see how beautiful it is and how much we’ve achieved in the last 20 years. You’ll meet educated and friendly people. For those who have never been here, I promise, you’ll be surprised.
Do you look up to any particular entrepreneurs?
If there is an investor out there ready to share his connections or contacts, that would give the best value, better than a financial injection. I’m always open to discussions around that.
What are you working on next? Can you give us a hint without giving away too much?
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m full of ideas which require a team to work on so the goal is to create one of them sooner rather than later. While I have no team I’m going to release a couple of casual apps, one of the “Shoot the balls” games succeeding the 100 Balls series.