In September of 2012, I co-founded Funomena with my friend and colleague Martin Middleton. We moved into our office in the fall of 2013 and shortly after that we had 2 little teams going. It's been almost 5 years since we started - and in some ways it feels like the time just flew by. But in other ways, it feels like a lifetime. Especially with the eclipse coming up (and Luna starting with an eclipse of the Moon), the passing of time is on my mind.
Martin and I met in 2009, at the TGC ship party for Flower, and we began working together a few months later when I left EA to join the studio as Executive Producer on a new title - cleverly code-named Journey (we didn’t actually think the name would pass trademark). :D
At our very first 1:1 lunch, Martin informed me that he was actually considering leaving TGC. He’d been living in LA since first going to USC, and was curious to try living somewhere else - maybe even going off to make something other than games. He let me know that in addition to this sense of wanderlust, shipping two experimental Indie games in a row had left him a little burnt out. The prospect of Journey (which was clearly a more ambitious title than its predecessors) was a little daunting.
You can imagine how surprised and dismayed I was to learn this - we’d just hired our 8th person and I couldn’t imagine the team without him. So - I let him know that. I’d noticed that he lent an important voice to creative and technical discussions, speaking only when he felt it was really necessary. Caught off-guard, all I could do was be honest. And after some consideration, he agreed to stick around, and see what happened (at least, for a little while).
Looking back - while it was really intense, I’m grateful that our relationship started with this very direct & open, honest conversation. It set a tone between us that is still the foundation for our relationship 8 years later. In our communication, mutual respect & honesty are key - *especially* when the topic of conversation is difficult, and one we would probably rather avoid. We have many strengths at Funomena, but I really believe that any success we have will stem from the seed of trust we planted at that lunch meeting.
Starting a company is a little like planting a seed as well. It doesn’t seem that difficult at first. You can register a name, get a domain, a business license and so on for relatively little money... and rather quickly. But over time as the business grows, its needs and shape change, evolving in ways that you won’t be able to predict. After a while, you realize that *keeping* the company going is what’s really difficult. It’s the task of constant, caring attention to all the little things (while dealing with the big things) that stretches your mind, your patience, your wallet and your approach to problem solving.
I get asked a lot of questions about Funomena - especially from younger folks who see our diversity as a model for positive change. They ask how we built the company, how we funded it, and how they too can live that dream. I often find myself saying things like "well it depends" or "a lot of it is situational" - and honestly feel like I don’t have the time to answer them as completely as I would like.
So as we approach our 5th anniversary (September 26, 2017 - also known here as "Awesome Day"), I thought I would take some time to answer some questions, write about how the company came to be, why, and what we believe is important from experiences we’ve had along the way. At the very least, it will be a helpful exercise for me - at best, it can demystify some of the process for those who feel the call to step out on their own and do this in their own way.
To that end, I created this handy dandy form to collect questions from all of you. Think of it as a really deliberate and zen Reddit AMA, which I respond to while also attempting to explain the story of Funomena, and the things we did to get from “Hey let’s start a company” to “Holy crap, it’s happening!”
Next week: Well - I guess we’ll see!