Alex Rushdy and Lucas Takashi
Founders of 13am Games
What’s your educational background?
Alex: I studied Visual Art and Design at Keyano College in Fort McMurray, and then after working as a sole proprietor in video production I came to George Brown and studied Game Design.
Lucas: Before I moved to Canada in 2013 to study Game Design, I studied Industrial and Graphic design in Curitiba – Brazil. There, I got professional experience working in different areas of graphic design, including visual identity, packaging, web design, among others.
What made you want to become an entrepreneur?
Alex: I love looking at projects from a very high level and after some personal dissatisfaction with the direction of the game industry, I felt the urge to carve a different path – something you can’t really do at a large company!
Lucas: One of the main factors was that I wanted to have meaningful creative input and express my ideas in ways that I didn’t see possible while working for a company. Although I admire and respect other studios, I believe that building something from the ground up would help me reach those goals.
How did you build 13am Games to what it is today?
Alex: A lot of luck, hard work, and a great game. We were able to take our jam game, Runbow, and get both Nintendo, the CMF, and the Ontario Media Development Corporation excited about it. Nintendo lent their markeitng expertise while the OMDC and CMF funded the project. And, of course, we had George Brown behind us the whole time, allowing us to work in the incubator space at 341 King, and our professors offering us guidance and assistance.
Lucas: I think it was the collaboration, hard work and the sacrifices made by everyone involved. I can’t ignore that we had luck in several steps during the process: we met the right people in school that shared a similar goal, we were fortunate to have great professors that believed in us and in our projects, we got luck with Nintendo liking our game and giving us so much support. But it was a huge leap of faith and a big risk for everyone, and at the end of the day, it was the commitment and hard work from everyone that made it all possible.
How successful is 13am Games?
Alex: Well, we just celebrated our 4-year anniversary in May. So while we definitely aren’t swimming in money, we’re still operating – and that’s something very few start-ups can say! Most start-ups collapse in their frist year. To have four under our belt already is humbling. We’re really blessed to have been this lucky!
As for our games, we’ve since brought Runbow to Wii U, 3DS, XBOX, PC, Playstation 4 and Nintendo Switch. We brought our publishing project, Pirate Pop Plus, to 3Ds, Wii U, PC and Switch, and our new title, Double Cross, will be on Switch and PC later this year. We’ve gone from noodies to a team that has shipped on almost every platform in the industry. Our games have reached around two million users around the world and that makes us really happy.
Lucas: I consider it a big success. We founded a company with 9 owners, which on its own is a crazy idea, and managed to hit milestones that only a small portion of start-ups manage to. In our first year we managed to release our first game, Runbow, in one of the biggest video game consoles on the market and was highly praised by critics and audience, even getting nominated for the Canadian Video Game Awards! After that, we got to bring it to all major gaming platforms, published a second title and we are now working on our second major project to be released on Switch and PC later this year.
What is one piece of advice you would give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
Alex: Beware of early success! We got a lot of lucky opportunities early on in our company that helped us out (Nintendo, OMDC, GBC, CMF, etc) – but you can’t rely on these. You have to be able to take charge and forge forward on your company’s unique strengths. Also: Be kind. Not just to each other, but to everyone you meet in your industry. The best way to build business relationships is to build human relationships. That’s a golden rule that you should never, ever forget!
Lucas: Be ready to make sacrifices. Be ready to sacrifice weekends, to have long working hours, changing your priorities and to accept your mistakes and accept what you are capable of. Each of your projects are stepping stones leading to your goal, so don’t be ‘frustrated’ if your first project is not ‘perfect’; admire its qualities, understand its failures and learn lessons to make it better the next time.