In the last twelve months Lightneer has grown from a handful of friends to a company of more than twenty people. We’ve been lucky to get some of the world’s most amazing investors onboard to help us realize our mission. Last summer, after we closed our 5M$ seed round we started thinking a lot about how to really hone in on the strengths in our team to accelerate growth.
I’ve always been a science geek. Signing the official CERN partnership with Director Charlotte Warakaulle last April has been one of the numerous highlights in working on a game about particle physics. What drives me the most in Lightneer is the mission to bring the joy of learning to the hands of millions by using games as the delivery mechanism. Every great game is a learning experience. Why not use games to learn about awesome things like atoms?
In August I met with our lead investor Deborah Quazzo in New York to discuss next steps for Lightneer. Our mission is ambitious, sometimes even daunting. Yet it is a mission I’m sure our team can bring to life. As we talked with Deborah about how to maximize our chances of success, we realized we might be in a unique position find a world class gaming executive for our team. This would help us bring our mission and business goals to crystalline focus.
I’m a science geek. I’m a gamer. But in all honesty, I’ve never been driven enough by things like business growth or KPIs to be the best choice to run a gaming company. Thus it felt natural to see if we were strong enough to recruit a best-in-class executive to join Lightneer.
Through the recruiting process that lasted from August to January I have been repeatedly humbled and impressed by how many gaming superstars share our mission and believe in our daunting goal of bringing game learning to everybody on the planet. In December we’d narrowed the candidates down to four people; all incredibly accomplished game executives. All four flew to Finland to meet with our team, not intimidated by our middle-of-nowhere geography or less-than-ideal weather.
Two weeks ago we made the decision to hand over the driver’s seat to Mark Cochrane, a game executive of over twenty years of experience. Mark’s mindblowing resumé includes successes at companies like Popcap, Sony, Psygnosis, Vodafone and EA. Mark was instrumental in driving successive year over year growth at PopCap prior to the acquisition by EA, which is particularly exciting for a big Plants vs Zombies fan like myself.
Even more important than solid experience is attitude. When we had the first call with Mark with our COO Tiina, we were superbly impressed by the depth of his insight and his natural, questioning humility.
Lightneer is an organization of superheroes. We didn’t want to park an intimidating Alpha Dog on top of things. Mark’s almost Socratic way of asking probing questions has proved already to be a great way to forge bonds with the team. After the discussions we’ve had over the last several months and the hands-on work we’ve done through the last few weeks I’m confident we have the right man in the driver’s seat.
As Mark takes over the CEO responsibilities at Lightneer, I’ll be able to focus more on my Chairman role. In day by day operations I’ll continue to liaison with our academic partners, work on deepening our understanding of game learning – and maybe dabble a little more with particle physics on the side!
Speaking of crystalline focus, Mark has been in the house only for two weeks and already he has brought the Lightneer mission to a whole new level of clarity. I think I’ve sometimes been a little fuzzy in trying to define what Lightneer is all about; game learning, developing countries, global inclusivity etc.
After only two weeks of hands on work with the team, Mark defined our mission as follows:
We create great games that inspire learning.
If we can inspire millions of kids to talk about atoms like they now talk about Pokémon, we will have succeeded.
This is the last paragraph of Lightneer, Chapter One.
Chapter Two begins here.