As any good entrepreneur knows only too well, coming up with an idea for a new business isn’t really the difficult or the important bit.
Shaping an idea into something that other people get excited about and - potentially - are excited about paying for - that’s the real spark.
In that context, you probably won’t have heard of Jussi Laakkonen.
But you will have indirectly paid him, or at least Applifer, the company he set up in 2010 and which Unity acquired in 2014.
Applifier’s cross-promotional advertising network became Unity Ads, enabling the game tech company to monetise its consumers rather than just its developers and helping it to become the $25 billion company it currently is today.
Three years on from leaving Unity - including time spent relaxing in Switzerland - Laakkonen’s come up with another idea.
Back and hiring
“You can only ski so much,” he jokes about his return, both to his native Finland and the startup scene.
As announced, Laakkonen is now the CEO of Noice, which announced a $5 million seed investment round.
Led by Laakkonen himself, it also included luminaries of the gaming world such as:
- David Helgason (Unity)
- Ilkka Paananen (Supercell)
- Kristian Segerstrahle (Playfish, Super MegaEvil Games)
- Markus Mäki (Remedy)
- Alexis Bonte (Stillfront)
As for what Noice is, no one is saying exactly. Partly this could be for product reasons; it’s early and things are in flux. Partly to stop copycats.
"The announcement was mainly about the fact we’re hiring," Laakkonen states.
We’re doing a lot of user testing at the moment and people really seem to like it. We think we have the germ of something.
Noice is looking to double its headcount to around 30 by the end of 2021. Candidates can be either local to Helsinki or distributed but within a European time zone is preferred.
But back to the question of what Noice actually is, “It’s either stupid or brilliant. It’s obvious. It’s novel,” Laakkonen teases.
“We’re doing a lot of user testing at the moment and people really seem to like it. We think we have the germ of something.”
Social media with multiplayer
In broad terms, what Noice is is it’s a social network for gamers.
Social interactions, either with your friends or people you don’t know, sit at its core.
It uses 3D avatars. It’s pseudonymous. It retains users through game loops. It ticks the boxes labelled meta, UGC, social, platform.
“It’s a social platform plus game design. It’s interest-based. It revolves around the communities you love,” confirms Laakkonen.
In other words, it’s like Discord but it’s not a blank slate as Discord is. It has a user experience that means something.
“Gamers are the hardest audience to please but that’s the audience we’re building for,” Laakkonen says.
“This is like multiplayer social media.”
And this is the context in which he says ‘It’s obvious. It’s novel’.
Defining the core experience of any social network always sounds overly reductive. Instagram’s novelty was filters; TikTok’s synced music; Snapchat's its transience.
"The core experience is never very much to look at," Laakkonen ponders.
"But we’re confident Noice’s core idea works. The question is can we build it out?"