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The Helsinki, Finland-based startup comes from Jussi Laakkonen, who was the founder of Applifier, a mobile game video sharing company that Unity Technologies acquired in 2014. He teamed up with Jenni Wilson, a lead game designer and cofounder. They aren’t describing what they’re doing publicly yet because teasing that it combines user-generated content, deep game systems, and engaging social design.
The investors in Noice’s first round of funding are Laakkonen (founder and CEO, Noice), David Helgason (cofounder of Unity Technologies), Ilkka Paananen (CEO of Supercell), Pekka Aakko (cofounder of Applifier), Bret Terrill (cofounder of Super Free Games), Kristian Segerstråhle (CEO of Super Evil Megacorp), Miki Kuusi (CEO of Wolt), Riku Mäkelä (cofounder of Wolt), Markus Mäki (chairman of Remedy Entertainment) and Alexis Bonte (chief operating officer of Stillfront Group). That’s a good chunk of Scandinavia’s gaming startup mafia.
“The headline here is that the people who started unicorns are backing this crazy new startup by a repeated entrepreneur,” said Laakkonen in an interview with GamesBeat. “I got together with some people who built some really awesome stuff before. It’s a very experienced team. This is our big tease.”
Laakkonen noted that Noice’s founding team members built and scaled Unity Ads to $100 million in gross revenue, and built Applifier’s Everyplay to tens of millions of shared mobile game replays . They also built Applifier’s cross-promotion network to 250 million monthly active users.
“Noice is a social platform for gamers,” Laakkonen said. “When you’re designing for gamers, the first thing to think about is what does your audience like. They like to play games, and most social media is not like a game. It’s boring. We approach the whole thing, with this core innovation, as a social platform that is playful.”
Broadly speaking, social networks are the competitors.
“We want to make this platform feel like a game from the start to the end, from the first time you touch the platform to all the way through many years that you’re a user,” Wilson said. “That means discovering game loops, having a metagame, and not just an achievement system. We want players to identify moments and celebrate and communicate immediately.”
The new platform
Laakkonen ran Unity’s ads business for a couple of years and then tried to do a startup. But it failed, and he shut it down. Then he took a break for a year and moved to Switzerland with his family and skied for a while.
“The plan was to move and occupy myself with so much that my crazy entrepreneur mind would be busy doing other stuff,” Laakkonen said. “So it was like hanging out with the kids, relearning programming, helping them to learn programming and skiing, and just kind of chilling. We went on a safari.”
That helped Laakkonen get recharged. Then, in 2019, he got together with Wilson to work on an idea to make gaming more social and engaging. They built a prototype and, after a few months of development, they showed it to some users. The feedback was good, so they started working on it more. Then the coronavirus struck and slowed everything down.
“It really exploded around us, and I was scared,” Laakkonen said.
The team kept at it and made another prototype that they tested in June. The feedback was again great, and so they started the company officially in August.
“No one is actually putting all these things together like we are developing,” Wilson said. “If we did say the idea, people would say it’s obvious.”
As for raising the money, Laakkonen had good relationships with a lot of the investors. He had some of his own money to invest from the Unity initial public offering.
The new platform is in early testing and is seeing exceptional user engagement, Laakkonen said. The distributed startup has 18 people, and it is hiring for over 15 roles. The company doesn’t have an office, but most of its workers are in Helsinki, with some are spread around the world.
Wilson was the lead designer on Best Fiends Forever at Seriously, and she worked at studios such as Natural Motion and Next Games. The game creators on Noice’s team have worked at companies like Seriously, Zynga, Lightheart, and Redhill Games. Wilson is based in Helsinki.
The company will use the raised funds to build the Noice platform with the goal of launching in an open beta of the platform in early 2022. Does Laakkonen want to be a unicorn like the kind his other Scandanavian friends have built?
“I don’t want to be a unicorn founder,” he said. “I want to be a cockroach where there’s no way you’re going to kill me.”
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