Startup Insights from PlayCanvas: How to build the right team
Most entrepreneurs would agree that having the right team is a major factor in building a successful startup. We talked to Will Eastcott about being CEO & Co-founder of PlayCanvas. With his team of 10 awesome individuals, PlayCanvas provides an online, collaborative platform for 3D app development designed for game developers and online advertisers - we were keen to ask Will how he built his team.
Will is a video games industry veteran and the former Technical Director for Europe at Activision. With credits in some of the world's biggest games franchises like Call of Duty, Max Payne, DJ Hero and many more.
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Tell us about your team and their roles.
‘’The PlayCanvas team is made up of two co-founders, three biz dev personnel, three engineers, a creative director, and a 3D artist. So 10 staff in all. We're a very international team with members located in Britain, Greece, and Russia.’’
How did you go about forming your team and are there any tips you could share?
‘’I had already worked with my co-founder while at Sony. When I came up with the idea for PlayCanvas, he was the first person I turned to. I knew he was smart and entrepreneurial (he left Sony to start his own company). But more importantly, he was somebody I liked, respected and trusted. If you can't say that about your co-founder, you're going to have problems. It took some time to build the team out from there because we were very fussy about new hires. Our approach was to hire people we already knew. We have never used a recruitment service. If you can't hire from your personal network, I do recommend turning to online communities to find people doing things that inspire and impress you.’’
How did you decide what roles were needed at what time – for example, who to bring on first? And how long did it take to build that core team?
‘’I think we had a certain arrogance at the beginning that if we had enough coders and some design support, we'd be fine. How hard could the business side of things be? So we spent perhaps 6 months building the core engineering team and recruited an awesome creative director. We figured out fairly quickly that experienced sales personnel were going to be a critical element of the team so we brought on board three new team members: chief financial and commercial officers and a sales exec. All in all, the time to go from being bedroom coders to leading a well-rounded team of 10 was about 18 months.’’
As a CEO you often have to make difficult decisions. Some decisions can make you ‘unpopular.’ Have you ever experienced that? How did you overcome it – or did you?
‘’I think a decision is only going to make you unpopular if you fail to explain yourself properly to your team. I like to think I'm very transparent about the reasoning behind any difficult decisions and as a result, we haven't had any real difficulties with this.’’
Has being part of the MSV Accelerator taught you anything about your team?
‘’ I now know they can all kick my butt at ping pong! Being in the MSV Accelerator has shown me the team can adapt very quickly to new situations. There was practically zero downtime when we started the programme. It has made me very relaxed about relocating the team in the future.’’
Do you have any advice you can share with those looking to build a team?
‘’Most importantly, if it doesn't feel right, don't go there. You may feel pressure to make a hiring decision but trust your instincts. Something better will come along, just be patient.’’
What’s in store for PlayCanvas in the near future?
‘’World domination, of course! During the MSV programme, we released our new toolset and it's truly amazing. MSV will be a springboard for us to get the word out and take PlayCanvas to the next level. Watch this space. The future of the web is 3D!’’
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For additional tips on building a great team for your startup, read this post by Callum Negus-Fancey. We hope you enjoyed another London ‘founder story.’ Want to see more? Tweet us @MSFTVenturesUK with topics you’d like to see covered.
Will Eastcott, CEO & Co-Founder at PlayCanvas