For many women the prospect of founding their own company is more exciting than an ordinary career in business. In this blog series we want to find out about the entrepreneurial spirit that drives these women and the ideas they pursue. Learn how they got started, their experience as female founders, and what they wish they’d known before entering the start-up world.
Hamburg, known as Germany’s games capital with more than 2,500 employees in the games industry – it was about time we interviewed a woman entrepreneur whose passion is to design games she likes.
In conversation with Melanie Taylor, co-founder of the gaming startup called Osmotic Studios, where she is also the graphic designer and concept artist. This startup makes games that have a special kind of atmosphere, evoking emotions through moral decisions or asking questions about society, life and everything. They are currently working on a game where the player spies on people, a sort of adventure/ simulation game, which is yet to be announced.
Hi Melanie, what motivated you to build Osmotic Studios? Was it difficult to realize your idea?
I always wanted to make interesting games, which are not only about fun, but use the interactive experience to take people in other places where they might think about things they haven’t before or find themselves in roles they wouldn’t have experienced otherwise. I knew that would not be possible in one of the big game companies because this kind of game is usually much too experimental for established companies. Starting up a company does take a lot of drive and energy, but it can also be very rewarding. So I would say, yes it was and is still difficult in a way, but if you know what you want, it is a lot easier. We still haven’t released our first game, so I will think about that question again afterwards 🙂
I was part of your Startup Weekend Gaming Hamburg team in 2013, and you have come a long way from concept to establishing your own company. What are the victories and challenges you faced in your journey so far?
One of the greatest victories was definitely winning the German Computer Game award for our student project in 2013, which made it possible for us to build up our startup in the first place and also helped a lot with other important stuff, like getting an office. This was a very important step, since it felt much more like we were working together after we had a small room where we could get together every day.
A great challenge was acquiring funds for the production of our first game. We worked for several months on the first version of our business plan in order to get EXIST, which is a government grant for startup-founders who recently graduated from university. Which brings me to our next great victory, and that was succeeding to get EXIST. We consider us very lucky, since it backs us up financially for one whole year and allows us to work on the game without having to report to a publisher.
More than luck I believe it was your hard work and persistence that paid off well. What else contributed to this success?
I work together with two friends and former fellow students: Michael Kluge and Daniel Marx. I would not be able to do it without them, since we each have our own area of expertise. Daniel does the game design, Micha is our programmer and I do the graphics. This adds up to a good skill set for a game production team. It is also very valuable being able to discuss the pros and cons of what to do next and work together in a creative atmosphere.
So having a good and well-balanced team matters a lot. What would you recommend to other women with startup ideas? How would you suggest these aspiring entrepreneurs to proceed?
Do it. This sounds obvious, but so many people just remain in the idea-stage and never get around to realizing it. Start doing first steps to make it real, don’t just talk about it. It is good discussing ideas and asking opinions of other people, but it often doesn’t go any further and in my opinion that’s a pity. Another good advice: Know your strengths and focus on them. If you know there are certain essential things you are not good at, find people who are good at this and who like your idea. You don’t have to be good at everything. If you manage to get a good team, you can get things done better and faster and it will take you much further.
You are one of the few women in Hamburg startup scene with “Do it” spirit. Why do you think we are so under-represented compared to male founders?
I think that more women are afraid of the risks of entrepreneurship than men and this might be a reason why there are so few female founders compared to male founders. Starting a business is risky, but it doesn’t mean you have to lose everything if it doesn’t work. If you do it wisely, you don’t have to take large risks.
So how do we help women get out of this fear zone and be more entrepreneurial?
I think it would be a good idea to start as early as school. When teenagers start thinking about their career options, starting up an own business usually doesn’t even cross their minds. I guess if they would learn more about it at school, it might seem less scary for them. This is true for boys too of course, but knowing all your options makes chances better for both genders. Girls just might need a bit more encouragement that they can get big things started as well as boys. More female role models would probably be a good encouragement for this.
Having experienced Startup Weekend first-hand, what would you advice those who are attending Startup Weekend Women Hamburg?
You should definitely use this opportunity to meet people. There are most likely many interesting, inspiring, awesome people at Startup Weekend – I met a lot of them there. Talk as much about your idea as possible, take the feedback you get seriously and perhaps you will even meet people who want to join your team and actually make your idea happen. It’s a great opportunity!
Well, thank you Melanie for sharing your experience and the insightful thoughts on getting things done.
So do you want to build your own startup? ‘Do it’ in one weekend and put yourself in the shoes of an entrepreneur! Join us at Startup Weekend Women, April 10-12 in Hamburg. If you have a business idea, great! If you don’t have a business idea, join anyway! You can help bring other ideas to life. Guys are welcome, too! Stay tuned for more updates and interviews via our Facbook Page.