Mirko Topalski is an entrepreneur, founder, and CEO of Eipix Entertainment and one of the judges at Startup Weekend in Novi Sad. Here is what he had to say about startups, success, motivation and his life passion.
SW: Your company is well-known all around the world. Today it is a global symbol of fun. What makes you the proudest when it comes to Eipix Entertainment?
MT: I like the idea that Eipix is a global symbol of fun, and I’m very flattered if one gets an impression that the company already symbols that. However, at the moment, Eipix is „only“ a global leader, or more precisely – the most productive development team – on HOPA (hidden object puzzle adventure) video games. On top of that, Eipix is also entering another exciting market – free to play games. I believe that our dream, which coincide with your announcement, for Eipix to become a leader in the industry of entertainment. In addition to developing video games that include comics, movies, cartoons, music and other media. We hope to achieve all off that in the upcoming years. I am proud of previous business success, but I am the proudest of people who are making Eipix one of the best global teams for developing so-called casual games.
SW: How much time did you take from the birth of the idea to making it a reality, and achieving your goal and creating Eipix?
MT: Achieving goals is a relative term, at least in my case, because my goals are often changing. Sometimes I’m facing (really just sometimes!) with a turbulent period, and almost every week I have a different vision of what Eipix should look in the future. Video games were my childhood dream. I achieved it 2005 when I gathered a team, and in 2008 we finished Pyroblazer. Pyroblazer is the first video game I created that found it’s way to the publisher. Unfortunately, the publisher kept the game, and it was never returned to us. In 2011, Eipix signed exclusive cooperation contract with the USA company Big Fish Games, which up to now published 44 of our HOPA games, so far. Considering the fact that I built a company in which 250 make video games, I can say that I have achieved several of my goals by now.
SW: Are you working on some project at the moment, and if so, can you tell us more about it?
MT: Eipix is working on many project simultaneously. Currently, we have ten HOPA games in the production, including the thirteenth sequel of one of the biggest franchise in the genre, the mother of the genre (as some would say), Mystery Case Files. It is indeed a huge success and an honor! Also, at this moment, Eipix is developing several free to play projects, including match-3 game Free the Witch. Free the Witch is in the final stage of development. At the recently held Casual Connect in Tel Aviv, one of the most important conferences devoted to casual games, I spoke about the great challenges that we have faced during the development process and we are still facing them. I have talked with many people after the lecture and they all reacted very positively to the game itself, which is the reason I am encouraged and I am looking forward to the release date of the game.
SW: Which part of the work brings you the greatest satisfaction?
MT: Although I don’t have much time for public appearances, the greatest pleasure for me is participating on panels and conferences where I can exchange experience with people who are interested in entrepreneurship and video games. Also, I would like for Eipix to be more involved in education in the future. Through our cooperation with the Faculty of Technical Sciences and the University Educons, we have made first formal step toward educating young people interested in the development of video games development. And I am sure that this is just the beginning.
SW: What are your greatest passions? What moves you forward?
MT: I was lucky enough to work on something that has been my passion since childhood. Besides video games, music is another thing that moves me. I mixed these the two by composing music for many of our games and games of other development teams. At the age of 16 I started playing drums and later some other instruments. As a part of the music group Obojeni program, I recorded two studio albums. I enjoy in digital simulation of the orchestra and in the creation of applied music composition in the style of nowadays well-known film composers.
SW: In an interview you did for www.netokracija.rs, shortly before 99u Local Belgrade conference, you said that each of us should believe in themselves and to convince others to believe in us. How did you convince others to believe in you?
MT: I convinced them by believing in myself and my idea. I knew what I wanted, and I was not going to stop until I find a way to make it happen. Now I realize I could have taken an easier way to get me where I am today, but the essential thing was that even when it was the hardest I have not given up. Of course, it sounds like a cliche, but it is the truth. Simply, my associates, people I wanted to work with, and my family, saw that I have been actively working on my idea, that I was focused and determinated to find a way to overcome all obstacles. You have to show people how much energy is in you, which also requires a lot of that same energy. Stay motivated.
SW: How would it be the best to keep quality engineers, programmers and mathematicians in Serbia, in your opinion?
MT: I have only two solutions. First is to offer them jobs in inspiring and innovative companies that will more or less fulfill high standards set overseas. Second is to encourage and educate them to start their own businesses in the local community with the potential to expand their companies into the global market.
SW: If you had a chance to start all over again, would you sign up for Startup Weekend?
MT: Of course! When I started, startup culture was not developed anywhere near as much as it is today. The fact that I was not thinking as an entrepreneur, but as a passionate gamer, and that there was no startup community to talk to when I needed advice and support, cost me at least three years of my life, both private and business. I am sure that some mistakes could have been avoided if I could have come to Startup Weekend and heard that I should examine the market before starting to create a product.