23 Sep 2019 Spotlight on A Thinking Ape
Describe your company and its product.
At A Thinking Ape (ATA), we’re fascinated by human behavior and our goal is to change how people socialize in and play mobile games. Using original IP, we create unique worlds where powerful social communities can grow and thrive. Currently, we have four live games, Kingdoms of Heckfire, Party in My Dorm, Kingdoms at War and Casino X, and a new game in pre-production.
What year did your company start?
Which city (or cities) are you located?
Describe your company culture in three words.
How do you celebrate company or employee wins?
Celebrating each other and ATA’s successes tops the list of ways we like to build our internal community. We shout out personal and professional milestones with our monthly birthiversary (birthday + anniversary) bashes. We recognize the ways our team lives our core values and the professional gains they make with our quarterly Golden Banana and promotion celebrations.
What is the problem that you are trying to solve?
As proud gamers themselves, our founders recognized early that the web was bursting with vibrant communities of people talking about the games they love, they saw this as an opportunity to bind the online community to gameplay. Since then, we’ve continued to build community-driven games that foster an online environment where players can experience real human interactions, build meaningful relationships and at times develop futile rivalries.
What is your biggest milestone to date?
2017 was a huge year here at ATA! We launched Kingdoms of Heckfire (KoH), a new game in a genre that we haven’t operated in previously and our first launch on the Unity engine. The launch continues our commitment to using only our own original IP, meaning that that the success of this game can be fully attributed to the amazing team we have internally. KoH recently featured as the Game of the Day on the Apple App Store in Canada, Western Europe, South East Asia and more.
What is your biggest challenge?
As we scale, we’re focusing on expanding the geographical reach of our games and communities. Success, on a global scale, will require in-game and marketing content that is tailored to the specific nuances of each new market. This year our Kingdoms of Heckfire team has been working on localization and have so far translated the game into eight different languages.
What is your motto?
We build communities.
How are you making an impact?
We’re enthusiastic about building communities on every level, from our players to our internal team and externally with the people and organizations that interact with ATA.
In-game: Our games connect people from around the world. We witness the full spectrum of human emotion in our games, and it’s fascinating. Take, for example, our players’ enthusiasm to contribute to global disaster relief efforts by purchasing in-app charitable options.
Internally: We support diversity in the workplace and always strive for inclusion. Part of this is selfish; we believe we’ll make better decisions if we’re able to tap into a variety of different perspectives. But we also care that our employees feel valued and comfortable being themselves at work.
Externally: We are constantly exploring and expanding our contribution to outside collectives. Whether it be through sponsorship or event hosting partnerships, opening our doors to students interested in learning more about the industry or competing against our tech counterparts in the name of charity.
What is your hope for the future of tech in BC?
We hope that individuals and companies in the BC tech industry continue to take creative risks, challenge industry standards and aim for the top. BC has earned a reputation as a leader in tech and gaming, and the region will continue to thrive once we continue to push the boundaries of what’s possible. Additionally, consistent investment in homegrown talent, whilst also developing programs to attract global talent will be the key to keeping the region competitive.
Lightning Round with Kenshi Arasaki, Co-founder & CEO
What excites you about your job?
Growing communities via our games. Watching the people at ATA grow and become world-class at what they do.
What was the biggest obstacle you had to overcome?
Addressing my own cognitive biases in order to make better decisions. I really like the quote by Ray Dalio: “Pain + Reflection = Progress”
If you can give advice to your 20 year-old self, what would you say?
Starting a company isn’t as scary as you think it is. You should start a company as soon as you possibly can; you’ll grow faster that way.
What are your pet peeves?
People who abide by a Fixed Mindset vs a Growth Mindset.
Words of wisdom to other tech CEOs or founders?
Everything I’d want to say has already been said better by Paul Graham
Favourite city you visited?
Recently I’ve enjoyed visiting the Gulf Islands to relax, particularly Galiano Island, Pender Island, and Salt Spring Island. I find that I come back completely refreshed.
What is your formula for success?
When building a product, find the “violent one percent”, aka a small group of users who are passionate about what you’ve built and try to grow from there based on their feedback. If you’ve built something that gets a lukewarm reception you’re probably dead in the water.
Name one book that everyone should read.
How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big by Scott Adams
How do you decompress?
Vigorous exercise. The endorphin rush after is wonderful.
A movie I enjoyed immensely that comes to mind is Whiplash.