Founders Forum 2016

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We had the chance to participate in Founders Forum in London last week. The event was nothing short of amazing. A collection of some of the most influential technology founders and executives convened together for a few days to exchange ideas and reflect on where the world is – and should be – headed.

In the event, former Google CEO Eric Schmidt chaired a panel on the future of AI where the participants explained how we have come from the chess-grandmaster-beating Deep Blue to Google’s DeepMind that recently beat the world’s best Go player – a feat formerly thought next to impossible for artificial intelligence.

HRH Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, in turn issued a call to action against cyberbullying. More and more of our lives happen online – and this brings about also some of the adverse sides of humanity. It’s time we put a stop to misusing our wonderful world of technology in hurting other people. I’m proud that one of our investors, Brent Hoberman, chairs the cyberbullying initiative!

We had the pleasure of being one of the dozen or so startups featured in the event. It was pretty amazing to set up our atom characters next to companies building one-man drones, talking and dancing robots and virtual realities. We had the chance also to speak and share ideas with an impressive number of the World’s top tech influencers. Even the Duke of Cambridge himself paid a visit to the startup demo tent, testing augmented reality and showcasing state of the art robots.

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One of the most uplifting ideas presented at the event was Founders Pledge: the initiative for founders to dedicate a percentage of their exit proceeds to charity. Founders Pledge has already generated millions of charity income to date!

Founders Forum 2016 was an exciting and inspiring event, collecting together such a crowd of global influencers that it’s bound to leave a mark on the future of the world.

Judging from the talks and conversations at the event, this will be a very positive and uplifting mark.

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Finnish Gaming Industry is Only Getting Started

Finland is a strange country. Despite our small population of 5.5M, all distributed to a vast area of land relatively to the population, Finland is world leader in several fields, such as education, technology – and games.

I visited London yesterday as a part of a Finnish delegation of next generation gaming companies at an event organized by Neogames and Pollen VC. We had ten companies present at the Kensington Palace Garden residence of the Finnish ambassador to London, Päivi Luostarinen. I was completely blown away by the quality of what’s up with the next wave of Finnish gaming.

Where we are already is nothing short of astounding. The Finnish mobile game industry is made 2.5 billion dollars last year alone. That is about 10% of the entire global mobile game industry, plotting Finland right at the top of global game producers with giants like US and Japan.

Now there is an impressive next generation of games brewing, following in the footsteps of Remedy’s triple-A hits Max Payne, Alan Wake and Quantum Break, mobile premium superstars like Angry Birds and Badland and free-to-play superhits like Supercell’s Clash Royale and Hay Day, Fingersoft’s Hill Climb Racing or Seriously’s Best Fiends.

At the event, we heard about the larger-than-life designs of Action Squad Studios and Reforged Studios. These companies have attracted some of the top Hollywood-level talent to create superb game-driven IP’s that blur the lines between games and movies. Mindfield, in turn, is just getting started with revolutionizing VR with their pioneering Pollen, and is already making waves. Perhaps the definitive VR game will be – again – Finnish.

And why not? Everywear is completely dominating the wearable market, with their two releases Runeblade and Time Unit topping charts worldwide. Where Rovio defined mobile and Supercell tablets, looks like another Finnish company has now cornererd wearables. Not bad for a small bunch of Northerners.

Gaming is not just about games anymore. Two of the top pitches at the event were actually from a whole new genre of apps: game-inspired entertainment. Sumoing’s Recolor has inspired millions of people around the world to rediscover the joy of creativity with their adult coloring book app. And despite the messaging space being pretty much overcrowded by everything and the kitchen sink, Futurefly’s RAWR has done the seemingly impossible by introducing something new, fresh and inspiring in the space. I almost became the world’s first RAWR casualty with getting too carried away sending 3D emoji to my wife when strolling down the streets of London.

It was amazing and humbling to be a part of this delegation of and to take a peek at what the future of Finnish gaming looks like. It is quite likely that one of these ten companies that presented yesterday will be the next Supercell, with a global megahit  in the works.

Finnish gaming industry is doing better than ever before.

And we’re only getting started.

Meet the Team – Lightneer as Marvel Super Heroes

It’s really inspiring and humbling to get to work with some of the brightest talent on the planet. Not the least because our challenge is, while a tall order, a unique opportunity to make a huge difference.

To make great things you need great people. Being the comic book geek I am, I wanted to write a piece on the Lightneer team – as Marvel Superheroes!

Lauri Konttori – Peter Quill, the Star-Lord

I racked my brain for the whole of one and a half second to come up with a Marvel Super Hero best suited to convey Lauri. That’s Marvel’s very own Space Indiana Jones: the Star-Lord.

Lauri is an artistic genius, a one of a kind visionary, whose brain produces amazing new visions of things ranging from the world of the Angry Birds to what atoms look like when they come to life.

Like Peter Quill, Lauri is also quick to come up with an appropriate quip to make the team mates chuckle – and the enemy alien’s bones chill at the same time.

Lauri is the Chief Creative Officer and Lead Artist for Lightneer, and has previously done pretty amazing and Universe-shaping things, like founding Rovio’s animation studio.

Read more on Star-Lord: Brian Bendis & co did a great job on Guardians of the Galaxy.

Ilari Kaarnakari – Clint Barton, Hawkeye

Ilari was one of the tougher ones to find a match for because of his versatility. But once the idea of Ilari as Hawkeye stuck in my head it has been impossible to erase.

Hawkeye is the sure shot, miss no target superhero of the Marvel Universe. Like Hawkeye’s proverbial quill of arrows, Ilari has an abundance of tools to create more and more amazing (and potentially frustrating!) challenges for the player.

Ilari is our Lead Designer, and his job is to create the gameplay and levels for the atom game, while teaching kids quantum physics.

Read for more on Hawkeye: Matt Fraction’s & David Aja’s Hawkeye run is pretty awesome.

Alberto Alonso – Hank McCoy, The Beast

Alberto’s Marvel-ish alter ego was a reasonably easy call for some reason. The Beast is one of Marvel’s handful of geniuses-in-residence – a brainy supermind you can rely on when things get too complicated for us mere mortals to figure out.

The Beast is also renowned for solving problems, no matter what it takes. Even if it means beaming the entire original X-Men to present time from the 1960’s.

Alberto is our Lead Engineer, and used to previously work as the Lead Programmer for Gameloft. He’s an analytic supermind poised to squash any bug that comes his way.

Read more on The Beast: Brian Bendis’ All New X-Men is an amazing story arc.

Rayco Hernandez – Reed Richards, Mr. Fantastic

Just like Alberto, Rayco’s representation just has to be one of the Marvel Super Geniuses. And since his temper is mellow enough to make him practically anti-Hulk, his Marvel alter ego has to be Fantastic Four’s Mr. Fantastic.

Like the elastic superanalyst, Rayco bends to any length to solve problems. He is creating an amazing logical architecture for our game. Rayco is also a math genius, coming up with new ways to test the mettle of his team mates.

Rayco is the engineer in particular responsible for the intricacies of our game’s meta game, where you get to build atoms and eventually the entire periodic table.

Read more on Mr. Fantastic: Jonathan Hickman’s New Avengers run collects the Illuminati – Marvel’s Super Geniuses – to face a world-changing challenge.

Marja Konttinen – Wanda Maximoff, The Scarlet Witch

Like one of the most powerful members of the classic Avengers, Marja has a way to bend reality to match her vision. She’s amazing in pulling together seemingly separate strands and weaving new potentialities and realities out of them.

Marja works as Lightneer’s Chief Marketing Officer, being in charge of figuring out ways to communicate what Lightneer and our games are all about to the general public. She was previously the Marketing Director of Rovio, and was in charge of doing stuff like inking deals with CERN and NASA to expand the Rovio Universe to, well, the Universe – and beyond.

Read more on The Scarlet Witch:  In the finale of Avengers vs. X-Men, The Scarlet Witch saves the world.

Tiina Rantakokko – Natasha Romanova, The Black Widow

Like the Russian super spy, Tiina simply kicks ass. When the rest of us get stuck in the imaginary wonderlands of Idea Heaven, she is already the one taking the steps to make things become a concrete reality.

Tiina’s capacity to absorb ideas in a blink of an eye and convert them to action points is awesome. She’s also a great team builder, creating a sense of focused mindfulness around her whenever she’s involved in brainstorming or decision making.

Tiina is our Marketing Director, and she makes sure that all the crazy ideas that our team and advisors weave up actually do become realilty. She worked previously in Rovio’s Fun Learning unit, helping bring to life such amazing things as the Angry Birds Playground and the NASA-collaboration learning game, Angry Birds Solar System.

Read more on The Black Widow: Jonathan Hickman’s Avengers run has a lot of great BW kickass moments.

We are still very early in our journey, and no one knows what the future will bring.

One thing I know though.

Just like any good team of superheroes, the Lightneer team packs some massive world changing potential!

Talent is Everywhere, Opportunity is Not – Reflections from the ASU/GSV Summit

I spent the last week in San Diego at the ASU/GSV Summit. The summit is the leading US event in education technology. Both the speaker lineup and the attendee list were nothing short of impressive. Speakers included edtech superstars like Bill Gates, Jim Collins and Salman Khan. The attendee list looked like a practical Who’s Who in edtech.

The keynotes were inspiring and opened up new ideas about the future of education technology. The companies at the event ranged from spearheading new startups like Kahoot and Tynker to technology and education superstars such as Mojang or Pearson. One idea that was repeated in many of the keynotes, including Gates and the famed architect Frank Gehry, was that talent is everywhere but opportunity is not.

One of the most inspiring and exciting keynotes at the summit was given by the hip hop artist Common. His profound spirituality was heartfelt and touching, and the sincere way he interacted with a panel of three high school students was very inspiring. In recounting his childhood experiences, with his friends being shot or imprisoned, he showed how his family’s support and his education had made a huge difference in guiding his life choices. As he pointed out, education solves pretty much everything; with education you can operate from a place of understanding.

Another memorable keynote was given by the GSV CEO Michael Moe. He pointed out the finding that it takes ten thousand hours to become an expert at anything. Children spend this amount of time in school – and in playing video games. It makes one wonder, how we don’t have more masters and experts coming out of our schools. Perhaps focusing more on individual strenghts and personalized learning and less on averaging out “well-rounded” pupils would put those hours to a better use.

Schools have the potential to be the great equalizer, and yet today which school you go to will affect your future prospects a lot. With the advent of new education methodologies and technologies, this may change soon, however. With the capacity to tap into Stanford- and Harvard-level learning through a MOOC, with the possibility of earning certificates from said universities or microcertificates from a number of new providers, and with the possibility of instant digital networking, more and more people are brought to the circle of opportunity that was earlier available only to the few.

We live in an extraordinary time given that for the first time in human history we have the tools and methods to bring high quality education to the fingertips of everybody in the world. I believe it is the responsibility of all of us who have had been blessed with better beginnings in life to work hard to ensure the transformative power of high quality education will become accessible to everyone. Education technology is the key to unlocking this potential in human beings world wide.

As the founder of GSV Advisors Deborah Quazzo pointed out, we are nearing a tipping point in personalized education. At the summit, I witnessed some of the most recent developments in a massive variety of education technologies, ranging from MOOCs to education certificates, from learning games to new learning methodologies driven by both hardware and software.

From this I am confident that we are close to a massive change in the way we learn.

This learning revolution will change everything.

Talent is everywhere.

Now let’s build a world where opportunity is too.

Our First Learning Game “BIG BANG” Is About Particle Physics

It’s an exciting time! Yesterday, we announced our first game at the ASU/GSV Summit in San Diego.  The game has been in production for the last 11 weeks and is due to launch by the end of the year.

The question we’ve asked ourselves is, what if a four-year-old could learn quantum physics?

At the very heart of the game is Lightneer’s mission to make learning accessible and engaging to everybody in the world. To achieve this, we want to create learning games that are every much as fun to play as the best games out there. Too many people  struggle with learning and understanding. Our educational systems are not well equipped to deal with the learning challenges set out by a world that changes faster every day. We started Lightneer to fix this.

Our team and founders are gaming veterans with backgrounds at industry leaders like Rovio, Gameloft, Digital Chocolate and Eidos. Our scientific advisors are leaders in their academic fields, from institutions such as CERN, Harvard and the University of Helsinki.

Now we want to put this unique combination of game design talent and scientific genius to play. Our first title, the particle physics learning game BIG BANG, teaches topics like nuclear fusion, atomic composition, the standard model of particle physics and the periodic table. The game is a casual slingshot RPG puzzler that turns the entire periodic table into Pokémon-style lovable collectible characters.

To make our dream a reality, we also need the best partners in the world. Luckily we have been able to find amazing advisors and investors to support our mission. In particular we are happy to have closed a seed funding round from some of the foremost trailblazers in edtech investment, such as Finnish IPR.VC, London-based Founders Factory and GSV Advisors’ Deborah Quazzo.

In initial playtesting, the production version of our game has produced substantial engagement in even very young children. So what if a four-year-old could learn quantum physics?

We plan to find out.

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Get the entire press release with screenshots here.

Why Learning Needs To Be Fun

One thing that I bump into constantly is that learning isn’t supposed to be fun. It’s supposed to be hard work. I think this is derived from the fact that schools – where learning is supposed to happen – usually demand hard labor from their students.

But the thing is, the whole assumption is wrong. First of all, learning, when it happens, is almost always amazing. So it’s not always song and dance, and it’s not always easy – but it’s one of the best things we can experience. And therefore, very much fun. (Also, playing football is fun. And you get all sweaty and sore afterwards, and still can’t wait to get back to the field again!)

Learning needs to be fun to be learning. If you’re just constantly frustated or bored, you simply will not learn. You’ll just grind or idle your days away, with no great advances in either your life or the wiring of your nervous system. Like the flow-researcher Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi found out, grinding at it will just burn you out. Whereas finding the right balance of challenge and skill will make you soar.

To advance in what we can do – which, in my opinion, is a great definition of learning – we need to be attentive to new things, and to put in the work to create new habits. The only way to guarantee this attention is to make the environment and activities favorable to such advances. So that we actually want to be there.

For learning to happen, learning needs to be fun. But fun comes in many guises. Sometimes it’s song and dance fun. And sometimes it’s frustating fun.

Sometimes it’s taking the seventieth go at Flappy Birds to one up your score.

I know, we people are odd sometimes.

But when you one up, you grow.

And growth is hardwired to every single one of us.

We were all born to learn.

Do You Think Your Job Will Survive?

This stopped me on the social media a few days ago: “If your job is boring, it will be replaced by a robot soon.” We live in extraordinary times in terms of the evolution of work.

There are two reasons for this, both stemming from technology. First, new technology enables massive boosts in productivity. Making a single investment in a robot that will take care of warehouse management, retail sale or even telemarketing will outperform any employee costs. Meanwhile, technology makes the jobs it replaces obsolote.

In other words, more and more people find themselves equipped to work in a world where their work does not exists anymore. And at the same time, the overall productivity is rising to a point where it does not even make sense for everybody to work. At least from a survival point of view.

In a just society, survival needs will be solved by sharing the fruits of the increased productivity to everybody. Quality of life can further be enhanced by creating value to other people by work. But if there is not enough work for everybody, what are people going to spend their days doing?

The scary scenario is that society will split into sort of reverse Morlocks and Eloi. In H.G. Wells’ classic Time Machine, humanity has evolved into two almost different races. The Eloi live their lives care free on the surface of the Earth. The Morlocks live underground and work hard, occasionally harrassing the Eloi.

The worst case scenario is a division to “working Eloi” – people who work and thus enjoy added benefits in quality of life. And “passive Morlocks” – people who do not work and consume brainless entertainment day in day out. This is not a happy view of a post work society.

This is where learning to learn is so important. Instead of structuring education around teaching work skills that may go obsolete we must teach learning skills that enable updating one’s skillset as the world changes.

Thus we can create a society where everybody learns to learn. Where you are guaranteed not just sustenance but also the capacity to provide value to others by updating your understanding and know-how and by offering your skills and services to the public.

In a post work society, you will be more likely to survive than ever before – but your job might not. Given that boring jobs will be replaced by robots, this may in fact be a great blessing for the mankind.

That is, if we learn to learn.