Business Management
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Supercell: The World’s Most Valuable Per-Employee Company

Imagine a company where killing games fuels billion-dollar success. Supercell, the Finnish decacorn, and makers of Clash of Clans is shaking up the industry with its radical approach. They boast $32 million per employee, becoming the world's most valuable company per employee (beating the likes of Apple and Shopify). Since 2010, they’ve only released 5 games, ruthlessly axing the rest. In this article, we'll crack the code of their unconventional culture and discover how you can apply it to skyrocket your own team's success, no matter what you do.


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Here’s an ongoing bet that’s been doing the rounds with Sam Altman and friends - in which year will we see a one-person billion-dollar valuation company? The speculations are much closer than one would imagine. The premise - leveraging human capital like never before with technology.

Digging in: Supercell, the company behind the massively popular Clash of Clans game, has one of the highest valuation per employee figures out there, valued at $32mn per employee. The Finnish decacorn is owned by Tencent which bought over a majority stake in the company valuing it at a staggering $11 Billion. 

The Anomaly: Since its inception in 2010, Supercell has released only 5 games. For every game they create, they seem to be killing approximately 9 games. Some of these games have been in development for years, and have the potential to be in the top 25 games worldwide. And, yet, they get killed. Why? A bid to stay true to their obsession for quality over quantity. If these games don’t meet their internal benchmarks (primary of which is a 30-day retention period) they need to go. Supercell’s mission is to make games that players play on forever (for decades).

The Sauce: Killing a game that has been in the works for years is obviously hard, but Supercell’s success lies in who decides to kill these games: not the leadership, but the very team that created the games. The name “Supercell” comes from the way the company works. They comprise multiple small game development teams, each referred to as a 'cell’ (10-15 people max). Cells are given the freedom to do whatever they want to, with clearly defined success and  failure metrics.

Multiple Independent ‘Cells’ for Game Development.

The crux of the decision-making process is the following question: has the team given their best to this project? If the answer is yes but the outcome is not satisfactory given the metrics that they themselves have internally set - user retention, average playing time, etc. then it’s time to move on and pull the plug.

Supercell firmly believes that while ideas may evolve, the continuity of the team is essential for compounded learning and growth. Their unconventional culture presents a masterclass in team dynamics and how a company can scale in size while retaining the “power of small”. Their philosophy is actionable across domains, especially for product-led startups:

1. Hire the best, don’t settle for mediocrity.

2. Keep teams small.

3. Focus on retention and let learnings compound.

A look at some more ‘hyper-leveraged’ companies
  • Among Us, the popular game had 500M monthly users and just 4 employees.
  • When Instagram was acquired by Facebook in 2012 for $1B, it had a total of 13 employees, including the two founders.
  • As of October 2023, Midjourney was a self-funded team with 11 full-time employees, doing over $200M in revenue. 

In an era defined by hyper-leveraged innovation, Supercell's paradigm-shifting approach exemplifies the transformative potential of small, focused teams. Their success serves as a testament to the boundless possibilities that arise when bold vision meets relentless execution.

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