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Even if you have only a passing knowledge of video games, without a doubt you’re familiar with the name Fortnite. While that’s the product most known for having insane revenue and basically reimagining our pop culture landscape, it’s only one piece of the juggernaut that is Epic Games. That’s why for today’s Founder Focus I’m taking a look at Tim Sweeney, the guy who took the company from a humble operation in the 90s to the force of nature it is today.
The good ol’ days
While Studying at the University of Maryland in the late 1980s, Sweeney discovered a passion for computers, initially founding a computer consulting company in his parents’ house. That wasn’t making him any money but the games he was coding in his free time were. Realizing he had new career potential on the horizon, Epic Games was born.
After successfully bringing his first game ZZT to market, Sweeney realized he’d need a team in order to scale up his business. He would team up with Mark Rein, a former employee of Id Software (the guys who made DOOM) and would begin work on Epic’s first big moneymaker, the Unreal Engine, in 1998.
Chances are if you’re a gamer or seen the Mandalorian on Disney+ (I’ll get back to that later), you’ve interacted with Unreal. Essentially it was a sandbox in which other game developers could license its use to build their own titles. That meant that any time there was a hit game which licensed Unreal, Epic would be getting a kickback. Considering just how many games have used an iteration of the engine, that’s a lot of money. Riding off this momentum and that of their own hit titles like Unreal Tournament and Gears of War, Sweeney had quickly cemented Epic’s status as industry royalty.
That brings us to the 2010s when the company had reached a lull. Sure it was still experiencing success but was in a rut. Major talent was leaving, and its hit series Gears of War had reached its conclusion. It had announced a game called Fortnite but it was stuck in development with no way of making money… That was until the decision was reached that Epic would pivot from large, retail-focused titles towards evolving, service-focused games. Hence Fortnite was restructured with this strategy in mind and history was made, landing Epic Games a cool $8B valuation.
The “free-to-play” model got its game into the hands of millions of kids almost immediately, proving the decision to be a prudent one. Additionally, as Epic had complete control over the project all of its success went directly back into the company. Since then the creative decision-making hasn’t stopped. Epic now licenses the Unreal Engine for VFX (Hence the Mandalorian connection), and Sweeney has used his fortune for nature conservation and remains the company’s largest shareholder.
All of this is because of leadership unafraid to forge new paths or entirely restructure their internal strategy to adapt to a changing environment. When I’m hunting for new startup opportunities these qualities are hard to pass up because they demonstrate a confidence that is needed for continued growth and success.
Speaking of confidence and all things EPIC – I’m excited to announce that our featured mystery company will be revealed during tomorrow’s WEBINAR.
So far we’ve laid out a bunch of clues for you but have you figured out just who our IoT-focused, smart home-compatible friend is? Not just yet? Ok I’ll give you a couple more breadcrumbs before the big reveal.
First, the idea for this product came out of a personal problem this eventual founder was having – one that is a common problem in most households…
And second, this company already has a clear plan for the future, with three models of its flagship product planned for release from Q4 2022 into 2023. Add to this the 35K units already sold to residential and commercial clients the world over, and our mystery friend is poised to make a serious impact on the ever-expanding smart home market.
I know your curiosity has been piqued but I have good news! All will be revealed within 24 hours of this newsletter reaching your inbox.
Just be sure to register for tomorrow’s webinar before this opportunity is finally disclosed!
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