How do you stay focused when you have so many things to build?

Holly Liu / November, 2017


Holly Liu founded the venture-backed mobile gaming company, Kabam in 2006 with UC Berkeley alumni. Kabam was sold to South Korea’s Netmarble Games for a reported $800 million in 2017. Holly led the design for Kabam’s award-winning “Kingdoms of Camelot” franchise, which has grossed over $250 million in less than four years.

Watch this video as Holly explains Kabam’s way of building their culture to being market-led and staying aligned in order to achieve success.

Video transcript:

How do you stay focused when you have so many things to build?

For us around alignment and focus, I do believe for any type of startup that’s always what you’re looking for is focus and alignment. The alignment is to bring focus and then when you’re all focused in this direction you could just move in the same direction.

In terms of, picking the direction, I think that that is something that whether or not this is how it worked at our company is that strategy really sat with the CEO. A lot of times we would inform that. That might be part of the culture in terms of how this worked really well for us. However, early on because we were smaller. Obviously, there was a lot of input that could happen that ultimately the CEO would give maybe the product vision to the product manager, but in terms of the company he would have had the final say, and that was just a bit of how our culture was set up. I think other companies can do it differently and very successfully as well.

An example for us, as I mentioned in one of the previous questions is that Kabam, and within the founders at the core, we’ve been very market-led which caused us to be very adaptive. Even early I want to remember that our product manager, we would talk a lot about these features and what kind of features would we decide to do and they were always business objectives behind it. It was very much a question; what’s the focus of this feature is it virality, retention, engagement or is it monetization?

Early on, as well as our earlier companies tended to be focused as a non-game, so you can really focus on a web application that way. Obviously, as we got larger there’s more people to kind of bring on board, for someone who is an individual contributor, all the way to middle manager, to executive, to really get them excited about where they are in this whole vision and mission.

I think at that point that’s when we were like ‘oh wow, our vision is going to be greater than ourselves’ rather than when we were smaller, we were just trying to survive and get some traction, and get some product market fit. As it got larger, while the strategy still sat with the CEO, he obviously wanted his executive team to help give some input to it. What the CEO were trying to really focus on was that next layer of his executive team and then the executive team will try focus in on their groups. That was the way we decided to execute our alignment, pros and cons to that, but that was something that really worked for us.

As we got larger we did have to introduce goals to help out with alignment. At one point, which was something that is always very memorable for people who worked at Kabam was that we would put company trip goals. So we would set out a crazy goal often times it was always due to the performance of the company. If we were able to hit some type of target then everyone in the company plus a guest would be able to go on this trip. We’ve been to places like Tahoe, Las Vegas, Hong Kong, and Mallorca, I think that was where the Europe team went. It was just a really united kind of way to try to achieve a goal and get everybody rallied around the same page. Those are examples of how it’s moved in terms of alignment when you’re small versus when you’re really big.



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