Why Petri Jarvilehto, One Of The Geniuses Behind Angry Birds, Left The Company

Back in April, now-former Rovio EVP of Games Petri Järvilehto left the maker of Angry Birds to pursue his own gaming startup with Andrew Stalbow, Rovio’s former EVP of strategic partnerships.

Finnish gaming startup Seriously won’t release any titles until next year, but it seems to already be creating a lot of hype in Finland. Just last week, Seriously raised $US2.4 million from Los Angeles-based Upfront Ventures and Scandinavian-based Sunstone Capital.

With Seriously, the idea is to take advantage of the popularity of the “free-to-play” games and target “casual plus”gamers, Järvilehto tells Business Insider. It wants to create games that people play for days, weeks, months, and even years.

“I think we’re absolutely finding our own way and own direction,” Järvilehto says. “We’re not planning to replicate Rovio.”

Leaving Rovio required a certain amount of “irrational confidence”

“Well, I think Rovio was an incredible experience,” Järvilehto says. “I had a great time building out the games unit.”

The first game that Järvilehto built from prototype to launch was Angry Birds Space, which launched to much critical acclaim.

But at the same time, he says, the entire gaming industry is in an unprecedented situation.

“Mobile is effectively eating the world,” he says. “It is such an incredible opportunity. This is the best possible time you can imagine. You look at the Rovios of the world and the Supercells of the world, and you can effectively build a company that goes from zero to billion in only a couple of years.”

Even though it’s seemingly an exciting time to start a gaming company, deciding to leave Rovio was not an easy decision for him. In fact, Järvilehto admits that he was quite scared to leave the company.

“Starting your own company and starting something like this requires a certain amount of irrational confidence.” But at the same time, this is what I’ve been doing for my entire life basically. It’s an industry that I know and love. You have to, to a certain extent, embrace uncertainty.”

So are there any hard feelings between Rovio and Järvilehto? Nope, he says.

“I’m really looking forward to the next games Rovio will ship,” he says. “Games are the engine driver. There’s kind of a huge expectation. I think they’ll be able to come up with some pretty incredible games going forward. I’m definitely rooting for the games unit to hit it out of the park.”

The reason why he’s still rooting for Rovio is because the two companies are not competing on a local market.

“We’re competing on the global market,” Järvilehto says. “The more success stories we have over here, the better off we all are.”

Though, it’s worth mentioning that Seriously has offices in both Los Angeles, Calif. and Finland.

When it comes to the console business, he says he’s not a believer

“Console games to me feel like work,” he says. “Now just the thought of walking all the way to the living room, turning on your console, downloading your PS3 update and 40 minutes later, you’re finally playing the game. It’s much faster with mobile. I’m playing very few games on consoles anymore.”

When it comes to consoles, he says he’s not a big believer. There are numerous free options for entertainment these days. With iPads becoming more and more powerful, they are becoming even more of a threat to the console business.

“This is something I’m betting my career on, so I hope I’m right,” he says. “But everything is moving toward free-to-play and the console business is still trying to fight that. Once you start having free alternatives to things like GTA, it will be really interesting to see. Having worked on both mobile and console, the amount of friction that you have to deal with on the console is still massive.”

Disclosure: Finnish funding agency Tekes and Finnfacts, a non-profit media service organisation in Finland, paid for my trip to Helsinki to explore the startup scene.

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