2 Years at Station F: What is it like creating a video game studio inside the biggest startup campus in the world?

Advenworks
Jul 4 · 10 min read

Station F celebrated its second anniversary last week. Yay! Happy birthday, Station F! 🎉

During a keynote held on the Master Stage, the Station F team — led by Roxanne Varza — made big announcements and revealed great news for the future of the campus. The “startups nest” is running smoothly and is now well known by tech lovers. However, these first two years were only the first steps of a much bigger plan.

Indeed, Station F announced “F for Femmean exclusive event dedicated to female entrepreneurship to encourage tech world diversity, hosted on October 1st. The second big news is the opening of “Flatmates” powered by Whoomates, the biggest coliving space dedicated to entrepreneurs in Europe (and certainly the best in-house deal of Paris!).

As enthusiastic geeky nerds, it was also the occasion to crunch data & numbers about the Station F community. We have learned amongst other things that 1013 startups are currently based in the campus. They raised $317M this year (versus $250M last year) and 45% of these startups have been founded by women.

2 years already!

Time flies, doesn’t it? At Advenworks, this second anniversary for Station F has something special for us. In fact, we were among the first batch of startups to join the campus in July 2017. The maximum length of stay is two years for the Founder Program’s startups. Therefore, we will leave Station F next week. Not without emotions, I admit — because joining Station F was definitely the best move we took in April 2017 to kick start Advenworks and jump into this entrepreneurship adventure.

This milestone is a good occasion for us to take a sideways step and have a look on the road we have travelled. Time for a quick Advenworks retrospective of these first two years creating a video game studio, empowered by Station F.

Quick Flashback: How does everything started?

Passionate about coding, Romain has always crafted games since a very young age and started making iPhone applications in 2009. In 2011, he started publishing them and created the first website. The Advenworks Project was born!

Romain and I met at Ubisoft in 2012. In 2014, we had worked together on several Ubisoft’s projects for a while. We needed new challenges and we shared the envy to create our own business. So we decided to unite our strengths under the banner of Advenworks and to create our first game in 3 months, beside our job. I will do the pixels, he will do the code!

Ubisoft Chill room — “It starts with a coffee and it ends building a company.”

In 2014, when Romain moved to London to join Lionhead (Microsoft Studios) while I stayed in Paris working at Ubisoft (then Oxent/Webedia); we had already worked on Advenworks for one year and we wanted to go on despite the distance (starts like a lame love story, right?) We then kept working on the project but remotely. And, after a few adjustments, it worked like a charm! We released our first game Dragon Kid in Towerland and decided to jump into the production of a second game: Birdy Party. Due to the constraint of distance is born a full remote-work methodology and the future Advenworks philosophy. It naturally became a true business asset: Remote working allows to hire the best talents of the industry, wherever they are in the word.

When Romain came back to France after two years in London and two years of Advenworks’ proof of concept, we then had the firm intention to build the first video game studio with remote work at the heart of its business strategy.

April 2017

It seems obvious but you better be sure to choose the right business partner to build a company. Nonetheless, we saw startups dying of fights between founders too often. In 2017, Romain and I knew each other and had worked together for five years. We were sure of nothing but it was pretty obvious that starting a company together would be a great adventure. So we did!

In April 2017, Advenworks became our priority. I negotiated a part-time contract at Webedia to get more time and Romain already quit his job a year before. Money was getting low. It was high time to move up a gear. One of the first things we did was apply to a big startup campus project, then called “La Halle Freyssinet.” At the moment, we didn’t know much about the thing, but the project was backed by Xavier Niel and managed by Roxanne Varza. As a geeky boy, I knew it seemed promising. So, we applied!

“La Halle Freyssinet” — Before Station F
Station F — April 2017

And, on the 16th of May, 2017, after one application & an epic video interview (with only 30 seconds to answer each question! Pure evil, but so damn effective — so much that we replicate it for our own recruitment process 😄) we received a mail. We were among the 6% of startups selected to be part of the Founders Program!

Friday 7th July 2017 — The D-Day!

It was a hot and sunny Friday when Station F opened its doors for the first time. And we had the privilege to be there! At 8:00 AM without fail, we were in front of the brand new and impressive glass and grey building. Entering Station F for the first time was a very memorable moment for us — the beginning of a new chapter!

The brand new “Create Zone”. See this shining floor?
The Station F Founders Program Welcome Kit
Back to school! The “Welcome Keynote” with the Guilds distribution.

From the beginning, we benefited a lot from the place. Super luminous; big and stylish spaces; cheap desk prices — a blessing when you’ve just launched your business and you have no revenue — a lot of events and workshops addressing many topics you need to learn as a startupper; and, last but not least, (and I think that one of the strongest assets of Station F) an incredible network & energy from people who want to create things and shape their own future.

The international & picky reputation of Station F is also a strong advantage. At the time, it was, for us, proof that our work, our efforts, and the Advenworks vision was super solid, validated by a Selection Board composed of successful entrepreneurs.

Only 6% of candidates had been selected. Seems like nothing, but when you want to build a company, a team, and you are looking for funds, it means a lot and makes things easier. Leading to…

October 2017 — Let’s find an investor!

After the typical French summer break (except for us 😀) — and four months of work and rework on our vision, our website, our brand, our business plan, our pitch deck, and our next game (Slashrun at this time) — we were ready to find an investor (and we definitely needed to! 💰).

We met our investor thanks to Axel D., an entrepreneur we met at the end of a talk we attended at Station F.

“ Oh! You are creating a video game studio? My best friend just launched a VC fund dedicated to mobile gaming! Send me your deck and we will see!”

45 minutes after our email, we got an answer from Level-Up, which is now our investor! And because we were super prepared and focus on our vision, it was an instant deal. The timing was perfect, too. Two weeks later, we signed the term sheet (which was incredibly fast according to other entrepreneurs not as lucky as us).

Again, being at Station F had been a major boon for us.

February 2018 — HR Time!

We started the second adventure then: Aline (Game Design) was the first to join us to remote work on Birdy Party from London, followed by Estee (Writer) from Cincinnati and Vincent (Art) from Montpellier. All of us were not paid. We all worked for months together just for fun & passion, which is just crazy and amazing!

Now that we got funded, let’s pay these beautiful people and complete our team of experts! From February to May 2018, it was literally an HR/recruitment marathon with tons of interviews.

What’s super cool with our remote working methodology is that we met candidates from all over the word with vastly different lifestyles and backgrounds! Better than teleportation, we circled the world without moving from Paris!

In July, after 500+ applications received, 100+ interviews, and liters of coffee, we got a solid core team with new recruits: Nicolas (Marketing), Ash (Dev) from India, Alex (Art) & Kevin (Art). We kept growing and we are now a team of 12 Advenworkers from France, UK, US, and India! And that’s only the beginning!

The amazing Advenworks Team!

Mentioning candidates that Advenworks was based at Station F was always the “icing on the cake” and was, again, a decisive sign of credibility.

July 2018 — No photos please!

Being at Station F is also a great opportunity to get press coverage! Because, yeah, we were on Paris Match, baby!😎 Our Guild had been selected to be interviewed by the most famous French paper magazine. Maybe because we were the best guild… Is it not Guild Indie? ;)

Paris Match — July 2018 | Download PDF

Offices, investors, funds, a top-experts team, experience & advice from peers, a network, and even new friends! From this moment, we got everything we needed to execute our vision.

July 2018 > July 2019 — Execution

During this last year, day after day, that’s what we did! Execution. We built and we keep building Advenworks, benefiting from all the perks, events, and the aura from Station F.

When we arrived here, we got a dream, two games with basically no downloads, no team, no funds, not even a company status! We now have a catalog of 11 games (2 featured by Apple) produced by an amazing team. We are trusted by our investor and have started getting profitable games. Of course, the future is still uncertain but we are working hard and doing everything to make it bright.

All of this has been made easier and smoother by being part of the Founders Program of Station F.

So, at this point, either you are already gone (yeah, two years, that’s a long story, huh? I tried to make it short, though!) or you think I’m a Station F fanboy with no critical sense. So, yeah, obviously I love Station F. And, of course, Station F is not perfect! I could list many little things that annoyed me during these two years. Like the coffee machines sometimes not refilled, the noise from the construction site next to the campus, the wifi acting up, clogged toilets (sometimes again, I can reassure you 😄), or the challenge to find a meeting room at peak time. And so what?

I prefer to focus on the bright side because, as an entrepreneur, I’m aware that despite all those things (which are imponderable), the environment we started Advenworks in was a real privilege.

So, a big & sincere thank you to the Station F team for these 2 years! Thanks for everything you do for entrepreneurs! We will miss Station F and all its ecosystems.

What’s next?

So, that’s it? That’s the end?

Hmmm, yes and no. For Advenworks that’s only the beginning, of course! We have tons of challenges to achieve and we keep creating amazing games for everybody with a phone in the pocket! Our goal? Become the biggest remote working video game studio in the world and collaborate with the best video game talents worldwide!

As “Alumni” we will definitely keep in touch with the Station F community. But now it’s time for the next chapter and we can now stand on our own feet — Outside of the nest. We are leaving Station F soon, moving to the center of Paris; but we won’t be alone! We embark with other startups from the campus leaving in July, too. We will share a great office dedicated to alumni startups. And guess what we called the place?

STATION FOREVER!


Pssst! You want to join us at Station Forever? We still have few desks available!

Pssst again! Advenworks is hiring! Have a look at our job offers!

Advenworks

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Redefining the video games production thanks to remote working.