10 Q’s With Alan Wilson & Tripwire Interactive

Tripwire Interactive, an entertainment software development company, was started in 2005. Initially, the company was composed of ‘the award winning mod team and winners of the ‘$1,000,000 Make Something Unreal‘ competition. Since its inception, Tripwire Interactive has been kicking ass and taking names throughout the gaming industry. Poised to release their highly anticipated sequel to ‘Red Orchestra: Ostfront 41-45‘ and churning up the industry with exceptional promise, we’ve been gifted an inside look into the running of a successful software company by Alan Wilson, Vice President of Tripwire Interactive LLC. for this weeks “10 Q’s With…”; our question and answer series that’s aimed at offering insight to our readers who are interested in the ‘Adventure’ of becoming: The Boss.

Q. Tell our readers about your business, your passion, and what it is that you do? What’s your story? And what sets you apart from other businesses in your particular market?

“Tripwire Interactive: developers and publishers of video games for PC and other platforms. Our passion is creating new IP, executing it – and helping others to follow in our footsteps, both by simple encouragement/mentoring and by publishing their work. I do some of the design and writing, as well as most of the financials and business development. We started out as an amateur/part-time team, won acclaim and press attention for our work, set up the company, funded ourselves, helped pioneer digital distribution for the PC and, against all the odds, succeeded. What sets us apart: we are entirely independent and self-funded, answerable to nobody but our fans and ourselves. We enjoy what we do – and intend to go on building games that people enjoy, with damn good value for their money, lots of free stuff, love and attention from us to our games.”

Q. What inspired you take the steps to becoming your own boss? Is this your first/only business?

“The opportunity. I’m not good at working for others – I end up telling them what they are doing wrong – and people don’t seem to like that! Not my first business – a friend and I ran a consultancy business in the UK, but I couldn’t do both…”

Q. How much planning was involved prior to the start-up of your business? Can you offer some insight into that process?

“Not nearly enough 🙂 We really hadn’t thought it out too carefully. We could suggest that it was purely an ‘exploratory phase’, but that would be disingenuous. It WAS an exploration, but it was also a full-charge startup. We knew we’d have to learn as we went.”

Q. In terms of running your business, what does a typical day look like for you; or is every day different?

“Very variable. Ideally, it involves a mix of working on the games, plus some fun on business development. It also involves financial planning, tax and all of that – although, happily, we are now big enough to have someone on full time to do all the leg-work on all that for me (thank you, Sandy).”

Q. How many employees do you have and what went into hiring on more to your team?

“25 now and will be more later this year. Plus a whole bunch of contractors/sub-contractors. We deliberately grow the core team with employees, who we can be sure of utilizing full time, while subbing out work that comes in peaks and troughs. The challenge there is finding the right partners. The people we hire in – they need the right skills, obviously. They also need to fit in with the ethics – commitment, pride in your work and a willingness to help each other out.”

Q. What has been the most challenging part of your entrepreneurial adventure?

“Staying afloat during the leaner years, without a doubt. Finding creative ways to get more done for less. Explaining to my wife and daughter why we can’t afford anything… that gets hard to live with.”

Q. Besides the obvious of being your own boss, what is the most rewarding part about being an independent business owner?

“Freedom to make your own decisions (and mistakes). Choosing who we work with – and what we work on.”

Q. What motivates you? What keeps you going each day?

“Enjoyment – of what we do and who we do it with. The occasional vodka :)”

Q. How do you promote your business? Advertise? Endorse? Contests? Social networking?

“All of the above – advertising online and in print, press interviews and shows, speaking engagements, through our own games, websites, social networks, OEM deals… Nothing has ever really ‘hurt’ us, although we are getting rather dubious about the value of online/print advertising.”

Q. What’s next? What are your long term and short-term goals?

“Next few days, release of another game (Dwarfs – casual game, light fun). Later in the summer, our own next title. Announcements about games on other platforms. Steadily expanding our reach, basically…”



Q. What advice do you have to those reading www.bossstart.com that you feel is valuable?

  • Rule 1: Learn about financial risk. REALLY learn. Learn to see it from other people’s point of view.
  • Rule 2: Don’t ever risk more than you can afford to lose
  • Rule 3: Be prepared to risk everything – and then a little bit more
  • Rule 4: Spot the inherent inconsistency above – that one is called STRESS.

“If you tell me that you ‘don’t feel stress’, you are either a liar, self-delusional, an idiot or some combination of the three. If you don’t feel stress, you aren’t understanding the risks you are taking – and then you are just a liability to all concerned.”

Q. Would you change anything about the way your business is funded?

“The facetious answer is that I’d much rather risk someone else’s money – but the truth is that this wouldn’t be “our” business, so the answer is “no”. I certainly would have changed it on the most difficult days, though!”

Q. If there were a way to do things over, would there be anything that you would do differently?

“There are a number of blind alleys and red herrings that I now wouldn’t waste my time on. There are a number of ‘big names’ on our shit list because of that – people who have no consideration or thought for what impact they are having on smaller companies. Funnily enough, though, the ‘Tripwire curse’ seems to catch up with most of them. One major corporate crashed into Chapter 11 and was sold for $10,000 – another delisted from NASDAQ and had to be saved by the parent company. We seriously considered buying the first one, just for a laugh. But common sense prevailed.”

“Don’t waste time on blind alleys. Those goose-chases very nearly killed us a couple of times. So – stay VERY focused and don’t get distracted unless you are VERY certain it is worth it.”

To learn more about Tripwire Interactive, please visit:

Website: TripwireInteractive.com/

Facebook: Facebook.com/pages/Tripwire-Interactive/112148655464862

Twitter: Twitter.com/#!/TripwireYoshiro

About the Author: Daniel Ballard

Daniel is a Writer and Entrepreneur. He is Co-Founder/Main Author/Editor of BossStart and Co-Editor/Featured Author for BossStart's sister site, PauseStart, launching early 2012

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