TEAM COLTO IN TECH-SAVVY ESTONIA
Before wrapping things up with the GameFounders second batch (is it really June already?) there is just one more team to cover. Here’s the story of team Colto, they’re from Italy, but have roots in Australia and also in the UK. Their product in development is a great fun action adventure game for kids to learn new words in different languages called Dodo Ladder Chase.
The idea for this game came from Catriona Wallis, the team leader. Being a mother of two kids and an English language teacher in Italy where language learning is not taught well to kids, she wanted to find a solution to this problem. “Parents just kept asking me how they could improve their kids’ language learning skills. The fact that I have kids who want to play videogames all the time, it became obvious to me that we should be teaching them with these games“. After 18 months of research, she started putting a team together last year. At first it was a project team to create a Flash version of the game. After being selected for the GameFounders program it was clear to Catriona that she needed a serious team to move forward with her vision. Now the team consists of 4: Catriona, Graham Stanley (Expert Educational Games Advisor), Davide Jones (CTO) and Rubens Cantuni (Character and Game Designer).
How did they hear about GameFounders? Well, it turns out that Colto applied some time ago for the accelerator program Mind the Bridge and during the selection process spent some days in Trento, Italy with some of the Bad Seed team. At the time, Bad Seed was participating in the GameFounders program and they told Catriona about it, so she decided to apply too. “I felt gaming was the key to our success and that is what really motivated us to attend the program, to get the gaming expertise. And that is exactly what´s happened!”
According to Catriona, there is a dynamic atmosphere in the office; all participants are learning at such a fast speed and taking in so much, especially during the program’s first month. “A steep learning curve is the term I would use to describe it” says Catriona.
For Davide, it was a quick call to join Catriona and Colto in Tallinn. “It was about 24-hours from when I made the decision to come to being on the airplane. I didn´t even have expectations, because I just didn’t have time for them,” he explains. Davide says he didn´t know about mentors before coming to GameFounders as there is no such thing in Italy. What at first seemed kind of strange to him – so many different experts just coming to the office, giving talks or seminars – became really useful and inspiring for Davide. As a matter of fact, he even changed his mind about indie game vision: “Back in Italy I had the idea that if you have a game idea, you just have to build your game and then you´re done. There is no marketing, no business plan behind it. If you´re lucky, you´ll become like Rovio”. In his opinion, the greatest thing he learned on the program is that there is so much more to gaming.
Talking about the new environment of Tallinn they had to live in, they are rather impressed how developed Estonia actually is. “Estonia is much more fascinating than I expected from a cultural point of view”, says Catriona. The idea she had of Estonia did not actually fit the reality she stepped into. “I thought it was a much more backward country,“ she admits. Davide adds that in school they used to study Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania kind of like one country, not knowing they are three different ones. It didn´t really matter which was which. On his way to Tallinn, he leafed through some tourism brochures and found out that Estonia is one of the most advanced countries in the world in its wifi coverage, which was good news for him. “I found Estonia a lot more colorful and the people more tech-savvy, much more of…everything!” he says . “There is a real freshness about Estonia I wasn´t expecting,” adds Catriona. Unlike many opinions from other teams, she finds Estonian food healthy – lots of vegetables and fresh food. “Somebody should seriously do some PR for Estonia!” she concludes. Also Davide says that from an Italian point of view, you have always options in Tallinn– almost all the restaurants have pasta, pizza or something similar on the menu.
Both Davide and Catriona find Tallinn a lovely city and compare the city center with a little village. “It´s interesting to see the contrast living in the village – Old Town – and then get on the bus, drive through these soviet era box-house buildings and all of a sudden arrive at this hi-tech Tehnopol, it’s like 3 different worlds you go through every day,” describes Catriona.
The Colto team says they’ll definitely remember their Russian-only speaking cleaning lady whose first English word came out of her mouth when she saw Davide for the first time, “Baby?” she pointed to Davide while looking at Catriona for an answer. Catriona quickly tried to explain she’s not the mother of the co-founder of her company. But in the end both her and Davide found the incident hilarious. Another story concerns Catriona´s younger child (real one this time). Her family was visiting for a few days and she put her youngest kid in the children´s day care below the office. When Catriona asked him about the lunch, he replied: “I didn´t eat anything. They didn´t have pasta!” That´s the true Italian spirit!
Though missing her family, her bed and a good pizza, Catriona dealt with the cold Estonian winter days in March and feels enriched with the new experience. Davide can´t even name something he missed during his time in Estonia. So this is a good sign, isn´t it?
Finally here is Colto´s advice for the newcomers: “Be humble about everything taught and experienced on the program. It´s a seriously great opportunity to advance your business.”
Colto team in Tallinn: Catriona and Davide