Founded in 2017, Malmö-based game studio Sharkmob has gone from a small start-up to a global studio at warp speed. Backed by games giant Tencent, which recently acquired the business, Sharkmob is now opening its new London studio, bringing Swedish innovation and entrepreneurial spirit to the UK. “The United Kingdom, and London especially, has the biggest and most talented developer community in Europe and a long experience in the game industry. If we combine this with the Scandinavian strengths of being innovative and building global franchises, something really magical could happen,” says Fredrik Rundqvist, CEO of Sharkmob.
Looking back to the early 2000s, the Swedish game developer scene was quite small, but over the past decade there has been a phenomenal output of global success from Scandinavia. A handful of respected game studios have emerged on the scene and success stories like Minecraft and Candy Crush are putting Swedish game exports on the map.
For Sharkmob, it all started in 2017 with a group of friends that had an idea of how to develop games and what type of games to make. “We had been doing games together for more than a decade prior to this. From early on, we wanted to create so-called triple A games, trying to stay very close to the community and put the fans and the gamers at the centre of what we do,” Fredrik recalls.
Fast forward to 2021 and Sharkmob is a Swedish start-up success story in its own right. The company has rapidly grown from a small start-up to a large team of 300 world-class developers operating out of its studio in Malmö - just a stone’s throw away from Denmark’s capital Copenhagen and Kastrup airport connecting the region with the rest of the world.
Unprecedented access to resources and know-how
The journey towards opening its London studio started in 2019, when Sharkmob was acquired by the world’s leading game company Tencent, which according to Fredrik is one of the most important milestones so far in the development of the business. “Tencent is not only the biggest game company in the world, but also, and more interestingly, one of the biggest technology companies worldwide.”
The fact that Tencent is well established in markets that are usually difficult for Western companies to approach and establish themselves in, has given Sharkmob unprecedented access to resources, know-how and an incredible network. “That, and the funding they provided was definitely one of the first steps towards starting the UK company,” Fredrik says.
Grown by talent and culture
Another of the main reasons behind Sharkmob’s success and rapid, yet sustainable, growth has been the workforce. Ever since starting up the Swedish studio, Sharkmob has been a dynamic workplace, attracting top talent from the community with the help from the Sharkmob promise – “have fun, be creative and own it!” The company works hard to maintain this culture with a strong belief that it is the key to finding developers that like to push limits, explore new territory and go places nobody has been before in order to make great games. A vision that has also been the foundation of attracting talent in their new UK venture.
Next level: London
When choosing the location for the company’s first international venture, the choice was not hard: “London is one of the greatest cities in the world and the United Kingdom has an amazing development community,” Fredrik says. “We see London as a global city, with good national and international connections. Even though 2020 has posed exceptional challenges to us all, as we look beyond these, the UK will always be a key location for game development.”
"The UK, and London in particular, has probably the biggest and the most talented developer community in Europe. For us, it was a great opportunity to try to tap into the community and to combine the strengths of Scandinavian and UK game development."
Sharkmob London Limited, a fully owned subsidiary of the Swedish parent company, has been up and running since October 2020. With all the infrastructure, such as insurances, health care and payroll in place, the focus has been on recruiting the right team to the studio. “We found a very experienced and ambitious new core team that we built the new studio around. They had a very strong wish and a great vision of a new game that they wanted to create, so we are really there to facilitate their vision and try to create a workplace and a development studio that can help support their vision of the game,” Fredrik explains and continues: “We want to establish ourselves as a studio and as a community to participate in, and try to create a place to work that is exciting and attractive to people in London and its nearby surroundings.”
The thriving and talented developer community in the UK is another of the main reasons why London was chosen for the new studio. “I think that the United Kingdom, and London in particular, has probably the biggest and the most talented developer community in Europe. For us, it was a great opportunity to try to tap into the community in the UK, and to combine the strengths of Scandinavian and UK game development.” And so far, the exchange is even noticeable in everyday work. “I would say on a day to day, or even on an hourly basis, there is knowledge being transferred between the two countries.”
Straight-forward and friendly in the UK
Fredrik has more than 20 years’ experience of doing business in the UK and is passionate about English culture and the people. Even if the similarities between British and Swedish cultures are in majority, Fredrik says that there are some main differences. “I believe it is more formal to do business in the UK than in Sweden. You need to make sure that you have all legalities in order, and you need to use lawyers more frequently than you would normally do in Sweden. I think that Scandinavian business culture is a little bit more informal.”
According to Fredrik, doing business in the UK is very straightforward and friendly. His experiences while setting up the British subsidiary have been very positive, and he is especially impressed with Companies House. “Setting up the limited company took less than a week. I am very impressed with the bureaucracy and the administration around setting up and running the company. The only thing I found difficult was to get the bank account up and running. But that is the only difficult part of doing business in the UK that I’ve encountered so far.”
Get legal representation
With having long personal experience of doing business in the UK, as well as having just launched Sharkmob Ltd in the country, we asked Fredrik about the most important advice he would give to someone planning to set up a business in the UK: “I would say that from very early on, if not from day one, you need local legal representation. Do not do anything until you have your own law firm, or your own legal consultants, to advise you on every step that you take when establishing your business in the UK.
Sharkmob’s plan over the next few years is to establish itself as an industry leading studio in the heart of London, giving the new team unprecedented levels of creative freedom, as well as the full support of like-minded veteran developers back in Malmö, encouraging the team to push boundaries in craft, expertise, and creativity. “The developers in the United Kingdom have a very professional way of creating games, a solid developing process and long experience. In that way they are well ahead of us Scandinavians. If we combine this with the Scandinavian strengths of being innovative and building global franchises, something really magical could happen,” says Fredrik.
Year of establishment
Sweden: 2017 / UK: 2020
Number of employees
300 in total, of which 40 in the UK