SmartyGirlLeadership Media interviewed Caulder Bradford, Owner/CEO of Diverge Creations LLC, for his take on building a deliberate team with a shared vision while bridging the gap between artistry and commercial success.
Last summer readers received an exclusive interview with TED talker Guy Kawasaki on what makes a brand likeable.
This summer SmartyFellas and SmartyGirls are given business leadership tips from edgy, avant-garde, and likeable Caulder Bradford.
So imbibe your favorite non-alcoholic beverage or Harp’s lager and ponder these thoughtstarters from a young but wise CEO.
This was Sunday afternoon’s phone interview between our Editor-in-Chief Renee Marchol and Diverge Creations LLC CEO Caulder Bradford:
Tell me the history of your creative company.
C: In the beginning I was collaborating with my friend Edmund, who is an artist and game designer, on small, fairly unconventional web games. He’d have the vision and do all the art and I would handle engineering. With those early projects I think it wasn’t so much the core gameplay that was revolutionary but the unique art and the way we implemented our ideas. Ed moved on to create commercial works such as Super Meat Boy and The Binding of Isaac, and I got more into engine and game tech development, and also worked in the mobile and social spaces for awhile, both as a contractor and also as part of several Bay Area startups. I’m now focused on my own projects under the Diverge Creations banner, as well as doing a bit of contracting & consulting for other companies.
How did you build support for you creative game development company?
C:I’m currently the only full-timer. The rest of my awesome team take on other projects 9-5. For some it’s a weekend project, working with me, and that’s totally cool. It’s great to work with talented people in any capacity and see them contribute to a project. So first, I had a clear vision to bridge the gap between art and business. Next, I found like-minded community: talented individuals who also believe being professional is a part of artistic integrity. Lastly, I invited those who were interested and a good fit for the team to join me.
Our team has a shared vision. This doesn’t mean we have the same skill set, and I think we are even somewhat different people in terms of interests, but as a creative force we fit together very well.
How do you communicate with potential funders who don’t understand the technology industry or the gamer artist community?
C: Funders do not have to understand the finer details of graphics engineering or our artistic influences, for example, to participate. Get to know us: what we have created in the past and who we are. We’re self-funded but I would be open to potential investors that trust us enough to stay hands-off from the creative process, and have faith in our ability to deliver a great product.
Can you give an example of sacrifices you’ve made to keep creative integrity?
C: You must decide for yourself what compromises you aren’t willing to make. That may mean declining potential investment offers that would derail the creative vision. As a result this will probably change your development time-frame. It will take longer but you will stay true to yourself and what motivates you.
How do you protect yourself and the indie company brand from burnout?
C: In contrast to some in the indie community who maybe believe it’s necessary to sacrifice a social life to succeed, I’ve found it’s really important for me personally to have at least some semblance of a work-life balance. Of course as the CEO of Diverge, I need to work much more than a 9-5 schedule. But I do take time away from the project to recharge. I do a lot of running, I check out concerts here in SF, work on my car etc. I find this prevents burn-out and keeps me motivated and enthusiastic about my business and my projects.
I make a point to network as much as I can and spend time with other artists & developers. I get inspired by just about anyone who is doing something creative and interesting with their life. I’m creatively influenced by all kinds of different sources, from music to film, literature, history, basically whatever. The idea of the reclusive developer, cloistering himself/herself in solitary confinement and subsisting on ramen isn’t exactly me. As a leader of a creative business you need to decide for yourself what kind of sacrifices are needed, and what you’re willing to do to meet your goals. Is creative control something you feel comfortable bargaining? How about the administrative control of your company? What would you give up for low overhead costs? Does the talent you want to attract require catered lunches? You just need to decide what kind of work you really want to do, and what kind of company you want to run, and then you need to stick to your guns.
What is a fun fact about you?
C: I have a pretty eclectic taste in music I suppose. Heavy metal is probably my main thing, but I like a lot of classical music too. I am especially fond of Wagner, Beethoven and Mozart. Amadeus (1984) is one of my favorite films, although I don’t think it’s too historically accurate…
Follow @caulderbradford for rants and musings, his bizarre Spotify playlist and updates on Diverge Creations’ projects.