From Near Bankruptcy to a Billion-Dollar Company—All Because of a Silly Bright Idea

Who could have predicted that a silly app about angry birds would create a gaming empire worth upward of a billion dollars? The app’s creators were facing bankruptcy—until they adroitly used this “administrative tool.”

The name of the company that created the silly app about angry birds is Rovio. They are a video game developer based in Helsinki, Finland. Some have referred to them as “Finland’s Disney.”1

Rovio was started in 2003 by three Helsinki University of Technology students, Niklas Hed, Jarno Väkeväinen and Kim Dikert, after they won first place in a mobile game development competition sponsored by Nokia and Hewlett-Packard.2

For their first seven years, Rovio created 51 games for other companies. Their business expanded. But by the beginning of 2009 they were in trouble. In fact, they were staring bankruptcy in the face. Their resources had run out and they had fired most of their staff, leaving only 12 employees.3

To survive, Rovio needed a handling, and they needed one fast. Sometimes all the plans, projects, good intentions and hard work don’t pull a company out of the weeds. Sometimes it takes something a little less serious, a little more, well, games-y.

In an article L. Ron Hubbard wrote in 1972 titled “Proper Format and Correct Action,” he said: “Handling quite often but not always requires a BRIGHT IDEA. It is peculiarly true that the less the resources available the brighter the idea required to attain effective handling.”

One might not think of a “bright idea” as an administrative tool, but it is. In fact, it may be the one of the most powerful tools in a company’s “toolbox.” In the case of Rovio, this certainly was the case.

The first iPhones had just come out, and Rovio wanted to create a game app for that platform—something owned by them, their own intellectual property. They needed a bright idea. Big time.

They Knew He Had a Hit When the Turkey Burned

As Niklas Hed, the cofounder of Rovio put it, “We thought we would need to do 10 to 15 titles until we got the right one.” Then one afternoon in downtown Helsinki, Jaakko Iisalo, a games designer who had been at Rovio since 2006, showed the board of execs a screenshot. He had pitched hundreds of ideas in the two months before. This idea showed a cartoon flock of angry-looking birds. “People saw this picture and it was just magical,” says Niklas. Eight months and thousands of changes later, after nearly abandoning the project, they finalized the Angry Birds game. But it took a special event for Niklas to realize they really might have a hit. That event came when, one night, Niklas witnessed his mother overcook a Christmas turkey dinner, as she was distracted by playing the finished Angry Birds game. “She doesn’t play any games,” said Niklas. “I realized: this is it.”4

The bright idea of a game where the players were angry birds came to Iisalo after hundreds of other ideas he had. Perhaps it was a passing thought. Nevertheless, he created a picture of it, showed it to the decision makers and, as Niklas said, “It was magical.” Everyone seemed to know this was it.

As Mr. Hubbard wrote, “. . . the less the resources available the brighter the idea required to attain effective handling.” Rovio was short on resources. They needed a bright idea to pull them out of the mud, and they got it. Ideas can seem airy and sometimes worthless. They are easily invalidated. That’s why it’s important to remember that the bright idea, when properly recognized and acted upon, can turn into pure gold.

Almost 1,000 Downloads a Day for the First Six Years

Rovio launched their Angry Birds game app in late 2009. Like any app, Angry Birds started with zero downloads. As of 2015, the app had been downloaded more than 3 billion times.5 That’s almost 1,000 downloads per minute for that six-year period!

Even more impressive, only three years after the launch of Angry Birds, Rovio was offered $2.25 billion for their company.6

Rovio turned the offer down. Apparently the three founders weren’t in it to make just a “quick buck.” Perhaps they felt their company was worth more than a cool $2.25 billion. Or maybe they were having too much fun to fly the coop just then.

As of 2018, Rovio is up to 23 different Angry Birds apps. The 3D Angry Birds major motion picture was released by Sony in 2016; plus there is an ongoing TV series entitled Angry Birds Toons.7 In addition, Rovio currently has a catalog of more than 30,000 Angry Birds–related products on sale in more than 500 locations around the world!

Walt Disney once said: “I only hope that we never lose sight of one thing—that it was all started by a mouse.”8

And did you know that when Walt Disney first had the idea for Mickey Mouse he was rejected by bankers 300 times because they thought the idea was absurd?9

The mouse was Disney’s “bright idea.” The birds were Rovio’s “bright idea.”

Moral of the story? Never underestimate the power of a bright idea. When a handling is needed, put on the thinking caps and come up with enough bright ideas until the brightest of all shines through.


  1. Gilbert, David. “Rovio’s ‘Overnight’ Success with Angry Birds Came after 51 Failed Attempts.” IBTimes Co., 1 July 2014.
  2. “Rovio Entertainment.” Wikimedia Foundation, n.d.
  3. OfficeChai Team. “After 51 Failed Games, Rovio Created Angry Birds—Now It’s Going Public at a $1 Billion Valuation.” OfficeChai, 15 Sept. 2017.
  4. Cheshire, Tom. “In Depth: How Rovio Made Angry Birds a Winner (and What’s Next).” Condé Nast, 7 Mar. 2011.
  5. “Angry Birds.” Wikimedia Foundation, n.d.
  6. Lynley, Matt. “Here’s How Much the Owners of Angry Birds Are Actually Worth.” Business Insider, 23 Feb. 2012.
  7. “Angry Birds Toons (TV Series 2013–).” IMDb, n.d.
  8. “Quote by Walt Disney Company.” Goodreads, n.d.
  9. Pasha, Riz. “Walt Disney Was Fired & Rejected 300 Times—Failure to Success.” Succeed Feed, 26 Jan. 2018.


Let us hear your feedback. E-mail

Issue: 19020906INT

Translate »
Share This