Estonia Startup: Oddspotter Is A Cool Art Appreciation Game For iPad INTERVIEW

If you’re wondering where the heck Estonia is, no worries they have a thriving startup scene there. In fact when talking with Tanel Teemusk the founder of Estonia based startup Oddspotter, he tells us that Estonia may have the largest number of startups per capita of any European country.

You may be familiar with their biggest startup, it’s called Skype. Of course with Skype, like many other startups that have had huge exits or gone public, they have a venture arm too that’s churning out great startups. One of our favorite European startups Hail-o is also backed by Skype founders.

So what is OddSpotter, it’s an art appreciation game. It’s got great graphics and Teemusk isn’t afraid to call it “edutainment”. Of course we’re not talking about edutainment for kids it’s edutainment for adults, and if you’re not careful playing OddSpotter, you may actually learn something. We did.

We got a chance to interview Teemusk in depth and we’re not going to knock him if he does in fact come and stay in San Francisco for a few months. Oddspotter was raised in Estonia so it’s an international startup from everywhere else.

Check out our interview below:

What is OddSpotter?
OddSpotter is (currently) an art appreciation game designed for the iPad. It’s a healthy mix of art history education and gameplay. Edutainment if you want to call it that. It’s basically a ‘spot the difference’ game concept that uses classic paintings as content. Van Gogh, Gauguin, Cezanne, Monet, Manet, to name a few. I personally refer to it as an ‘Art appreciation game’. The game forces you to look at paintings in detail while trying to figure out what is wrong with one of them.
Who are the founders and what are their backgrounds?
It’s an indie game with only myself as a founder.
I’ve been coding multimedia front-end projects as a freelancer for more than 10 years now. Mostly for advertising agencies -product promotional websites with animation and simple games as well. Lately been focusing on iOS development more and more. 
I love developing apps. Most of the apps we see and use today can be built with 1-3 person creative teams and the market is global. Which means that if you roll out a quality product that people will use you have a chance to win big. App world is relatively new and exciting. And Games are the most popular genre of apps.
Where are you based?
I’m currently based in Tallinn Estonia, but I travel quite a lot. I will probably be spending the coming winter in San Francisco as this is the most exciting place to be for an app developer.
What’s the startup culture/scene like where you are based? Do you have access to the resources you need?
I’m probably not lying if I say that Estonia is the leading startup country in Europe. I’m pretty sure we have the most startups per capita around here. You’ve probably heard about our biggest startup (which is a startup no more) Skype. 
We have several startup accelerators here and the people are very educated when it comes to IT. You can actually say that our whole country is a big startup. We vote, do our banking and file our income statement online. Our president is personally active on Twitter and Facebook. 
It is inspiring to be apart of something like that and it gives wings to startup culture.
What is one dilemma you are facing, or have faced in the startup process?
When you’re developing a game there are so many dilemmas that it’s impossible to point out a few. From start to finish, all of it is a creative process with no clear right and wrong answers. You just do it one way, check if you like it yourself first and then hope that others do so as well. There’s no guarantee that users will enjoy, or even get it. That makes game development quite difficult, but rewarding at the same time, when you see that there are so many people that are enjoying the game you built.
Personal dilemma when it comest to starting up your own business/product is mostly related to time. The time you spend creating a startup is the time you could be spending doing actual paying gigs or even the time you could be spending with your loved ones. So it can be a rocky road sometimes as you can never be sure your idea will make it in the real market situation. 
I guess that’s the reason so many great ideas never get done.
To create OddSpotter I pushed myself quite a lot for about 2-3 months. I worked over weekends and tried to push deadlines with existing clients. 
What is the problem that OddSpotter solves?
OddSpotter is an edutainment game. It visually educates people in art history while actually spending time having fun. Think about it. Have you really looked at a painting so closely that you can tell for sure how many fingers do the ‘Two Women of Tahiti’ by Gauguin have? Or how many paintings were on the wall of ‘Vincents Room’ by Van Gogh? Like the most knowledgeable art historians people playing OddSpotter also know the answers to those kinds of questions. It is a great thing when playing a game will teach you such facts.
Who is your target user?
The target audience is quite wide. My daughter enjoys playing the game although she’s only 5 and I’ve noticed a lot of grown ups enjoy it as an elegant pastime. Interesting find when it comes to target audience is that women tend to like such games and art more than men. 
It’s a nice calm game to play while you’re traveling or you’re waiting for something/someone.
So if I were to define a target I might say that OddSpotter user is an educated woman with an iPad who likes art ;)
What is your secret sauce?
There is no hidden magic in the game. The ‘secret sauce’ is probably the concept itself. ‘spot the difference’ type of game is not too appealing for many. The same concept using famous paintings gives this game a totally different flavor. It becomes an elegant way to spend your time with your iPad and to learn about iconic paintings.

What’s next for OddSpotter?
There is so much to add to the game. The initial launch revealed so many shortcomings. The main concern from users is that the game is way too difficult for non-trained eye. So the learning curve is quite steep. I will surely try to tackle this problem by releasing some ‘very easy’ levels soon. 
Also monetizing strategy was somewhat a ‘shot from the hip’ initially. This will have to be modified in the near future.
What I have planned all along is that you can read a bit more about the artist as well as painting while you’re in the game. It just did not make it to first release, but it’ll be available soon. There’s much more, I have a long list of notes that I will have to consider while releasing updates.
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