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Building an Arctic*Empire

Building an Arctic*Empire 

Focusing on games and apps for mobile and social platforms, Ottawa-based Arctic*Empire is quickly making inroads in the mobile technology industry. Founded in May 2010 by a team consisting of Montreal born-and-raised Josh Garellek, who is the company’s CEO, along with his two partners, Avi and Rico (Evangelho), Arctic*Empire hit the ground running upon its arrival on the scene.

“My two partners and I got together and talked about creating a large social game,” Garellek recalls. “This was all around the time when Farmville was very popular. Every social game that was put on Facebook was gaining traction.”

The trio all came from different backgrounds, and were able to pool their respective skill sets together to begin the development of their own social games for the masses.

“Avi is a game designer, Rico is a graphic designer, and what they needed was some business expertise, creativity and organizational structure,” says Garellek. “They approached me and said, ‘Hey, we’re creating a company. Would you want to jump on board and make games with us?’ And I said, ‘Why wouldn’t I? It would be a dream come true.’”

Arctic*Empire created its first social game, ChaChing, shortly afterwards. Garellek and his team began to keep a close eye on other developers in their space, and realized that there was a great opportunity to create games for mobile platforms. They saw the rise of Apple’s App Store and Google Play as a terrific means of getting the word out about the company and its offerings.

“When we were setting up ChaChing and working on it, we saw that the App Store and Google Play were really starting to take off,” says Garellek. “So we decided to jump into the mobile space. We brought on our first full-time developer, and we built our first mobile game, Forest Frenzy, in about six weeks, which has nearly 250,000 downloads”

But they didn’t stop there. Arctic*Empire would go on to release several other mobile games and apps, including working on a new casino-product called Mission Poker, and one designed in conjunction with pop musician Nicki Minaj and Digital Agency Amplify Buzz based in California. The company has also expanded their focus to include other areas outside the mobile gaming industry.

“Predominantly, I consider us a tech powerhouse in the mobile space,” Garellek says. “Mobile is our specialty and forte, but we also offer graphic design work, logos, branding, copy editing, Web development and pure software developing. We’ve created some GUIs, different types of back-end server architecture, and we’re also getting into producing commercials, video editing and video (production).”

Artic*Empire’s latest projects include Props, a new kind of social connectivity application that seeks to make social media connections easier. As Garellek explains, the app expedites the process by having users literally tap their phones together to share contact information instead of searching for it across various social media platforms.

Despite their recent successes, Arctic*Empire faced some challenges at the outset, something experienced by many tech start-ups. It took some time for the company to establish itself within the mobile space, but Garellek and his team were able to turn things around and come up trumps.

“Some of the main challenges we faced were discoverability and having enough work in our portfolio to show our clients and the people that we talk to that we are a very capable agency that can deliver high-quality products,” he says. “There’s the matter of running a small team and day-to-day operations, and you’ll run into issues where you have too much or too little of a pipeline. We’ve also had to find the proper talent; the right mix of developers for what we’re trying to do.”

Garellek adds that the company will soon be moving to a new office space in the heart of downtown Ottawa, a direct result of Arctic*Empire’s growth.

The New Year will see Arctic*Empire continue to build upon its success with mobile and social gambling-style games, but Garellek says that there is much more on the horizon.

“We really want to make a big push in the casino space, and differentiate ourselves by saying that we are a top-notch, boutique-type mobile firm that produces high-quality work for both local and international companies and big brands,” he says.

“We also want to have different aesthetics. Having game designers (on staff) is great, but we also want someone who is able to look at traditional modern advertising versus in-game advertising. It’s a different kind of design aesthetic, and having different people on board who can (use) those aesthetics is important for the clients we’re trying to attract.”

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