Michael Acton Smith is founder and creative director of Mind Candy
Michael Acton Smith is founder and creative director of Mind Candy
A view from Michael Acton Smith

Moshi Monsters-creator Michael Acton Smith: 'Most kids go to YouTube before they search on Google'

Michael Acton Smith, founder and creative director of Mind Candy, speaks to Marketing about his business drives and leadership style in the age of generation start-up. His company owns the 80m-user Moshi Monsters, now a movie franchise.

Work hard and be nice to people. We have this on the wall at Mind Candy, and it is one of my favourite posters. There is no point being a billionaire if everyone thinks you’re a dick.

Go for a coffee. Never underestimate the value of getting away from your desk and working in a new environment like a coffee shop. I scribbled the first doodles for Moshi Monsters in Caffè Nero on Battersea Rise, London. There is something about the ambient noise, bustle and energy that helps me think deeply or dream up crazy ideas.

Learn away from the office. Conferences get a bad rap because most are soulless affairs that take place in windowless hotel basements. But there are joyful ones out there such as The Do Lectures, Stream, SXSW and DLD.

Ask for forgiveness, not permission. It is a good mantra for a fast-moving business in changing times. Bill Roedy, our non-executive director, gave us this advice. He ran MTV Networks International for two decades. This mantra served him well as he navigated new markets and took risks, rather than waiting for every "t" to be crossed and "i" dotted.

Tech start-ups are not for all. They can be extraordinary places to work, but they are definitely not for everyone. They are intense, chaotic and stressful, but can also be the most fun you will ever have in your career.

Kids are the ultimate early adopters. Keep an eye on the swipe generation, you can learn a lot from them. For example, most kids will go to YouTube before Google when they are searching for information. Video brings subjects to life so much more vividly than a page of text.

Think viral. Who created the ad campaigns that made Instagram, Whatsapp, Twitter or Google household names? No one. The best digital products grow because the products are brilliant and have viral elements built in.

Use this marketing plan for a consumer app. (1) Create an amazing product. (2) Seed it to a small group of passionate advocates. (3) Ensure hooks are built into the product that incentivise each user to share it with their friends. (4) World domination.

There is no point being a billionaire if everyone thinks you’re a dick.

Making successful mobile games looks easy but it is mind-bogglingly hard. Only 0.15% of players account for 50% of app store revenues. If you are not building games that appeal to that tiny minority, you will struggle.

A beautiful, fun and creative office does not need to cost a lot, but it makes the world of difference to the mindset of your staff and guests. Most offices seem to have the same strip lighting, bland furniture and grey carpets. They are not places that most people look forward to spending time in or doing their best creative work within.

Meet and read. As [former UCLA basketball coach] John Wooden said: "Five years from now, you’re the same person except for the people you’ve met and the books you’ve read." My librarian dad inspired my love of reading by bringing home random books every week. Dr Seuss and Tolkien were early influences that helped spark my love of fantasy worlds and bizarre characters.

If you don’t love your job, get a new one. The internet now makes it easier to carve out a niche in what you are most passionate about. A friend loved taking photos of the London Underground and amassed an audience of thousands on Instagram. She has leveraged that success into a business that works with brands to help grow their Instagram profiles. Life is too short to spend your waking hours on something that does not make you happy.