GBC Spotlight: Mark Miller
Co-Founder & CEO, No Sleep Software
Mark is a co-founder and CEO of No Sleep Software, a video game development studio in Toronto. The business was founded by a team of 5 graduates from George Brown’s Game Programming program in 2018.
With a background in Architecture and Engineering studies, Mark changed career paths to pursue his passion for the video game industry. Despite being a proficient programmer, Mark acts as the producer for No Sleep’s projects and is responsible for all project management, team coordination, and development pipeline.
He has the opportunity to direct, encourage, and empower his business on a daily basis, a role that suits his outgoing and supportive nature.
We had the opportunity to ask Mark a few questions!
Mark, what’s your educational background?
I have a diploma in Architecture and Engineering Technology from Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops BC, but most recently graduated from GBC with a diploma in Game Programming.
What made you want to become an entrepreneur?
I’ve always aspired to start a business for myself. Growing up working for a variety of small businesses, I always felt more valued as an employee when I could work directly with the owner of the business where my voice was heard. That mindset has followed me as I pursue my career, and now that I have my own business I try to impart that same feeling of value among those I work with.
Why did you create No Sleep Software?
No Sleep Software was created to challenge the outdated development practices of the video game industry. Despite being an exciting and creative field, there is a well-documented history of mismanagement and neglect. The development of games has grown into a billion dollar industry, but despite such progress, there are still regular reports of employee overworking, insufficient and unequal pay, and toxic workplace culture.
When my co-founders and I graduated from GBC we decided that rather than getting work from bigger businesses where our voice would not be heard, that instead we would lead by example and create a workplace that valued all the things our industry often forgets. We are a business that wants to make video games that excite and challenge our players because at its heart our business is a team of gamers, but we refuse to develop games at the expense of ourselves and our employees. As the business grows, the most important thing to me is maintaining a workplace where everyone has a voice, and everyone is empowered to be the best that they can be.
What successes has No Sleep Software enjoyed so far?
Our business is young (and so are our co-founders), and despite the steep learning curve of starting a business from scratch, we’ve had some great successes so far.
We released our first game, which began as a student project in our final year, in October 2018. Throughout development and release, we were able to take the project to a number of events across Ontario, showcasing our business and connecting with people along the way.
We’ve had the opportunity to work in the George Brown Digital Media and Gaming Incubator, which has allowed us to grow our business in a collaborative space with like-minded entrepreneurs. Using what we’ve learned we’ve begun work on a second project internally, as well as offering our services to other studios in Toronto to help grow the independent game development scene at a grassroots level.
What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
The switch between feeling rewarded for your work and feeling unrewarded is flipped constantly when you’re an entrepreneur, especially in the early stages (I can’t really speak for the later stages yet). When working for another business I took for granted the amount of work that goes on behind the scenes just for the business to operate.
A games studio makes video games, but a games studio definitely also pays taxes, budgets expenses, meets with lawyers and accountants, and any number of other jobs required to keep the lights on. Someone has to handle these jobs, and when it’s your own business that person is you, and it certainly isn’t always the most rewarding work.
However, if you are truly passionate about making the business succeed the best advice I can give is to stay focused on the bigger picture. It is a great privilege to be able to take a leap and try to build a business of your own, and by taking that step you’re already farther ahead than everyone else who hasn’t tried. Focus on the good things and work hard so that there are more of them, and you’ll do fine.