Childhood friends can be many things: a reminder of humble roots, a thorn in the side or, in the case of Valtteri Kiviniemi and Aarni Rautava, a springboard for success. Entrepreneurial at heart, Kiviniemi founded his first company when he was 16 years old, renting game servers for Counter-Strike matches. All was running smoothly for the budding businessman, until he bumped into his pal’s mischievous intent.
“Aarni was a black hat cheater back in the day,” he recalls, with a smile. “He threatened to destroy my servers. But then I said, what if he would use his skills to make an anti-cheat – it is more challenging.”
Thankfully, Rautava was up to the task. With his skills harnessed for the common good, such was his enthusiasm for his new role that he eventually went on to found his own company, focusing on a third party e-sports anti-cheat.
So, that should be the end of the story, right? Well, not quite.
Feeling the heat
Now, it’s often said that Finnish women are some of the country’s most prolific importers, with many a lovestruck foreigner upping stumps and moving to this chilly corner of the world after meeting the girl of their dreams.
You can add Belgian Simon Allaeys to this long list. But where he joins this particular tale is that his lady in question just happens to be Rautava’s cousin. And, given that this is Finland, it didn’t take long before he, Rautava and Kiviniemi were seated together in a sauna, pondering life’s conundrums.
“All three of us started talking about anti-cheat,” Allaeys says. “Aarni was complaining how his market was going down. We thought, let’s just team up and make a company. We would shift the focus to an integrated cutting-edge anti-cheat, for games like Battlefield and Call of Duty.”
Two months later the trio found themselves inside another sauna – Aalto University’s Startup Sauna accelerator, to be precise – and the rest, as they say, is history.
Except that it wasn’t. Not yet.
After a frustrating couple of weeks of unanswered emails and dead ends, the trio grew increasingly desperate. The solution came from their mentor at Startup Sauna: go and pitch a tent in front of the company they most want to speak to until they secure some face time.
With nothing to lose, a couple of days later they boarded a plane, unaware of just how dramatically their fortunes were about to change.
“Monday morning we went to one of the top game development companies in Stockholm,” Allaeys enthuses. “It turned out to be great timing. At 9 am we were in a meeting and presenting what we do. We got introductions to other studios, signed three games and built the company from there.”
Moving on up
Nowadays, EasyAntiCheat*’s all-around service counters hacking and cheating in PC online games. Under the watchful gaze of its bear mascot, Teddy (“Don’t bear with the cheaters”), the preventative measures of the company encapsulate the game process in a safe environment.
“We protect games against the likes of code injections, external access and reverse engineering,” Kiviniemi says. “The idea is that the game publisher can fully focus on developing their game without worrying about hackers ruining the game experience for others.”
EasyAntiCheat offers same day integration worldwide and the solution remains independent of the game development cycle. Many have flocked to the service, with the company’s revenue growth rate tripling annually.
In fact, things have been moving so quickly for the bootstrapped trio over the past couple of years that they have had to change offices frequently, to make room for their growing ranks of employees. Even now, although their current working space enjoys a gob-smacking panorama over Helsinki, and neighbours such as F-Secure, it seems they probably shouldn’t be throwing away their packing boxes any time soon.
“I only found this office in November,” Kiviniemi laments with a shrug. “I thought it was going to be too big, too expensive. But now it’s getting to be too small.”
*Part of Epic Games since 2018