Yesterday I hung out with Henk Rogers who controls the Tetris video game. We took a ride in his brand new Tesla. It was AWESOME.
Henk was the co-founder and lead investor of my last company, iLovePhotos. He’s been a major inspiration in my life and truly embodies the rags to riches story (at one time he worked as a cabbie).
Growing up in a poor family with eight siblings, Henk got into computers and video games early in the 80s. He went to the University of Hawaii just so that he could take the computer related courses and have access to all the equipment. Once he took all the classes, he dropped out.
At the time he hunkered down and wrote the first role playing game in Japan called The Black Onyx. After a brief stumble, the game turned out to be a massive hit. As his company grew, he travelled the world looking for games to publish and came across Tetris. The Tetris licensing story is, itself, worthy of a James Bond movie. Lots of Soviet agencies and multi-national companies vied to prevent Henk from obtaining rights to the game. Henk become good friends with the actual creator of Tetris, Alexey Pajitnov, and struck a deal with Nintendo. Through sheer perseverance and audacity he was able to gradually secure all the rights to the game over a span of 20 years.
Now, of course, Tetris is worth hundreds of millions of dollars and is the most popular casual game in the world (even Google recently celebrated it’s 25th Anniversary). It’s easy to write it off as luck. But consider how many games are created each year and just how simple Tetris is – colorful falling blocks that form lines. The funny thing about luck is just how much work it takes. Henk has spent the last 25 years making Tetris into a “lucky” global phenomenon.
A couple years ago, I was really struggling with some issues at the company. I asked Henk for some advice and he said, “if it was easy, everyone would do it.” I remember that line every time I encounter a challenge.