General Manager Clayton Stark sets the stage for KIXEYE Canada.
by Carla Girvin
Even before opening the Canadian arm of KIXEYE—a San Francisco–based online gaming company—a year ago, Clayton Stark already had made a great impression on Will Harbin, the company’s chief executive officer. Stark was handpicked by Harbin to be the general manager of KIXEYE Canada because of his proven track record, which included working with Harbin on Netscape early on in his tech career. “He’d seen me throw a hundred people in a room and kick ass before,” says Stark. “He contacted me and said, ‘Let’s do this.’”
Stark’s circuitous road to KIXEYE started young. When asked how he got his start in the technology industry, he teases, “Getting kicked out of elementary school,” before noting his love for science and engineering actually sparked while working at a shipyard—“Remember shipyards?” he jokes. Next, he moved on to heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) control and power management.
“I had a fantastic opportunity with many years at Power Measurement Ltd. to learn project management, product management, and understand logistic risk, technical risk and commercial risk,” says Stark. “That really rounded everything out.”
From there—sequentially—he moved on to help startup biotechology firm GenoLogics win a TELUS New Ventures award for its business plan; became the chief operating officer at Mercurial Communications, where he worked on the Netscape browser for America Online (AOL); and opened Flock, a successful social Web browser that was later acquired—along with Stark—by Zynga. “We got to innovate in social networking before it was even real, before Facebook had a wall,” says Stark of his time at Flock and Zynga.
Along the way, he worked his way through the ranks, holding executive positions in technology, operations, marketing and business development. Now, as general manager of KIXEYE Canada, he credits his diverse background for his success.
“I had an opportunity to span a lot of elements of business. It’s key to opening up more opportunities. Being versed on all sides of it is definitely helpful,” he says.
Having worked with Colliers International broker Robert Down in the spring of 2012 to help Zynga procure office space in Victoria, British Columbia, Stark was looking to improve his surroundings when he was searching for a location for the KIXEYE Canada development studio.
“Because KIXEYE and Zynga are sort of competitive, certainly for resources, we wanted to have a better space than the office we’d set up for Zynga … so I phoned Robert back up and I said, ‘We’re doing it again, only a little bit bigger this time, please.’ And now we’re in this beautiful place,” he says.
“This beautiful place” being the top floor of 31 Bastion Square, a heritage building on the Inner Harbour of downtown Victoria, B.C. Constructed in 1892 and renovated in the 1970s, the Board of Trade Building, as it is known, is owned by Vancouver-based Reliance Properties. KIXEYE occupies 8,000 square feet, but currently uses only half of the space for offices.
“We love the landmark nature of the building,” says Stark. “We are definitely a consumer-facing organization and we like to show big. Especially in the gaming industry, you like to win. You want the guy coming to work feeling like he’s a rock star.”
With technology overtaking tourism as the private-sector industry having the most economic impact in Victoria, Stark says that, for him, the reason he works here is simple: “I chose to live here. My family is here. I’m not leaving. I’m trapped here, if you like, but what a beautiful place to be trapped in.”
Besides the appealing lifestyle, Victoria is gaining attention among tech workers because of the growing opportunities. With a highly skilled talent pool comes the risk of employees breaking out and starting their own companies, but Stark says that he welcomes the concept, benefiting from the expanding network of resources.
“It creates quite a network of people,” he says. “If you can do business with a trusted friend whom you’ve been through a project with, then you are going to have a lot more confidence in knowing what to expect from that person.”
Besides his belief that communication is the key to success, Stark’s advice for people trying to break in to the tech sector is to be hungry for it.
“Whenever you’re given an opportunity, always do two things: Deliver the opportunity to the best of your ability—do A-plus work on what you’ve been asked to do—but also bring back a second answer that you weren’t asked for, about what you learned while you were doing the first opportunity. And don’t wait for somebody to give you a path to create value—go and find ways to create value.”
This article appears in Colliers International's Winter 2013/2014 edition of Knowledge Leader Magazine.
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