Michael Acton Smith: I'm stepping down as CEO of Mind Candy, but that doesn't mean we're IPOing

LAUNCHPAD: The man behind Moshi Monsters quashed rumours he's leaving ('if you cut me I bleed jellybeans'), but told MT he wants a more creative role.

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 30 Sep 2015

Michael Acton Smith, the brains behind Mind Candy which created kids’ online gaming sensation Moshi Monsters, has announced he’s planning to step down as chief executive (and have more time to be on Dragons' Den...?).

In a video posted on YouTube, he quashed rumours he's leaving the company ('if you cut me I bleed jellybeans. I'm not going anywhere') - but added that he's more suited to a creative role. 'I've got notebooks full of ideas', he said.

So who will take the reins at Silicon Roundabout's favourite company? Divinia Knowles, its current chief operating officer (and an alumna of MT's 35 Women Under 35), who joined the business eight years ago will take on the appropriately American-sounding role of 'president'. The company said it is looking for a CEO (one of the Moshlings, perhaps?).

IPO rumours have been swirling around Mind Candy for ages now: results for 2012 filed with Companies House show profits of £10m on revenues of £46.9m, up 60% from the year before. A CEO like Acton Smith - creative, eccentric - making way for someone with a more corporate focus is a classic pre-IPO move. Does this mean the Moshi Monsters are about to find themselves under public scrutiny?

Nope, Acton Smith told MT. 'We're a fair way off. We've had challenging times recently: it's tough building mobile games for kids. Really, really tough. We haven't quite got our head around that and until we do, plans like that aren't on the horizon'.

Presumably he was alluding to figures showing traffic to Moshi Monsters' website fell 53% in the year to June. Kids are fickle, trends come and go - and the challenge is on for Mind Candy to prove it's not a one-hit wonder.

If anyone can do that, it's Acton Smith, whose entrepreneurial history is colourful, if not always glittering. Having co-founded gadget site Firebox.com (which is still going), the first game he developed at Mind Candy was Perplex City, a half-online, half-real life adventure game which 'blurred the boundaries between fiction and reality', and reportedly lost a lot of money in the process (at least one helicopter was involved). Alongside Moshi, Mind Candy now has several new products: World of Warriors (which looks like a cuter version of World of Warcraft), Popjam and Moshi spinoff Poppet, to name a few. So the company has plenty of opportunities.

What does a man who has just given himself his dream job do to celebrate stepping down as CEO? Spend the weekend in the country, apparently: Acton Smith said he was off for a weekend away with his partner, Kathryn Parsons, who founded Decoded. He may not be Mind Candy's boss any more, but he's still one half of Silicon Roundabout's power couple. 'Michryn', anyone?

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