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From Game Over to Home Makeover: How I Renovated My Life to Build the Perfect Home Design Game

My name is Alex Åhlund, and I’m the founder of Hometopia. I’ve been developing video games for nearly thirty years.

Alex Åhlund — Founder of Hometopia

I’m half Swedish, but I grew up in the U.S. (My father lives in Stockholm now.) I moved around a lot — Texas, Wisconsin, Florida, Georgia, then went to college in Boston, worked in San Francisco, and now I live in Richmond, Virginia.

Childhood Passion and Early Ventures

I’ve been building businesses since I was a child. I vividly remember selling things out of my briefcase at elementary school — specifically rocks like amethyst, tiger’s eye, and pyrite. I learned important lessons about customer acquisition and retention when my best customer’s mother put an end to his rock-buying spree.

My older brother has always been my most trusted collaborator. In school, we sold hand-drawn Trapper Keeper folder covers adorned with characters from the game Street Fighter (our mutual love of games has stood the test of time). Our bond has grown even stronger as our careers have crossed paths over the years in the game development industry, and we still work together closely today.

Early Experiences in Game Development

My fascination with computers and programming began as a child. In the early days, I programmed in QBasic and then in Visual Basic, and I also dabbled in game development engines like Klik N Play and Multimedia Fusion. I developed my first game in QBasic at age 8, and it was an ASCII text-based real-time strategy masterpiece. With limited visual capabilities, I embraced the challenge by utilizing ASCII art and MIDI music. At 10 years old, my talent caught the attention of the Palm Pilot company, where my mod pack for an RPG game was featured and included in the retail package.

Little did I know that these early experiences would shape the course of my entire career.

At 13 years old, I built out a fully remote, ten-person game development team, working with people all over the world. Our first project was a 3d first-person multiplayer shooter game, and a casino company approached us about funding it to use exclusively for in-room entertainment, but the deal fell apart when the casino company realized if people were in their rooms playing video games, they weren’t gambling. And thus began a lifelong pattern of early successes and minor career setbacks–that continue to galvanize my resolve and hone my craft.