You are not only a technology entrepreneur, but an avid player for many years. Their first step into the hardware area was also the desire to quietly develop PCs to improve the gaming experience.
Would you say that this was your main attraction – to create things that you want to use as a player?
Rahul Sood: That’s a great question. I think the best companies are those who create and repeat the best experiences for themselves. Companies like Apple, Google, Ferrari and Tesla are good examples. At Unikrn, we hire the smartest people who love sports and video games, and we build everything we build for ourselves.
My professional career has extended far beyond gaming since joining HP and being the founder of Microsoft Ventures. However, the startups that defined my career and call me back are in the gaming and entertainment space. In our hearts, all founders and almost all senior management at Unikrn are deeply invested players. We live and breathe sports and betting – it’s a crazy combination, but it’s so much fun.
They co-founded Unikrn in 2014, when the market was mainly betting on unregulated skins, and managed to secure important financial backing. What inspired you to make that first leap in faith, and why do you think others believed in the business?
RS: Esports is the fastest growing sport in the world and although the mainstream culture has only recently shown interest, it has been growing for gamers for over a decade. Unikrn was one of the earliest companies to have been very supportive in this area, and I think the reason we got this funding is due to our vision and our team. My experience with VoodooPC and Microsoft Ventures has helped attract the right types of investments. The one thing that inspired me to take the leap of faith was that my son told me to go into the sport – he urged me to play some current games and spend some time learning about it. In the meantime my co-founder Karl Flores from Microsoft has supplanted me: He was and is a big fan of sports betting and loves to play video games. We met with my old friend Daniel Rudolph, our CTO, and decided to found Unikrn.
How does it feel to find a new way of betting in e-sports? How do you go about taking the necessary decisive steps?
RS: It’s exciting and nerve-wracking to be at the top. Unikrn is a leader in developing Esport betting, but we are first an Esport company. Betting is one of the domains we really define, but we are creating a world-class esport coverage. We have some of the world’s leading esport teams (BIG currently participating in the CS: GO Super Bowl) that we throw. At events and tournaments, we have acquired one of the most technologically advanced tournament and matchmaking platforms in the world. Every aspect of our platform is based on revolutionary blockchain technologies that throw other platforms to dust. This is not exhaustive for what we do. If you are as far as college, there is no way to stop and wait for the market. Everyone in this company has ideas and we have an open-door policy to exchange feedback. Sure, not everything we try, work, and not everything we want to try has priority. But the fact is that we know what we want to do and why we want to do it first. Then we find out how to get there, and everyone is involved in this process: management; Employees and customers.
The creation of original content and the exchange of sports news are an important part of the activities of Unikrn, especially at your Berlin location. How do you see yourself as a media company as well as a betting company?
RS: Unikrn is neither a media company nor a betting company. We are a fan-first esport company based on the latest blockchain and gaming technologies. Our platform is diverse and offers everything players and sports fans need to enhance the experience of watching or participating in sports. Our content creators work on many non-news projects. This is how the betting and the media side come together. When we developed our content strategy, the mission was to embed great content into the Esport community. Even for those who are not interested in betting, our content helps players familiarize themselves with our brand and our other products, including our tournament platform, Connekt, Jackpots and our broader user community.
Our editor-in-chief is a former Marvel Comics editor, and the team working under it is made up of absolute Esport experts. These are career professionals who bring capabilities that we not only use for reporting, but also support product testing, development, marketing, quality assurance, public relations, and brainstorming new ideas. In short, producing content makes us more efficient. As we develop a new product, we have culture experts on hand who are always up to date with their game subcultures. At the same time, we offer professional coverage of a quality that sports fans long for and that we rarely see.
How do you see the development in the next few years after the opening of the US market and what impact will the entry of sport into the gambling industry have on the more traditional brands?
We believe that Esport is the key to reaching future betting customers. There is a better data access opportunity, a growing market, far more games than traditional sports, and it grows at a rate that confuses the mind. Unikrn is already working with casino partners to help play and sports audiences at events, and we know that many US operators are beginning to see their future in sports and game integration. In Las Vegas slots attract no young people who want real interactivity and modern experiences. We know these experiences are being integrated and many traditional brands are pushing to find out how they can do it best. I think we’ll be experimenting a lot with it over the next 10 years, and the companies that want to gain experience from the endemic perspective of gamers (companies like Unikrn) will be the success stories.