“As long as you’re hitting the targets you set for yourself, it doesn’t matter if you work at a desk, in our office, or from a sun lounger on the beach”
The Stakester app lets users play their favourite video games for real cash and prizes. We sat down with the company’s Founder and CEO, Tom Fairey, to discuss the future of gaming, NFTs, and why he allows his employees to work from anywhere in the world.
1. Can you tell us about your background and where the inspiration for Stakester came from?
I’m the guy who wasn’t as clever as everyone else, who grew up trying to outcompete everyone. After a career in the city and a successful journey with a fraud prevention company I founded, I knew I wanted to build something more fun.
I was honestly surprised when I found there wasn’t already an app that allowed gamers to compete for money or prizes. I know there are competitive people like me everywhere who want to back themselves – I wanted to create that opportunity for everyone.
2. Was it always your ambition to work in the Gaming sector?
No, I’m actually rubbish at games. But I love to compete. I’ve been into sports all my life, so I know what it’s like to get good at something and want to test yourself against better and better people. That being said, I think almost everyone at Stakester would beat me at FIFA – but it wouldn’t stop me from playing them!
3. Gaming and eSports innovation boomed as result of the pandemic – Stakester grew its user base by 6,000% in 2021. What does the future look like for Gaming and ESports post-pandemic?
We’ve already seen ESports appear on huge sports TV channels, as well as across YouTube and social media. In its inaugural season, the ePremier League event had a net viewership of 150 million, and as those viewers grow older and carry their passion for gaming further into the mainstream, those numbers are only going to go up.
I think the pandemic gave a lot of people the time to rekindle their gaming habits; those who had moved away from playing on console suddenly found they had the time to get back into it. Plus, the people who were already playing a lot could play more.
4. What trends are you currently seeing in the Gaming and eSports industry?
NFTs are becoming a bit of a hot topic, but there’s a lot of backlash associated with gaming NFT drops; lots of people just view them as just a money grab. And that’s fair enough – lots of people are just trying to cash in on someone else’s IP.
Our project – VIP Cheat Codes – is really focused on utility, we wanted to give real value to our users. Our NFT pass allows users to play for more money, win exclusive prizes and even earn a share of royalties from secondary market sales.
5. How big is competition right now in Gaming and eSports?
It’s bigger than ever. Prize money is growing across games and platforms year on year – the winners of this year’s ePremier League took home £30,000! The popularity of eSports as a whole is evident through the growth of the industry’s valuation – it grew to $1.08 billion in 2021, and in 2 years’ time it’s expected to be worth over $1.6 billion.
6. Your employees can work any day of the week and from anywhere in the world. Why do you feel a flexible work culture is important?
Creativity isn’t confined to the hours of 9-5 from Monday until Friday. The more freedom a person has over their work, the more they’re inclined to give it their all – as long as you’re hitting the targets you set for yourself, it doesn’t matter if you work at a desk, in our office, or from a sun lounger on the beach.
Overall, we don’t want our employees to feel like work is just somewhere they go, we want them to feel like it’s something they do – totally flexible working is paramount to that.
7. What does the ‘future of work’ look like to you?
Lockdowns and working from home have shown people that there are many ways to work. The preconception that work has to involve a commute or spending 8 hours cooped up in a cubicle has been blown wide open – it’s just obviously not true.
Ultimately, the future of work is going to be determined by the workers – some people love working from home and others hate it. It’s up to companies to make sure that their employees have the choice to do either, if they want to continue attracting top talent.
8. Has there been a significant highlight or memorable moment in the journey of starting Stakester?
For me, it has to be when we hit 100,000 users on our app. It was a great moment, and we can’t wait for the next milestone.
9. London has become a breeding ground for successful tech start-ups. Do you think the Stakester office being in London has impacted the success of the app in any way?
With our team, I think we could achieve success anywhere. But it’s true that London is the hub of startups in the UK, so that’s probably helped us gain a good reputation as one of the hottest gaming startups to be coming out of the city.
10. What advice would you give to any young entrepreneurs?
Action kills doubt. If you’re thinking about starting a business, do it, start today! You aren’t going to know everything, but you’ll pick it up along the way – and don’t be afraid to approach people you respect in business to ask for their advice and even their mentorship.