Rahul Sood on Esports, Blockchain, and Startups
Business Today (Quang Trinh): What are your thoughts about Esports and its potential to grow as an industry?
Rahul Sood: There are hundreds and millions of people around the world watching esports and playing competitive video games. When you include the full gaming entertainment industry, including playing, streaming and competing, the esports ecosystem has immense potential to change the nature of entertainment.
BT: You just mentioned how Unikrn has a really comprehensive legal backing behind its conduct, and I think that a lot of users would appreciate this fact. As Unikrn dealt with betting on its website, previously there has been some incidents with Esports betting, such as Valve’s decision to suspend CSGO betting sites. What do you think is the most important for managing betting for nontraditional sports?
RS: Flexible regulation which protects users and allows innovation is crucial, especially when it comes to online wagering. Unikrn was built to be the first regulated esports-first bookmaker in the world, paving the way for legitimate organizations to enter the space. Unikrn is the only company in the world with our license: regulator-approved crypto and cash betting on esports, streamers, virtual matches, and more.
BT: A lot of start-ups, when they talk about their issues, they mention the difficulties in managing their goals. In your opinion, how should start-ups approach this dilemma?
RS: Startups should be thinking about how to build a community. Number one, you need a team which understand the products and who will use it. This is the basis of your team culture. When that team makes a product, it will always be a better product people will love compared to product-first mentalities. This helps build community and brand, and your successes will bring new goals and directions in focus as you’re ready for them. Consider Tesla and Apple, where people want to be a part of the community, and that community builds the foundation for your brand. If you have a strong community, then it becomes a foundation for your brand.
BT: You started out with VoodooPC and it has been a successful venture for you. From this experience, what really stands out for you?
RS: One thing that stands out for me is understanding the culture of community. In 1993 we built one of the first online communities in our space in the early days of the Internet. This proved to be one of the biggest reasons VoodooPC became a global brand.
BT: You have worked with startups and later on you worked in a Microsoft fund in helping startups. How does this transition pan out for you, and what do you find most interesting from this transition?
RS: I think it is interesting to see how a big company operates, The transition to Microsoft helped me develop a much wider view of businesses and startups, seeing an enormous variety of the possible challenges startups face in different forms.
BT: When you first started out, what were your thoughts, did you ever imagine yourself in a position like you are in today, and are there any goals you especially wanted to achieve?
RS: I still have a lot that I want to achieve. I think it is really interesting to see the intersection between esports, video games, regulated betting and blockchain technology, and what it could do in the future. But I never imagined myself in the position that I am in today, I usually break things out in 3-5 year increments.
BT: Over your career, what would you say is the greatest difficulty so far?
RS: I think one of the challenges comes from regulation. We are a fairly integrated business; on the gambling side, we deal with regulators on a fairly often basis; on the blockchain side, there are a lot of regulatory uncertainties. It is a challenge to operate without common regulation across the jurisdictions in which we work. I think the next generation of blockchain businesses might not exist in the US, creating an innovation wave that Americans could potentially miss.
BT: What advice do you have for a student aspiring to get into startups?
RS: Everyone has a different set of talent and you need to have time to explore them. Try and find something you love to do, ultimately if you love it you can inspire people to join you on your journey. I think money should not be the primary driver. Money is just an outcome of great work.
Rahul Sood is the CEO of Unikrn, a global Esports company built on cutting edge blockchain and gaming technologies.
Previous to Unikrn, Sood created the first incubation fund for startups at Microsoft, and eventually he consolidated their global startup activities. In June 2013, he launched Microsoft Ventures.
A serial entrepreneur, Sood spent 18 years in multiple startups prior to joining Microsoft. He founded luxury and gaming computer manufacturer VoodooPC, which was acquired by Hewlett-Packard. Voodoo brought the ENVY and OMEN product lines to HP, contributing advanced technologies such as commercial liquid cooling and an increased focus on design.
Sood is a co-founder of BrightSquid Medical and BullsOnWallStreet, and he is an active angel investor in a number of Startups. Sood is an early shareholder and advisor to Maingear, Razer, and Vrvana which was recently acquired by Apple.
Unikrn’s mission is to heighten the experience of watching and participating in esports. Unikrn is venture backed and raised a total of 10 million dollars with investors such as Ashton Kutcher, Mark Cuban, Liz Murdoch, Shari Redstone, and many others. Unikrn signed an exclusive global partnership with one of the largest wagering companies in the world, and has opened their doors to multiple international markets. Unikrn has been featured on Forbes, Fortune, ESPN, CNBC and countless publications around the world.
He is active in the entrepreneurial community, helping and mentoring a variety of startups. In his spare time, Sood enjoys wake surfing & wake boarding, standup paddle boarding, cycling, racing cars and spending time with his family. He is a native of Calgary, Alberta, Canada. You can find him on Twitter @rahulsood. You can find Unikrn on Twitter @unikrnco.