Thomas Fairey is the co-founder of Stakester. His company allows people to play their favorite online games for real money and prizes.
In this interview you’ll learn about the unexpected start of Stakester, and how it has blossomed into a multimillion dollar business.
About Thomas Fairey
The story of how his venture was started is truly unlike any other story that has been shared on Deliberate Leaders before! Tom is a prime example of what it looks like to live deliberately. His “everything but normal” mentality has not only led Stakester to become the success that it is today, but has also led others to start their own new startups.
Read the Transcript
This transcript was auto-generated from the original video recording using Otter Voice Meeting Notes. While the transcript has not been human edited, we hope it will still help you to quickly find or reference useful information from the interview.
Deliberate Leaders I am your host Allison Dunn, Executive Coach and founder of the Deliberate Leaders podcast dedicated to helping leaders build strong, thriving businesses. Each episode we feature inspiring interviews to help you on your leadership journey. And today’s guest I’m super excited to introduce his name is Tom Fairy, he is the Co Founder of Stakester. The story of how this venture was started is truly unlike any other story that has yet been shared here on the Deliberate Leaders podcast. Tom is a prime example of what it looks like to live deliberately. He’s everything but normal mentality has not only led Skatester , to become this is the success it has today. But it’s also helped other leaders start their own startups. I’m really looking forward to learning more about the unexpected start of your company, Tom, and how it has blossomed into a multi-million dollar business. Tom, thank you so much for joining us here today on Deliberate Leaders.
Thank you so much. Thank you for that wonderful introduction. I mean, this is great. I mean, it’s like it was like an announcement of walking into the ring. Like No, but like an entrepreneurial ring. That was quite nice. If you like, like a female Bruce Buffer, I enjoyed that. Then you get your own, let’s get ready to rumble as it comes in.
That’s right. I hear kind of like the red carpet. You know, Here comes your I actually came through a wrestling.
I don’t even bother, I’ll say about as good enough as it was. It’s fine. Yeah, I think.
Absolutely. I kick these off, typically with a quick, deliberate conversation. So my question for you is, what would be your number one leadership tip four our deliberate leaders?
Oh, great one. And number one, they said, It’s literally got nothing to do with you. All right, that’s where you got to remember, okay. You’re like no one no one cares about you. Like, it’s just like you all your job, as a leader genuinely is to like, is to get the best out of your team. That’s what it is. Okay, now, if that means the best way to get to get the best out of the team is to be, you know, the person who works the hardest, the person who leads from the front, the person who does the best, and everyone follows them on, that’s fine. Like, you know, I spent a lot of rugby and rather over captain of the team, when you talk about leadership, you just got to put in a better shift than everyone else. But if this is not always the case, because you don’t have the skill set, so everyone else in your team, okay, so your job as said, it’s just not about you, it’s about them. So I hate this term, business leader, I refer to myself as a head coach, because it’s you all I do, like, I’m just there to make sure to get the best performance out of everyone. Make sure we all understand what the goals are, and then arrange transfers in and out of the business. So basically, what I’m doing just that just to get the best sound, right, get the most out. And so that’s why I say it’s not my best number one leadership tip. yet. It’s not about you.
It’s not about you. That is a solid, solid one. And I concur. I think every business owner should have a title as head coach, because that is essentially what you are so good on you for pointing that out. That’s awesome.
Like, I’ve actually made the commitment now, especially on my LinkedIn.
Oh, is it? I bounced back and forth. It might be on mine as well. And it’s not I’m turning it back. It has been in the past.
Like when startup founders put CEO of wall like,
Who are you either?
Do you see a wall? like yourself? And yeah, the lady who was behind the counter in the coffee shop? Like what are you talking about? Yeah, maybe when you get to like 50 people, it’s okay, baby. But yeah, I’m not into that.
I don’t I think that people should have whatever title they want, but okay, they should still act like a head coach.
Okay, okay. Okay. Well, we’ll go with that.
Unknown Speaker 4:04
Tom, I think have a really cool story. And so can you just share what events basically fostered you again, got you fired up to start this venture? It’s Skatester.
Unknown Speaker 4:16
Yes, you’re okay. So okay, so poor piece of background is that I am obsessive Li competitive. Okay, this is not a it’s not a surprise. And so my life has always been about trying to find competition. So when I, when I left University, and I started working, I, like I discovered sales, right? Because it’s just like, this is the best way of like, it’s competition, but you get paid for every day. Like, you work harder, you do better, you get paid more, and you earn the bragging rights, which is really what it’s about in sales. And anyone who says is not they’re saving, okay, so it’s like that was I was always really into competition. And also myself, I’m pretty infamous. My martial arts I’m not very good, just as a caveat here are listening things so they can beat me up. The answer is yes, you could. So, but I just, I just want a competition for muy Thai, which is a Thai Thai boxing. It’s like kickboxing, okay? Thailand thing and I was in the gym and I was doing a jujitsu class. And I’m on the mat. And I’m not any good at jujitsu. I’m like, you know, I’m, like, mid level. And this, this big Russian guy walks in. And you know, he’s, he’s had, you know, he’s got invisible lap syndrome, and he’s got a vest on and he walks past the mat. And he said, I recognize your winning competition. And I was like, Yeah, yeah, did Thanks, buddy. All my mates around me, obviously, knowing that I’m incredibly arrogant and vain. They like Shut up. Don’t say that in front of him. And then he says, he says to me, guys, work hard, but it doesn’t make any sense. You look so weak. Instantly, my heart breaks. Because I get thanks for building me up. Anyway, as you progress, and he says things to me things like he says, Well, maybe it’ll be a negative response. Sometimes they say accents getting a little bit worse as we go. Maybe you just got really complex ancestry. I think he might be maybe partly Italian. Let’s not say it’s my accent. It says his anyway. And so he anyway, the way it transpired was eventually, we agreed to have a wrestling match. Okay, and the first one tap last, and we say and he’s like, what are we doing for money? And I’m like, okay, mate, like you’ve charged me now. So we both put a tantrum. And then we wrestle. And we do some jujitsu. And it turns out that he didn’t realize that he did. He’s actually there’s a science behind it. He taps out really quickly to get to the grump. And he storms off. I’m like, well, Where’s my money? And he’s like, well, I ever buy your next time. I’m like, no, that’s not okay. So I get my phone now, I’m getting an assault. I mean, there must be an app for this. And there wasn’t a literally like that early. That was it. Boom. It’s on. The idea was that nap problem was like, it didn’t really work for sports. The idea was all right, that didn’t really work for sports. And so I am as as I mentioned earlier, like, you know, it’s not about me, I literally know nothing about nothing, and I’m hugely unqualified start a business. So especially in the esports area and gaming, but I was like, Look, and also when I was growing up gaming was for losers. My brother was one of the first ever pro gamers So naturally, I thought that everyone who gave must be an absolute loser, know how I feel now, but he 1000 times so as I need to find someone to join my squad. And so I was like, okay, so I just banging in the network, the usual thing you do, like, Who is there anyone around who I know that he in the space? And ago used to work for me. Lady used to work for me. She used to work for EA Sports. I called her up and my Hey, Monica. Yeah. She’s American. And so I told her this, this concept, and she said, Oh my god, I love this. This is great. You speak my fiance and I don’t want to speak to your fiance. And she’s like, what he he was the CO creator of Grand Theft Auto off the biggest game of all time. I lost my mind. Okay, cool. Yeah, he’s got a boom. Yeah, exactly. My job. So I’m like, Hey, what’s he doing tomorrow? Night six. And she’s like, do you want to why’d you want to do a CT? I’m like, No, I’m looking at Skyscanner. I can be New York tomorrow night. So I literally, I hopped on a plane. If I leave it straight away. It was so bad. I need to go on a plane. I flew over to meet a guy, a man and some shifty coffee shop in Brooklyn, which in inverted commas did really good coffee. He told me and then that was awful. It’s just so edgy and hipster, and it just tasted like burn brown water. And, and I met with him. He’s like, he’s British. So naturally, he’s incredibly intelligent and handsome and charming. And he said, He’s like, do you know what? Yeah, I don’t think. Yeah. And so reasons was will work. But you know what? I believe you, Tom. I’m in. And that’s it. And that’s how we started. That’s literally that’s literally the story of how we began. So er, you saw your question, how did again, sweat, arrogance, a Russian and an incredibly expensive last minute prize in New York?
Well, that’s a simple story. I mean, it’s like how I hear most businesses get started.
So Tom, good on good on you. The best story start with a Russian topping out that’s absolutely. Ironically, my investors that are Russian so as you owe a lot to the Russian people. Maybe if I see that guy again. I should give him some coin. Yeah.
Yeah. Did he ever pay? No.
I haven’t seen him sit well, assuming that but then lockdown happened about it. Did anyone Yeah.
So Skatester is an app that does what?
Yeah, really basic. So like, principally if you were making America so if you think that you are good at Madden or a particular computer game or something, I literally just say to you look at my dogs trying to get in the room, excuse me, she’s trying to hijack the meeting. If I advise them to you, I was better than you see. So you say, No, I beat you. And then what happens is, we both put 10 bucks in and Winner takes the pot, as simple as that. But you can deal with anyone in the world. Okay, that’s what it’s great. And we have a say here, and we’re like, two things. One, you know, we’re eSports for rule, okay? eSports is a massive things go, it’s really great as so many great superstars, you’re playing it, we want to make anyone able to play for a bit of money. Like no matter what level you are, like, if you’re an absolute bomb, like me, or even if you’re a pro, we want to give you the opportunity to play against someone of the same level. And also what I think we refer to ourselves, not an Esports business, per se, we’re an entertainment business, right? You know, it’s like, we don’t make games, which make games more exciting. Okay, so it’s like, as if you and I had a race, and I’d win because I am exceptionally vast. It’d be fine if we just did normally. But if we did it for 10 bucks each, it’s gonna be more fun. Right? So that’s like, that’s the game. Yeah.
All right. So you basically make any type of gaming the opportunity to compete and win money if against the person, you’re, you’re you playing against essentially your work?
It sounds to me, like you’ve got it.
What year is the business?
We are just approaching our second year, it’s been a whirlwind.
Alright, so you’re in a cool spot for being here too. In an app based gambling.
That’s the big one. No gambling. So this is a misconception. A lot of times the thing is gambling and lujah, we are actively opposed to gather, we shout out as being effing stupid all the time. Because if you think about gambling, gambling is illegal is the concept of putting money on an outcome that you cannot control. Good. So gambling is now we only four games of skill, okay? So you can control the outcome, you and I play chess against each other, you can control the outcome about whether you win or lose by getting better. Now, I’m probably better than you. But you’re in control of what happens there. Again, you move enemy, you’re in control. So we only support games and skill, we only allow you to put money on yourself. Okay, and myself to win not on what someone else is doing. And also the house never wins. We take a fee, but to move we take a fee for the for the process, but you know, we wouldn’t Yeah, we don’t when the money goes to the winner.
Well, I thought I’d get you going by saying it was gambling. So thanks.
I bet you took it. You did it. Yeah. Okay, fine. I said that.
In your two years, obviously, this has been incredibly successful. Like what are what are the couple of things that would just shine some light for others who have an idea and are looking to get it started? And you know, are willing to hop on a plane to you know, to get to where you live over in Brighton?
Yeah, yeah. I live in LA. I live in London. I’m just, I’m in South Korea, they are living there. So the so what’s my bike my first I had this, someone asked me a question. Today, I was giving a lecture at a university. And someone said, What’s your best advice for starting a company and I went just start one, right? Just do it. Like, whatever it is, even if it’s a small thing, like if you have an idea, write the ideas down, start writing a pitch deck, start building that pitch deck out, because every time you make an action, every time you do something, you are building something towards that business, you’re taking it a step further. So you start off with that problem page, then you start with a solution page, then you start doing your market analysis, then you start thinking about, okay, who am I going to put on my team and then you start to think like, Who’s my customer, then you got to start going in speaking to some customers. And again, you’re just building and building and building it doesn’t mean you have to give up your job straightaway. I did. I gave up and went straight all in. That’s my character. But then this, but not everyone does that or has the ability to to just do something, make sure you’re always doing something. And I think that’s my first piece of by traveling star. My biggest piece of advice to anyone who is signing company above anything else is just speak to people. Like you know, people forget like what was the I don’t want anyone to know my day. No one’s gonna steal your idea. Okay, if someone says that just just straight in the face, okay, no one’s you know that it’s not about your idea. It’s about how well you execute the idea. People have come up with my own The gazillion times they just don’t deliver as well as we have. So that’s the big thing. So just don’t worry about speed with speech, your customers. Often, like you just you don’t know the answers, you just don’t. So that’s a big thing. But he was being, as you say, successful. We’ve got a pretty good run, you know, we now we’re almost, we’re approaching being the biggest in the world, or we do after 32 years. It’s going pretty well. Yeah. Yeah, it’s gonna right. give myself pat on the back there probably shouldn’t. There’s going to right, we’re going okay. And I think the you just have to be relentlessly aggressive about how big you want to be. Okay. And I mean that, like, you’ve just got to have a champion mindset about it. You know, not every time someone hits the pads for the first time in the boxing gym. They’re all thinking I could be a world champion here. Yeah. No, gets to the ring first time thinking.
Do you know what? Yeah, good. Odds do swans? There’ll be right? No one thinks like that. Okay. And you got to think with our mindset, when you start a business, you’ve got to think like, how am I going to make this the biggest and the best in the world? And you’ve got to have industry for everything? Like, how am I going to be the best in the world at my social posts for the money and the resources I’ve got? How am I going to be the best in the world? or hiring? How am I going to be the best in the world? Like, everything, you have to have that mentality, and it doesn’t mean you are going to be the best in the world. But it does mean you’re going to do a lot better than if you start thinking at a local level.
Absolutely. So I love that. The idea of just self talk like if you’re gonna do it, do it the very best you can. right where you are right now, how you’re going to do it to anyone else who could do it. So excellent. I am curious, what do you so you don’t you believe or you know that your category of what you’re doing is probably unlike any others? Correct? Yeah. What is your end vision for that?
Yeah, really? Good question. Yeah. And I relate to I typically go to be world champion. That’s what we say to people. It’s, like, you know, like, That’s it? And then like, what does that mean, for you? I mean, look, it’s catnip for a VC. But like for investors, because they love it. But like, like, if everyone who works for us, like, we want to be every, I want everyone in my company to be the best in the world, or what they do. Okay. So, for example, take our product, I want to win every consumer product award there is okay, for our marketing campaigns, I want to be voted the best marketing campaign of the year fact. All right, in the world, okay, I want to I want to be the best in the world at everything we do. And I don’t want to be for just now it doesn’t scale, we don’t have a business that can scale to the size of ambition to have the side came so kind of market, right? So we’re realistic about it, they don’t cast, we want to be the biggest in terms of scale, we want to be number one for everything we do in that we want to have the most, it seems like we want to have the most customers, we want to have the most challenges we want to have the most gmv we want to have the most, all of these things you want to have the most, that’s what we’re talking for. And then when we break those records, okay, then it just becomes that standard thing of what once you become the champ, what do you got to do? You got to keep defending that title, you got to keep saying new records. Usain Bolt is such an inspiration, right? So they break my records, that’s what I’m going to do. I’m just going to go out and write my own records. That’s what we’ve got to do. So we have that, working towards it. And I think, if you believe and also like, I am, the biggest loser in the business, but if you give people in your business, the inspiration and you make them believe that they could become those people, you get stuff that come out of basically, you just never ever would have expected the level is just incredible.
Well, I mean, you’re the coach. Now. Before we get this wrong, I’m going to get hold of I’m going to get a diva designer. No,
not whatsoever. Um, Tom, if, if you were to write a book, or because the note, I know that you haven’t we had that conversation upfront. If you were to write a book, what would the title of the book be?
I probably be a fiction book. And it would be about medieval warfare. But if we’re talking about startups, it would be it’d be called speak to your fucking customers. That’s what it would be. Okay. That’s what the title of my book would be. Yeah. Like, it’s just, you cannot underestimate the power of speaking to people. Like it’s just so stupid like I just it just amazed. He says me, like everyone has something to give you. Okay? In terms of advice, everyone is an expert. We’ve come in here right now early, and you’re, you’re an expert at what you do, and you can teach me a million things. And so just, if I just tell you my problems I’m having in your business, you probably have some insight, and probably know how to solve some of those problems, to just speak to as many people as you can speak to your customers as often as you can. And they will tell you how to build the best product. Okay? They will and the people within your investment community or your support network, even your, even my mom talks to me gives me advice about and there’s no disrespect to my mother, but you know, she’s not an entrepreneur. But everyone will give you something to just meet your customers and speak to people. And so my book would be called, speak to your fucking customers.
That’s the title, I’m sure would be a very popular seller.
Yes, me the UK worse. Okay. In the UK, we discovered that a someplace in the US is less accessible.
And I know that you are very active in helping other folks do startups. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Yeah. So when I when I started Skatester. I was, I’d previously been a pretend founder. You know, I’ve been like, I’ve been a founding member. And I call myself a founder, but it’s actually rubbish. Like, if you haven’t signed a coffee show, but then yeah, we’d like that unless they’re screaming like, I literally have no frickin idea what’s premise pitch deck, you’re not a founder, if you haven’t stayed up late at night, be like, payrolls tomorrow, and that investor has not transferred that money in the first place. If you haven’t voted that, you know, the founders just shut up. Okay. So, and I hadn’t felt that, but I call myself a founder. And I’ve been through the be through some extent, I’ve been through the accelerates in Microsoft, and could it be city and city bylaws into some big accelerators, I had a really great experience. And I thought I knew what I was doing. And I really didn’t. And so I and here, did you have different types of Yeah, I am. I’m a big reader. But I also listened to a ton of podcasts. And I went on some podcasts to try and find out, like, how do I like, I want someone to listen to, I want to listen to an investor who wasn’t just talking shit, like about, like, here’s my investment thesis. This is the kind of stuff I’m into, I wanted to just tell the truth about the kind of things they see when they come into, when we walk into the room, like what actually happens in in an investment committee, I wonder the answer things, so I could take advantage of them and get myself in a better position. So I find having, I had a call with a good friend of mine who’s very prominent in the UK for chapter 13. And he’s incredibly vain and arrogant. So he said, we should record these conversations. And so he made the point, which is very good. And he said, No, Tom, if you ask me a question, so is everyone else. So we started the show. And we have a big badge of honor, which I like to bang on about now is basically our purpose is to every week, we get someone on who is either a successful founder, but right now, not someone who was 45 years ago. Success founder right now, and someone who is an investor right now, and we say to them, like we ask some basic questions that people email. But the great honor we have is that we’ve now had six people start companies because they respond to you by the show. So that’s my is it? It’s called Magic, isn’t it?
That is awesome.
Unknown Speaker 23:46
I’m really good. I’m one of them has just raised a ton of money as well. And I’ve now I’ve actually invested in three people who’ve been on my show. It’s not bad. It’s awful. I think it’s almost like I’m creating my own little deal flow on the investment sort of coming on. Shark Tank. Yeah. Well, they will call Otherwise, we’ll call like, the fairy cave. It’s always not it’s not as intense as it. But yeah, that’s what we do. Yeah, it’s okay. It’s great. selfishly, for me, like it just gives me hope. I just get a coaching session once a week. Whereas with someone who’s infinitely more capable and better than me what they do, and I’d say, Look, I’m actually I speak selfishly, like, I’m having a real problem with doing my own tax return. What’s your advice? Yeah, got it. Yeah.
That’s fantastic. So you, you mentioned you’re an avid reader. I’m super curious. What is the most recommended business related book that you recommend?
Buy Easy every time if you’re if you’re if you’re starting a company, there’s two books you need to read. Okay. Buy one is hooked. Okay, by me, I’ll yeah. Okay, like you’re building a product, you’ve got to read it, you’ve got on the second nonprofit, if you’ve read the book called traction by Gabriel Weinberg, you know, Gabriel one, Gabriel Weinberg, he created Duck Duck go, which was a competitor to Google right gate. And the basic principle is, is that you don’t know where your customers are going to come from at the beginning, then be like, I’m going to spend it all on digital marketing this last don’t do that. So you just test every single channel a little bit, and then double down when you know what works. And you’re like, I’m an absolute, I’ll happily ring our bell about it. So you know, we did it, we tried every single channel, we found ton of that our competitors didn’t. And our CPI is about a third of our competitors. Because we tested all of the channels. And we test them a little bit. We test them in different things because I’m like, make Gabriel Weinberg. I have home shares and my business he has done absolutely sound job. And nearly I’ll his book about hope is just about habit forming products. Yeah, get someone to form a habit, which is basically what we do. So those are my two favorite books for people to read. And then also a ton of fiction on the sides and distract yourself.
Fantastic. Thank you for both of those recommendations. I know that you have kind of a mantra, and I don’t know if that’s what you would call it. But that was the sense that I get when I first got introduced to you. But could you kind of end this podcast by really driving home on the importance of backing yourself.
Okay, right. Yeah. So I would just make sure you get this out really well, because I’m not quite sure what that mantra was. Like, Oh, god, what was it? Okay, so I think you should just but I think everyone should back themselves all the time. Because basically you are you are capable of backing yourself you are capable of doing what you do. No matter what anyone has ever told you throughout your life for throughout your career or whatever or ever given you any implication that you are not good enough. Just this provides about what fuck those people are, okay, you just back the view? How if you commit yourself and there are two secrets to success, and that is consistency and commitment. If you commit to it, and you consistently do the things you need to do with discipline and diligence, you will succeed. Okay? And so you should always back yourself no matter what the scenario because you have this, okay? And that’s it. And we I live by that rule, like you got to put yourself out there, you know, you don’t have failure isn’t really something that happened. I always say you win or you learn.
100%. So I hope that big takeaway, most certainly is that if you’re if you’re wondering whether or not you should back yourself, both Tom and I completely agree you should.
100% and you will, even if it doesn’t work out the way you want it to you are better because you did it. Absolutely. No one’s ever done a marathon and dropped out halfway and not being a better runner than they were when they started.
For sure. So what is what is your next thing beyond this? Are you working on anything big?
Well, everything that we do is big right day. So you know we am Yeah, I guess I’m super focused on making us get to that number one spot. My dad is my, you know, when I’m when I’m not, you know, being an awful dad, who teaches my kids bad habits. Yeah. And, you know, I’m an overbearing or for intense in terms of love. But in terms of behavior, but video, you’re not the I’m just my base memories to get they said to be number one. I think my the real. I just want to say that I just think about this just the other day. Someone said to me, what would success be for you when you leave states? And I was like, it’s not about success, for me wouldn’t be about a big exit or whatever success for me would be the number of people who have worked for me who go and then start their own businesses. Yeah, that would be the success for me. Yes, some will come down what I call the universities, they stir with a degree in entrepreneurship, and they go on to start their own business.
That’s fantastic. I hope you have dozens and dozens if not hundreds. And how many folks do you employ today?
We are just about to get to 30.
To 30. All right, so well on your way to make many entrepreneurs out of it. That’s awesome.
Okay, what though? I mean, Every day, people saw jihad, I’d even know. It’s almost like the other day. And they’re on the stand up when I was like, Who’s this? Is this kid? Like, Oh, we don’t QA tester, is he? I mean, it’s like we were just to give you some context. We were nine in September. Oh, wow. Yeah. So like, yeah, some pretty big. It’s been great during lockdown to be able to spend our time to be able to give people a lot of jobs now.
Yeah, that’s fantastic. Good on you, Tom, I wish you a tremendous amount of success. And good luck with being the world champion that you are destined to be.
Thank you also mean you’re the executive coach here. What’s your top piece of advice for me as a leader?
I always believe that it’s really important to be congruent with what you say that you actually do as well. So if you if you’re going to suggest that other people do certain things, that it’s going to be something that you’re practicing yourself. So congruency is my number one tip, when we’re in congruent as leaders, people do not trust us. And trust is key.
That’s a solid piece of advice. And I’ll tell you that there you go. I’ve got some free service here. For anyone who wants some awesome dump times decision, just go on the podcast and she’s gonna help you out for free.
It’s been such a pleasure. Thank you so much for joining us today.
Thanks so much for having me on. It’s been a great
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
Transcribed by https://otter.ai