Rahul Sood of Unikrn
Ultimate E-sports Experience
Rahul Sood is the CEO of Unikrn, a Seattle-based eSports startup. Previous to Unikrn, Sood created the first incubation fund for startups at Microsoft, and eventually Microsoft consolidated their global startup activities under Sood’s leadership. In June 2013, he launched Microsoft Ventures.
What's your story? Tell me about the first time you learned about the blockchain.
I’ve been in the video gaming industry for a long time, I co-founded Unikrn is November of 2014 with a friend of mine that I met when I was running Microsoft Ventures.
First time I learned about Blockchain was 1.5 years ago. Mark Cuban, who is one of our investors, emailed me and asked me to look into it as soon as possible as he felt it could be foundational to our business. I always take what he says seriously - we took a deep look at it and started to realize how much better our industry will be with blockchain technology. The most compelling part for me is the transparency and not having to deal with traditional banks and twenty different currencies.
What is something you believe to be true that most people disagree with you on?
Esports is the fastest growing sport in the world. The average age of an MLB fan is around 54 years old, PGA tour is somewhere around 69. Everyday a traditional sports fan dies and 2 esport fans are born. Many professional sports will be less relevant over time eventually displaced by esports and robots.
What does your project do? How did you come up with the idea? What problem does it solve?
Unikrn is a licensed and regulated esports betting company backed by Mark Cuban, Ashton Kutcher, Guy O’Seary, Elisabeth Murdoch, Shari Redstone, 500 Startups, the largest betting operator in Australia, and many others.
The Unikoin, a token we built nearly two years ago, has already turned over more than 250,000,000 throughout our platform. We created the Unikoin to allow our growing community to play on our platform as we measure the efficacy of new markets and new products. We had no idea that Unikoins would become so popular, and now our community is asking for new experiences wherein they can use their Unikoins in more ways.
We see that the rapidly growing esports market is about to collide with cryptocurrency and the blockchain. By tokenizing our Unikoin and using blockchain effectively we can expand our business more efficiently. In the future we won’t need to deal with multiple banks and multiple currencies, we will be able to manage AML and KYC with more transparency.
Basically our project allows Unikrn to expand our platform in more markets around the world more efficiently and with better controls than we currently have. We are also giving our customers the opportunity to use Unikoins for esports betting and non betting experiences.
Who's on the team?
We have an incredible team based in Berlin, Las Vegas, Seattle, and Sydney.
I’m the CEO of Unikrn, I was the founder of VoodooPC which sold to HP. I’ve been involved in multiple startups, including a VR/AR company based in Montreal. I also created Microsoft Ventures and had the opportunity to help startups from all around the world build really great companies. I’m based in Seattle.
My business partner Karl Flores was the founder of a game community company that Microsoft Ventures invested in. I decided to acquire that company in 2014 as the foundation for the Unikrn community. Karl is based in Sydney and was the driving force in getting the largest betting operator in Australia to invest and support Unikrn, Tabcorp.
Our CTO Daniel Rudolph is an old friend, years ago we started Playall - the worlds first skill based video game betting platform. It was amazing, we allowed people to play games like Call of Duty for money - we build everything from the back end payment systems, anti-cheat, front end client, etc. We acquired Playall when we started Unikrn and Daniel has built an incredible team in Berlin for us.
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Our German studio is led by Tom Lemke, a long time esports betting industry player. He also was the driving force behind Unikrn taking a stake in and helping to form B.I.G., the best CSGO team in Germany and one of the best in the world.
Our Vegas team is lead by Kingsley Edwards. A cryptocurrency expert who started LEET - this company created a cryptocurrency skill based betting platform for video games, they also help casinos setup esport experiences in Las Vegas and beyond. Unikrn now owns LEET.
How does token network effects work?
Our token network effect is pretty simple. The more turnover of our token that we drive, the more value we can create.
We’re allocating 15% of our tokens to a risk pool, and 20% will be sold to the community. As a betting operator people bet against the house with odds that we provide on our platform. If we lose they win tokens from the risk pool - if we win, we take their tokens in and add them to the pool.
In the last few years we have been approached by major betting operators from around the world who want to license our content and odds. I’m not a big fan of that model, but I am a fan of giving them a version of our UnikoinGold platform that allows their customers to consume and bet on esports as long as they use our token. As we continue to increase usage of our token the value to Unikrn becomes pretty clear.
We’re also creating non-betting applications, including the ability for the community to earn UnikoinGold and UnikoinSilver for playing games, and watching and reporting games.
What's your vision for the future of the project/company?
Unikrn is esports, we live and breathe it everyday. We aim to be the best bookmaker for esports fans and video game enthusiasts on the planet.
We’re a bunch of gamers that live and die by esports. We love what we do, Unikrn has it’s own tournament series, we create unique written and video content, we have skill and spectator based betting products, we own a big stake in one of the hottest CSGO teams on earth, we own LEET, we’re licensed in multiple countries, and we even have a major stake in gaming hardware maker Maingear PC.
In the future I see all of this coming together, our business will use the Unikoin as the central token for which we drive experiences. We will benchmark the momentum of our company by the usage of that token. Over time I imagine it will be incredibly popular.
How can people get involved in building out the project and network?
Interested people should register on our Discord Community and participate with us. You’ll see many people making suggestions and we often implement them within days. We are open to ideas from the community, and happy to hear what we’re doing right and what we’re doing wrong.
What article or book have you shared the most recently?
This one blew my mind: One in Five Germans are Esports Fans. Imagine how I felt knowing we have our studio in Berlin and we own a stake in BIG, the hottest CSGO team in Germany and one of the best in the world.
What other projects are you excited about in the space? Or, what are your predictions for the next 12 months in the space?
I am not sure about the projects yet. Many of them are still whitepapers with a vision. While I think some of them are working on interesting problems, I am more concerned about those who feel blockchain allows them to skirt the law. It doesn’t, it shouldn’t -- and I think this is why we’ll see more of the SEC and other government agencies getting involved. I think it’s important for those of us who are building real businesses and important projects to spend the time to work with regulators and help educate them. We should all aspire to build really great systems that are both disruptive and responsible. People should also caution not to get involved in projects that sound too good to be true, always read the whitepaper and research the teams involved.
How do people find you?