Andrew Paradise
Hey, I’m Andrew Paradise, co-founder and CEO of mobile gaming platform Skillz ($SKLZ ). Submit your questions to me here around the technology behind Skillz, our ongoing vision for growth, or my personal entrepreneurship journey. I’ll be back on Monday, January 10, to answer your Qs live!
Town Hall
18 questions answered
What exactly is $SKLZ ?
Hi, Shane. Skillz sits at the intersection of B2B and B2C as a technology platform that powers billions of tournaments a year for our player community, and enables game developers to better monetize their content through competition. Skillz is pioneering the competitive mobile gaming experience, connecting the world’s 2.8 billion gamers in fair, fun, and meaningful competition. Our 100-year vision is to create the competition layer of the internet, and become the #1 global brand for competitive entertainment. Our brand is all about trust and fairness – it is core to who we are. We’ve set out to deliver fair and meaningful competition for everyone, everywhere, with 200 different features designed to guarantee trust and fairness, specifically focused on: cheating and fraud prevention, fair player rating and matching, and system reliability. You can be a novice or a pro, and with our machine learning and patented technology, you’ll always be matched with someone of similar skill.
Prior to CEO where or what position did you have?
Andrew Paradise avatar
Hi, Danielle. I’ve always had a certain entrepreneurial spirit. The first company I founded was called Double Picture, which allowed photographers to share, protect, and monetize their photos; it was sold to MPA Networks in 2009. The most recent company I created before Skillz was a payments business called AisleBuyer, where we invented a mobile self-checkout platform, which we sold to Intuit in 2012.
MoeMoney avatar
Can we get an update on the NFL partnership and India expansion?
Andrew Paradise avatar
I’d love to give you an update on these two initiatives! We’ve launched in India with a live pilot, and players in the region will soon be able to deposit in rupees in the free download title Diamond Strike, a Skillz-owned and operated game to pilot the latest innovations and features. For the first time, players can compete in a localized experience against other players located in India. With this initial release, we will collect player feedback and insights to hone the experience before rolling it out to additional games on the Skillz platform. Regarding our partnership with the NFL, we’ve had dozens of quality submissions from both small and large developers. Our 14 semi-finalists have been hard at work building their games, and we’re on track to identify the finalists soon. We plan to announce the winning game (or games) ahead of the 2022 NFL season.
Hey Andrew. I'm Brandon. Thanks for the opportunity for inquiries. Do you recall the exact moment Skillz became an idea for you? If so, did you imagine the growth of the idea/platform to be what it is today?
Andrew Paradise avatar
Hi, Brandon! I’m a lifelong gamer, and I actually hacked my first computer game at age seven. It made me fall in love with computer science. As I got older, I organized video game tournaments with my friends, where we'd get together for “LAN parties,” sometimes with paid entry fees where the winner would get a grand prize. For those not familiar, a LAN party, or “Local Area Network” party, is where people get together and connect a series of computers to one another to play games on them simultaneously, allowing players to take part in multiplayer games across their own private connection. We were ahead of our time. It was really the earliest days of what is now a multibillion-dollar industry. The most recent company I created prior to Skillz was a payments business called AisleBuyer, where we invented a mobile self-checkout platform, which we sold to Intuit in 2012. So from personal experience, I understood that for a player to feel comfortable competing in video games for prizes, the level of trust and fairness that they would need to have in the platform would need to be at the level of a financial payments system. Additionally, I’ve experienced past pain points that made me think “there has to be a better way for game developers to monetize this without detracting from the player experience.” So Skillz was really founded on this idea of fairness, of making esports for everyone, and leveling the playing field for players and developers alike.
Do u actually pay out cash to the players of ur online games
Andrew Paradise avatar
Hi, Josh. We’re proud to not only create a venue for fun, fair competition, but reward players skills beyond ‘bragging rights.’ Skillz has a variety of world-class prizes including cash and real world goods that bring more meaning to the competition.
How do you plan on making this company the best of its kind and the most user friendly?
Andrew Paradise avatar
Appreciate the question, Gage. We built Skillz on the premise of leveling the playing field, of creating esports for everyone. That mission certainly includes every gamer and developer, but it also extends to every stakeholder. That means we are on a mission for every gamer, for every developer, but also for every would-be stakeholder who wants to be a part of the future of competition. We are committed to creating and building the fun, fair, and meaningful competition layer of the Internet. I think you can see that in things like our investment in Exit Games, where access to its Photon Engine is going to be a game-changer for the developers whose brilliant work finds a home on our platform. And our SDKs allow developers of any size, whether they are well established businesses or a lone developer just starting out with a vision and a dream, to get their products out into the marketplace to be discovered and engaged meaningfully with gamers. We are building a different kind of company—a 100-year company with room for everyone.
Anthony Hartsell avatar
With the Metaverse here. Is you company prepared to get on that boat an profit from this opportunity that has opened up in this space? What are you plans for the future in the Metaverse?
Andrew Paradise avatar
Hey, Anthony. Great question. At Skillz, mobile gaming is our first market, and currently our only market. But the power of competition extends to more than just mobile gaming. Today we have IoT (internet of things), and in the not-too-distant future we believe there will be GoT (gamification of things). What this means is we may in the future also have an opportunity to expand beyond video games, to create new competitive experiences for consumers across new verticals, ranging from education to fitness. Imagine those who are bored by working out now being able to compete against others – adding a fun, fair, and friendly competitive spirit to daily exercise. There’s infinite potential as we explore the future gamification of things.
Jake Russell avatar
What will be the first game running on the Photon multiplayer engine with Skillz?
Andrew Paradise avatar
Hi, Jake – nice to hear from you! We have identified several game developers to implement the Photon Engine on the Skillz platform. This allows developers to easily take their existing Photon project and add the Skillz SDK to it, or start a fresh game using both platforms simultaneously.
Ash Adams avatar
Where did your personal entrepreneurial journey begin, and what motivates you past roadblocks/failures along the way?
Andrew Paradise avatar
Hi Ash, thanks for the question! I actually come from a family of entrepreneurs. My parents wanted me to pursue any other career path, because they understood firsthand the stress that comes with being an entrepreneur. However, I couldn’t resist the need to solve interesting problems that impact millions of people, especially when these problems connected my engineering skills with my lifelong passion for gaming. Each company I’ve founded has taught me something new, but early on I learned that I love tackling the problems people encounter in everyday life – and then creating new technologies to solve them.
Diana Means avatar
How do you plan to market and grow your subscriber base?
Andrew Paradise avatar
Thanks for the question, Diana. In Q3, we’re proud to share that we continued growing our paying and playing user base. We plan to grow users through expanding our distribution channels, increasing the games on our platform, and partnering with brands to reach their audiences.
Diana Means avatar
How many subscribers do you currently have?
Andrew Paradise avatar
In Q3 of 2021, we had 3 million monthly active users on our platform. That means that on average during the three month period in Q3, we had 3 million people enter into a paid or free contest hosted on Skillz’s platform at least once in a month.
Diana Means avatar
How do you protect users privacy on the platform? What security features do you have in place? How much of the development budget is dedicated to security?
Andrew Paradise avatar
Great question, Diana. Ensuring user privacy and security are of utmost importance at Skillz. Among our many security features, Skillz utilizes safe and secure official payment processing systems, including PayPal, Apple Pay, and more to integrate in-app, cash-enabled competitions. In addition, Skillz has made significant investments in the overall security of its systems, including scanning for any vulnerabilities, penetration testing, and independent vendor audits to ensure that we continue to build and maintain a best-in-class security infrastructure.
Steven Xu avatar
Was there a reason you guys went public via SPAC instead of taking the traditional IPO route?
Andrew Paradise avatar
Thanks for the question, Steven. We planned to be ready to go public by Q4 2020, and the SPAC route let us go public faster and choose our partners, with minimal cost difference. Top-tier institutional investors decided to join with a $159 million PIPE led by Wellington, Fidelity, Franklin Templeton, and Neuberger Berman. I can't speak for others who've utilized SPACs, but for us it was an effective, streamlined route.
Much like Netflix's expansion beyond DVDs, does Skillz have any plans to expand beyond mobile?
Andrew Paradise avatar
While we’ve always pointed to our ‘100 year vision’ of building the competition layer of the internet – we’re currently focused on the incredible opportunity, innovation and growth in the mobile games market. Seeing entertainment companies like Netflix join the space only underscores the excitement and opportunity within mobile games. At Skillz, we also see an opportunity to create competitive experiences for consumers across new verticals, ranging from education to fitness.
When will real time games like street fighter and battle royal make it to the skillz network. Any chance this year or the next? Thanks!
Andrew Paradise avatar
Great question, Mike! Last August, we announced a strategic partnership with Exit Games, global developer of Photon, the world’s most advanced synchronous multiplayer gaming technology. This will allow developers to create and host real-time, synchronous multiplayer games, and will greatly accelerate our entry into popular genres like fighting, first-person shooter, and racing. The typical game design process takes about 18-24 months from start to launch and there’s no guarantee that a game will be a success, but that should give you a sense for potential timing.
Thomas Wellensiek avatar
What are the aims of the company throughout the course of 2022?
Andrew Paradise avatar
Thanks for the question, Thomas! We’ll plan to share more on our 2022 plans during our Q4 earnings call, which will happen in February. Stay tuned!
Enzo avatar
What's your take on the metaverse? Any plans to integrate crypto into Skillz? Thanks!
Andrew Paradise avatar
Thanks for the question, Enzo! You can read about my take on the metaverse in response to Anthony's question, so I want to focus on crypto here. Yes, crypto is certainly an area of interest to us. In the future, we will consider how we might incorporate it into our platform.
Richwood, Ohio 43344 avatar
I don’t have a question, I just wanted to say that I love playing Skillz games, especially 21 Blitz. Thank you for the hard work and commitment, it doesn’t go unnoticed.
Andrew Paradise avatar
Thank you so much, James! Receiving praise like this is both humbling and an honor. Skillz wouldn’t be the company it is today without the dedication and hard work of each and every one of our brilliant Skillzians and developer partners. I am so proud of everything our talented, world-class team has accomplished. Building the Skillz team remains a central focus of our business, as Skillzians are the foundation of our success.