The Founder Stories brings us closer to entrepreneurs and their journey creating a startup in Demium. This time, we sat down with Daniel Ruiz-Giménez, CMO and co-founder at Kaikoo. He and his team have designed a unique eSports platform for amateurs and pro-players who are ready to step up their gaming skills, feature competitions and ultimately join a top-tier talent pool.
Q: Tell us about yourself and your entrepreneurial background
To be honest I never portrayed myself working in the esports ecosystem nor founding my own startup. I originally studied law at the Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona, one of the most prestigious colleges in Spain. At the age of 22 I decided to go abroad, to Houston (Texas) thanks to a scholarship. Worked at the General Spanish Consulate to test my skills and learn more about International Relationships and Diplomacy, two of my passions. At 23 I went back to Barcelona to study Diplomacy and later on I moved to Cameroon to work at the Spanish Embassy for eight months. After that period, I came back to Barcelona and worked in different international institutions as a project manager and consultant.
I always kept myself opened to other possibilities such as working as a consultant in other fields. Moreover, I had great interest in marketing and the development of new digital trends such as esports. During my childhood I always loved video games as, aside from being entertaining, they were a powerful tool to learn many other soft skills. It is no secret to anyone that the global pandemic had a great impact on the cooperation and international relations fields.
It actually forced many to stay home during the lockdown and take time to think about the future. It was also the beginning of a new period where Twitch and other streaming platforms started to strive with huge success. During that period I had the chance to talk to many experts from different fields, including esports. I knew I had the necessary tools to pivot to another sector and transfer my knowledge and experience to other fields. It was at that time that I decided to slowly but surely move on to the business side of video games.
Thus, it all started with a Master’s Degree in Marketing and eSports Management, working as a freelance consultant at the same time. And it all clicked when in October 2020 a friend of mine, Juan Antonio Tejada told me about the idea for Kaikoo. I knew right away it was the chance I’ve been looking for to create something special.
Q: What have you learned on a more personal level by creating Kaikoo?
Being flexible and managing expectations. Let me elaborate on that. While working as a consultant for international cooperation projects I was used to our work having an impact on decision makers more than making final decisions ourselves. This also means your work is not public, so it never gets accepted or rejected by the market.
The esports sector is all about understanding what the trends there are, by focusing on people’s needs and also balancing what they want with what you can offer. That’s the main purpose of marketing. Being able to portray what defines you as a company but also drawing a path that will continue to intersect with that of consumers´ expectations. If “innovation”, “creativity” or “fun” are your core values and you prove to users that this is what drives you, you’ll have their full attention.
Q: What are some of the highest highs and lowest lows of your entrepreneurial journey?
I am sure most readers might have seen a thousand drawings that graphically depict the life of a startup and the feeling of being on a rollercoaster that never stops going up and down until you feel dizzy. If you haven’t not seen them, I encourage you to do so because this is exactly the feeling you get.
We could resume it simply as a boxing match between “no money left in the bank account” on one side of the ring and “brilliant new ideas and features” on the other. And let me tell you something, the first one’s punch is like being hit by a truck. But some ideas still remain (investment) round after round and never get knocked-out. So every time you manage to win that internal fight and develop something users end up loving, it is a wonderful feeling.
Q: How has your experience been with Demium?
Demium helped us find our way through all the processes that entail building a company from zero. It can definitely be overwhelming at first, and having talked to other friends who decided to start their own business, one of the most prevalent feelings was despair because they never knew if they were doing something wrong or could not prioritize correctly.
This never happened to us because Demium primed and supported us with lead expert professionals that helped us all the way. The incubator program also encouraged us to be creative and learn about our own boundaries and put us in touch with many mentors who shared their stories and knowledge with us on how to build a successful startup.
Q: What would be your advice for other entrepreneurs?
My advice can only be based on our own experience and will of course be incomplete. But I would encourage people to take more chances on themselves and trust their instincts. And even more importantly, to build a rock-solid team that shares the same short- and long-term vision, this is non-negotiable in my opinion.
Also, they will need to learn about financials, venture capitals and investments today. Know who the investors are, what they are looking for and also make sure you help them understand what makes you different. This of course applies even more if you are thinking about capital-intensive projects.
Finally, accept that they might feel lost or indecisive at times and because of that it is important that they start building the foundation and goals of what they want to build so they never forget where they want to go, even in tough times. Talking to other entrepreneurs and startups and learning about their mistakes is always helpful.