Riad Chikhani, is the Founder & CEO of GAMURS Group, leading esports media network redefining gaming media.
When did you first fall in love with gaming?
I fell in love with gaming at the age of six when my late-uncle Sam bought the first Age of Empires in 2001. I sat down with him to watch him play and try to learn myself, and I remember just being absolutely enamored by what was happening on the screen. From there, after finishing the game, he bought Breath of Fire which was pivotal for me – that’s when I fell in love with RPGs.
You founded your first company Rune Gear, an online portal for the game RuneScape at the age of 14. What was it at the time that made you choose to launch a business?
I founded Rune Gear to ultimately solve a problem I was facing. At the time I needed a place to share with my friends the milestones I was achieving in RuneScape, but couldn’t do it publicly on Facebook. I didn’t want my friends to label me a ‘nerd’ or ‘antisocial’ or anything like that, which was something I cared about at the time. So, in response, I created Rune Gear for me and my closest RuneScape friends. A year or so later it began to take off which was really exciting for me and the team.
Were your family and friends supportive of this business?
Besides the extremely long hours I was putting on my computer (12-14 hours a day), my family loved that I was pursuing my passion at such a young age. They are big believers in working towards your passions and deriving as much fulfillment out of your life, and they believed Rune Gear fell under that.
In 2014, you then went on to launch GAMURS Group, one of the leading esports media networks redefining gaming media. Could you share some of the genesis story behind launching this company?
Funnily enough, a group of friends and I actually started the GAMURS Group (at the time “Gamurs”) to offer what Rune Gear had offered, but for all games. We began by initially developing a forum with some exciting features that replicated some functionality that a traditional social network would have, and then it quickly became a social network itself. We continued working on the social network well into 2015 when we had joined the Slingshot Accelerator program and raised our first $500k seed round, until pivoting it into esports in early 2016.
GAMURS Group has a large number of websites including Dot Esports. Could you discuss what this website offers?
Dot Esports is our flagship platform. It is the leading and most authoritative publisher of esports content globally, serving over 7m unique readers a month across thousands of published articles for dozens of games. It offers readers a level of comprehensive and unbiased coverage of the esports and competitive gaming industry across our websites, apps, and social media platforms. Since bringing it under the GAMURS Group, Dot Esports has served more than 125m unique readers and over 250m website visits.
One of the more interesting offerings by GAMURS Group is Teamfind. Could you elaborate on what this is?
TeamFind was a platform we developed between November 2015 and February 2016 to provide players with a team and player finding platform. Back then, and arguably now, players relying on online gaming matchmaking services are constantly frustrated by the players the game puts on their teams. You may be matched with someone who doesn’t have a microphone, or is from a different region so your connection is weak, or just with an overall bad player. Teamfind solves that for you by allowing you to select players and teams to play with based on a set criteria of your choosing. We built it over a four month period and merged two existing websites which we had acquired to power it: Teamfind and CSGOTeamFinder.
Being so busy with the large GAMURS Group network of websites do you find time to still play games?
I think time management is something that a lot of executives need to work on, since most of us are naturally poor at it until we make an effort to fix it. Being so engrossed in the gaming industry every day of your life forces you to view games in a ‘business opportunity’ lens which takes away the appeal of gaming. The immersion in the game, the environment, the story, and the characters is what hooks you – when you’re not 100% in the game, it can lose its appeal. Nonetheless though, it’s imperative that I stay engaged in the ‘why’ of starting this company, so I regularly force myself to take time out to play something, even if it’s only 30 minutes. This could be anything from an iPhone game, to a quick match of COD or Fifa with my friends.
Another product that is offered is StatBanana, a strategy planning tool for Dota 2 and Overwatch, which provides professional players and coaches access to the tools and resources they need to plan and prepare for their competitive matches. How popular is this platform and what type of user feedback have you received?
We acquired StatBanana in late 2018 and brought it under the GAMURS Group. At the time it only provided tools for Overwatch, so we expanded that into Dota 2 and are looking to further bolster that with LoL and Valorant. From a statistics side, I can share that it’s used by thousands of people globally and virtually every single Overwatch League team. Users love our software that we provide and also the overhead overwatch maps images we offer on site.
What’s next on the agenda for GAMURS Group?
As a business, our growth comes from multiple avenues. From a content output perspective, we’re continuing to invest in our content production where we’ve seen phenomenal results over the last three months. Our goal (as a group) is to publish north of 4,000 articles per month by 2021-end which will naturally grow our traffic as we serve our readers better. Furthermore, we’re always exploring accretive acquisitions which bring exciting and strategically linked brands under our umbrella, whether they’re websites or distribution channels. We’re also launching our agency offering shortly to provide both endemic and non-endemic brands with leading services to assist them in their business goals within the esports and competitive gaming market. Ultimately, as our organisation’s focus remains on media, we’re regularly executing upon strategic initiatives to further emphasize that offering.
Is there anything else that you would like to share about GAMURS Group?
We’re always looking for talented individuals to join our group and for businesses which we can partner with. If you’re either one of those, please reach out at the GAMURS Group website.
Thank you for the interview, readers who wish to learn more should visit GAMURS Group.