We Are Democratizing Gaming Content & Grew 15x In One Year

Nick Cuomo
Founder, Allstar
2
Founders
20
Employees
Allstar
from New York City
started April 2019
2
Founders
20
Employees
285K
alexa rank
26.4K
followers
77.8K
followers
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We Are Democratizing Gaming Content & Grew 15x In One Year

My name is Nick Cuomo, I am the CEO and Co-Founder of Allstar. We enable any gamer to become a creator by making it easy and fun to create and share great snackable content with friends.

We’re sort of like a cross between Twitch and TikTok – and we’ve grown over 15x in the past year.

allstar

What's your backstory and how did you get into entrepreneurship?

I’ve always been a creative entrepreneur, I remember selling pogs during recess at elementary school (dating myself here…) and I even sold my first website to my graphic design teacher in high school. The journey that led me to Allstar started when I was around 16 years old, and I started to play Counter-Strike.

I enjoyed the game, so much so that I started going to tournaments with friends. It wasn’t before long that I was winning tournaments and taking home real money, which was not coincidentally the same time my parents took my pro-gamer career seriously. But, I was still relatively unknown. Nobody knew who I was.

That was until I took my best moments and turned them into snackable gaming content, which went viral in the pre-YouTube/Twitch era. Overnight I had fans and haters, teams wanted to recruit me. It taught me the value of good gaming content as a form of social currency.

Fast forward, after pro-gaming I spent about 15 years in the creative/tech/marketing industry in NYC. I worked for a digital agency for 5 years where I met my co-founder and worked at a leading SaaS helping them grow to $100M in ARR. It was about that time I realized I was ready to return to my first love of gaming and start a business.

I focused on a problem I understood very well (how painful it is to create gaming content) and got to work with my co-founder Gavin Silver. After leaving our cushy career's behind to boot-strap our dream business, we closed our first funding round with a check from Mark Cuban and have since raised $4.3M in venture capital.

Take us through your entrepreneurial journey. How did you go from day 1 to today?

Day 1 of Allstar was the first day my co-founder and I left our careers to pursue building our business full time. But the journey began far before that. Lots of nights and weekends tinkering with ideas, researching, spreadsheets, and pitch decks. Before you can commit to something you need to have conviction. That process of building conviction differs depending on who you talk to.

For me and my co-founder, that boiled down to sizing the opportunity, analyzing the feasibility, and “beating up” the concept until we were not only excited about doing it, it was the biggest opportunity in front of us at the time, and we needed to drop what we were doing to focus on it. Once we were convinced, and we could convince people around us, then it was time to get to work.

There’s no perfect moment to start pitching. And unless you’re a serial entrepreneur with a proven track record, you can expect a massive amount of rejection before you are successful in raising the money you need to grow the business. Your best bet is to start with yourself via boot-strap, putting in the money you need to start prototyping and working on the product. Then, friends & family.

Once you’ve got a solid prototype/proof of concept, you’ve got some research validating your thesis, and you’ve proven that people who know you are willing to put their money behind believing in your ability to succeed, then you can start going after professional investors (angels, VCs, et). Expect to hear “no” 30 to 50 times before you find a lead investor for a Seed round.

One other tip, whenever an investor says you’re “too early”, it doesn’t mean much, it’s a go-to rejection answer. Most investors are nice people and they don’t want to hurt your feelings. Take the no and move on. But, pay attention to trends in other reasons you get rejected. VCs are also professionals who know markets. If they all say the same thing, it doesn’t mean you HAVE to take action, but you should consider their feedback.

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

Today Allstar is focused on two things: user acquisition and product development. We leverage a variety of marketing tactics and channels to acquire users. Our VP of Growth’s job is to make sure our cost per acquisition is always going down, and our number of users acquired is always going up.

The hardest part about starting a company is starting it. Then once you start it, you realize that was the easiest part and the really hard part is making good decisions and sticking with your vision, and executing well.

On the product development side, we’re a creative heavy business so our creative teams and engineering teams work closely together to ensure we provide our users with the best possible product experience and that they’re able to create the highest quality content with the least amount of effort.

Because we integrate directly into games we’re always working on new game integrations. Being in gaming, we’re global by nature and have users from almost every corner of the globe who use Allstar to create and share great content.

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

It’s so important to choose the right people. It’s also important to get out of the way once you’ve found them. Early on in a startup, you do everything, but that becomes unsustainable before you know it. Find, empower and grow.

It’s also really easy to pick the wrong person. You might overestimate their abilities, or underestimate their needs. Wrong people's choices add up quickly and time is the one resource you can’t raise more of in a startup.

Lastly, I think some helpful habits are to be very deliberate with your time. Running a startup as a CEO or early employee is a combination of multi-tasking shallow work and long uninterrupted deep work. You have to protect your time to do both.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

Because I love bulleted lists, here’s one of my favorite productivity software:

  • Gsuite. Gmail, Sheets, Docs. Use it for everything. Bookmark your most important go-to information repositories (sheets or docs).
  • Drive for desktop. Make Google Drive available on your PC or Mac. Free with Google Drive. Keeping organized files is important, this makes it easier.
  • Monday.com. It’s great for managing hiring pipelines early on, and for managing to-do lists. Not so much for anything else.
  • Loom. Need to show a quick video of a bug, or issue, or just record a video communication? Loom is the best and easiest way to do that.
  • Slack. Blessing and a curse. It is where work happens today and getting good at managing lots of channels, DMs, etc is an important output to master.
  • Mixpanel. Especially if you are B2C. You should spend a nontrivial portion of every day in Mixpanel. Numbers are your business.
  • Quickbooks Online. Early on it is the easiest way to be your accountant, and then later on it is the best way to work with real accountants.
  • Figma. Designing in anything besides Figma or a modern equivalent is the equivalent of a steam-powered boat. Time to upgrade!
  • Gusto. For payroll, this is the fastest easiest way we found to be compliant and get employees and contractors onboarded.
  • DocuSign. Businesses are run on contracts and if you want to move fast you need a lot of the. Sending someone an NDA should take 5 seconds.
  • Others: FullStory for UX analysis. Whimsical for visual whiteboard and flow charting. Jira for project management. Typeform for surveys.

In writing this list one thing I realized is that being good at, and comfortable with, using a multitude of different SaaS products is almost a requirement to be a startup founder these days. Anything less and you’ll just be stuck moving too slow.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

Equity by TechCrunch is a great podcast to understand the venture capital market, how investors think, and to keep pace with the market.

The Pitch by Josh Muccio is an amazing podcast to prepare for your first investor pitches, listen to at least 50 episodes before you get out there!

Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek is a great primer on the difference between quality leadership and short-term management.

The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz is a fun way to get yourself brutally acclimated with just how woefully difficult your entrepreneurial journey is about to be.

What Every Angel Investor Wants You To Know by Brian Coeh and John Kador is a fantastic read for someone who’s never raised investment capital before.

Venture Deals by Brad Feld and Jason Mendelson is a must for anyone raising institutional capital. Tagline “Be smarter than your lawyer and VC” is true.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

Do something. Do anything. The very first traceable work product I could find was a hastily put-together spreadsheet with a single data point on our market. It was a starting point. We have come very far since then.

The hardest part about starting a company is starting it. Then once you start it, you realize that was the easiest part and the really hard part is making good decisions and sticking with your vision, and executing well.

Have conviction. Let every “no” by an investor light a fire. Keep pushing forward, don’t look back, and accept that failure is what happens before success. When the going gets tough, remember the only one that can stop you is yourself (thanks Adam).

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

Allstar is looking for a rockstar VP of Engineering to help us build our product, grow our amazing engineering team and work closely with me and my co-founder to ensure the technology we build is the best in the world for enabling everyday gamers.

If you’re in NYC, have 6 to 8+ years of experience, and have led teams of 4 to 8+ engineers in your career, let’s talk. If you love video games and have experience in b2c/consumer tech, then we should talk.

This is a full-time salaried position with generous compensation, equity, and benefits. It is a fully remote position that will eventually become a hybrid work-from-home/in-office role. Email your resume and cover letter to [email protected].

Where can we go to learn more?

Check us out and enjoy some amazing gaming content at our website. Or follow us on social media Twitter (or anywhere else). You can find me on Twitter or on LinkedIn at LinkedIn.

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Nick Cuomo, Founder of Allstar
Pat Walls,  Founder of Starter Story

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