I Started A Niche Job Board With $100

Published: April 8th, 2022
Bashar Abdullah
Founder, Remote Game Jobs
Remote Game Jobs
from Ahmadi, Kuwait
started April 2020
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What's your backstory and how did you get into entrepreneurship?

I graduated in 2002 as a Computer Engineer and started my career in the private sector as a Java Developer. The job was in a banking sector firm, and the level of security there meant I have no room to experiment and learn. I saw it as a dead end. So I quit and soon landed a job in a big telecom firm. I thought this was a dream. But soon I realized the politics and toxic work environment there is killing my passion for innovation. It was more about politics than actual work being done.

So in 2006, I started looking for ways to make money online, to transition to being my boss if I can make the same income.

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

My first attempts introduced me to the infamous “get rich quick” schemes, which I quickly learned isn’t the way. I started looking at profitable industries and decided to start 7ojozat (means Bookings). Probably the first Middle-East facing hotel booking site. I had the idea for a hotel price comparison service, and as luck would have it, I soon found out about a company providing that very same service, and it had a very rewarding affiliate program. So I joined them, and we had a very successful affiliate relationship, as I was the one main affiliate in the Middle-East region. I was soon generating a profit and enjoying the advantage of being a first-mover in the region.

When I started generating enough revenue, I quit my corporate job in 2007 and took a 50% cut in income as I moved to a shorter government job as a transitional period. Meanwhile, I had a piece of paper posted in front of me at my home office saying 500. My wife didn’t know what it meant. It was the extra income I need to generate to quit my job and become a full entrepreneur.

In early 2009, I submitted my resignation and started working from home on my own business full-time. It was the dream finally coming true. But of course, it’s not easy. I did it during the economic crisis, and I knew I can’t rely solely on an affiliate-based business. So I soon took the idea of hotel price comparison and applied it to another hobby of mine. A Football (actual football) tickets search engine. As European league tickets sell out quickly, and resellers put them up for high margin, it made sense to have a site that compares and tracks price changes. Tathkarti (My Ticket) went live right before the 2010 World Cup and later added a live score feed to it.

Unfortunately, due to a family crisis in late 2012, I had to suspend my work on the project and be with my father for long-term rehab treatment that lasted for the majority of the time until 2015. By that time, the code was obsolete and broken, and I just could not feel the drive to continue working on Tathkarti anymore. So I decided to shut it down. What remains is a short video guide I made for it back then.

During my time with my father, I spent overall 10 months of this period in London for treatment. During that time, I got bored and started exploring geek events around me. And I landed on a monthly game developer gathering at some pub, so I decided to join. I’ve had the dream of making my own game for a long time and was already tinkering with the Unity game engine. And when I attended that gathering, I noticed how people of different skills are meeting and making important connections, and sometimes finding work through these gatherings. I thought “What if there was a place like ArtStation, except bringing all sorts of talents in the game industry in one place”.

And so I began working on my next project. Since I didn’t have the luxury of time, and this was a large scope project, I outsourced the development to a company and worked with them closely on a day-to-day basis until Skirmish was launched in August of 2015. The start was very well received, and I made good use of my time in London to make more connections. And the site went under several iterations, and we even made a short 1 minute video explainer that won awards.

Keeping a community of various talents engaged, motivated, and growing it however proved too hard. Especially after I left London, as I had to make a business trip to various conferences to help spread the word further. And the cost of development and maintenance kept rising. It wasn’t solving the problem of helping people find jobs, which is eventually the main goal. I put it aside for some time, thinking I will get back to it with a pivot to help promote jobs better.

Meanwhile, I explored some other ideas. One of which was a job board for the Middle East. This time I went back to roots and decided to build it on my own. As I started building it back in early 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic hit hard, and the entire world went into lockdown. All of a sudden, the game industry that was always a foreigner to remote work had to adapt quickly, and shift gears to fully remote. Many studios failed and had to shut down or downsize. And I started seeing people in my Twitter feed seek new remote game jobs. It became obvious. I wasn’t supposed to build a ME job board. The Skirmish pivot I’ve been looking for is staring me in the eyes. I pivoted the job board idea into what is now known as Remote Game Jobs.

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

While launching Remote Game Jobs back in April 2020 was very well received by many, due to the dire need for such a job board, growing it proved extremely difficult. I didn’t have any of the right business connections with game studios, and I and the site were unknown to them. So the first few months were spent building reputation, traffic, and proving the concept and interest in the idea.

After a few months, the site started to get noticed, and it was clear that there is enough interest in the idea to sustain it. I started focusing more on building direct strong relationships with the studios, while at the same time finding new channels to reach wider talent pool.

Never stop learning. What you know now might be enough for now, but you will be outdated soon if you don’t keep up.

The end of the year is always slow in terms of job advertising, but at the beginning of 2021, interest picked up much faster, studios started finding Remote Game Jobs organically, and we gradually become much better known site, and it became easier to approach studios with strong data to convince them. And while in the beginning, many job ads were COVID-19 remote only, today I see more and more studios embracing fully remote work for the long run. This is especially more apparent with the new studios as well, as they learned they can expand their talent pool to be literally worldwide, and they can hire the best talent without having to worry about relocation, and office rent. Many have chosen to go fully remote from the start.

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

Oh yes. Many hard-learned lessons. The most costly was outsourcing. More often than not, outsourcing can end up being costly, and you will either be stuck with the outsource firm, or have difficulty taking over the project internally. Not to say that all outsourcing is bad, but if you do it, make sure you identify and contain the scope, and clearly specify the technologies to be used. Also make sure someone from your team is involved technically every step of the way. Or better yet, just build it internally if you can.

Another costly mistake I made was not doing enough market and user research. Coming up with long wishlist of features I assume users will like, without careful verification methods, or consideration for the cost and complexity involved. I truly learned the value of UX design before embarking on a large-scope project. Especially one you are outsourcing.

Third mistake is, not generating revenue and validating the idea ASAP. I built Skirmish without any source of revenue, hoping to grow it large enough to attract job advertisers much later. I spent a lot of time and money without verifying the idea, and without taking outside funding. That means I didn’t have enough resources or time to grow. This eventually lead to shutting down Skirmish in December last year.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

For development, I use my favorite web framework Ruby on Rails, with Bulma for the front-end, as it’s so beautiful and easy to use, it makes me look like I actually know front-end design. The site is hosted on Heroku, as it takes the headache of server configuration and scaling, so I can focus on developing and running the business.

For emails I use ConvertKit to manage my newsletter subscriptions, and Postmark for transactional emails. Of course like every other entrepreneur these days, Notion is my go-to for documentation.

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

It’s really hard to pick, but I will definitely have to mention Creativity Inc. by Pixar co-founder Ed Catmull, and Steven Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. As for podcasts, I always find How I Built This full of inspiration and motivation.

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

Never stop learning. What you know now might be enough for now, but you will be outdated soon if you don’t keep up. Do your market research, and understand the problem you’re trying to solve, and whether someone has already tried and did it or not.

Also, find a mentor, ask for advice, hangout with other highly motivated smart people that help you grow. By isolating myself, I kept myself away from the treasure of knowledge I could have gathered.

When you embark on a project, build an MVP, test your ideas and iterate quickly, pivot and don’t get attached to it. Seek potential partnerships that helps you and the other business.

Where can we go to learn more?