Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hi, I'll tell you as a CEO. I am Tony Doronin together with my partners Dmitriy Beseda and Alex Karetin create a group of companies in the domain of gaming services.
Today we want to tell you about the Overgear project, which started it all in 2017.
Overgear is a new generation marketplace in gaming. Our main services are assistance in games and training. At the moment, the project is presented in all regions except Asia, unite players of different levels in the disciplines of WoW, Path of Exile, D2, Destiny, Call of Duty, and Valorant.
(Alex Karetin, CBDO& co-founder) I've known Tony before the idea of the project. After almost 6 years of working with investment projects in international banks, I decided to combine my accumulated business experience with one of my main hobbies - games. I have consulted others for a long time in terms of launching products to market. At that time I delved into the business, saw problems, and understood how to avoid them. (Spoiler, not all of them were avoided)
(Dmitriy Beseda, CMO) I'm Dima Beseda. In Overgear I'm the Executive Partner now and I'm focused on launching a new project. Before that, I was responsible for marketing and sales.
Since childhood, I've played well and helped others. Then I started looking for clients in WoW, sold boosting, and launched my store. And now my team and I are making a marketplace — a large IT project!
The funny thing is that now I'm in the role of a client, I often buy boosting and I can definitely say that this is a real high and a different life.
Boosting is often considered to help save people's time. But it's true only in the case of those who think about games like a second job. In fact, because of us, most people discover completely new aspects of gaming, look at the games differently.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
(Dmitriy) All my experience is the way to Overgear. I even tend to joke that taking into consideration all my experience, I couldn't but do Overgear. Although it all started at Mcdonald’s, where I started to work in 2008 when I was expelled from the university. Frankly speaking, the career was short-lived - I left it after 2 months because I was able to earn my monthly salary for 3 nights playing World of Warcraft. So I continued to do it, and at the same time, I began to study at two universities. But I have never finished any of them.
Howbeit I taught and practiced English in games, chose the best courses in necessary skills, and immediately tried to apply them. It was the way how marketing, product management, and leadership appeared in my life. Actually, I do not stop learning even now, it is important to understand the tendencies - this is the only way to create products that set trends for others.
(Alex) As an active gamer, I followed the development of the industry, and as an investment and finance specialist, I understood the potential of the market. The lack of competition among services turned in a low-quality level of any products, but the audience had no choice at all. For a long time, I have reflected on the idea of a project that will provide a completely different level of user experience.
This is how Overgear appeared - as a hub that aggregated a huge number of orders and controlled the quality of the performers. We had a unique offer for users — we guaranteed the safety of their money and maximum quality. We paid attention to convenience and speed, for this we needed IT-expertise, which many teams simply did not have. Tony already had experience in developing projects from scratch, and in this project, he was responsible for the IT part, and I fully decided to delve into business development and look for investments.
I became not only a co-founder but also a co-investor. This fact greatly increases the trust in you at the stage of fundraising.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
(Tony Doronin) We launched MVP with a small team of eleven, and seven of us were on the product development team. In retrospect, it was very... ambitious, to say the least.
I don't know what made it possible in the end: the fact we had no idea how complicated the service will be, the pure enthusiasm of our team, or the amphetamines our designer consumed. But we managed to launch our MVP in 4 months. Did we think it was perfect? Hell no. But it was something new and different, in a good way.
Invest in your team and your HR brand early, or you'll end up working overtime trying to fix other people's mistakes.
Also, it worked, and we still have a few portions of the service we have never touched since the launch.
These days the website looks nothing like it used to on the first launch. We've changed the way we address the marketplace -- we've steered away from the idea of having a gazillion number of supported games towards a better user experience in a small collection of recognized titles. That approach changed the layout and the design of all pages. After all, we've changed the design entirely from pastel white to contrast dark!
Right now, our backlog is like five times more than what we can do in a year. And for me, this is where the fun starts! The beginning of the biggest fascinating challenges ahead.
Describe the process of launching the business.
(Tony) It was the most challenging launch for all of us. We were super motivated and super hyped. And like it usually happens, overly motivated humans tend to make mistakes! I think our biggest one was that we failed to sync our vision into a single MVP.
We ended up doing everything at once, every big feature each of us wanted. We were really stressed and really pushed ourselves to pick speed over quality. How to avoid this? Plan really-really-really ahead, calculate everything, don't rely on optimistic estimates, and be ready to cut something out.
(Alex) One of the difficulties with our launching and preparing an MVP was that we did not have real competitors. We had no one to look at to assess whether our results were good or not, to analyze how others were working. We had to create new rules of the game and experiment.
One of our first steps was testing in the CIS region because for us it is an understandable audience. We knew that we could find the minimum number of performers who could work, and we wanted to understand better the needs of our clients. Know your customer (KYC) theory in action.
After a while, we realized that everything was fine, but we weren't satisfied with a quite small average check. The answer came on its own with entering the foreign market. We realized that it was worth focusing on the Latin American market for finding performers, on Europe and the US for attracting clients. Then our LTV performance increased more than fivefold, but starting in the CIS region also paid off — we saved money at the start.
(Dmitriy) An important point, which few people think about at the start of a business, is the contacts of your first customers. Sometimes they are more important than sales. We all know about MVP principles, about possible problems at this stage. Your product may be reluctant to buy, and that's okay. It's more important to understand the reason, that's why you should collect contacts, literally in any way - landings, chatbots, or answer the mail yourself. The key point is not to miss the opportunity to get feedback and use it.
The first acquaintance with Overgear is always the landing page + context and/or target. Next, we analyze the feedback of leads, read comments, and chats. In general, it's a good rule that works not only for launches.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
(Dmitriy) Our 2 main channels are SEO and Google Ads. We do a great job with the search demand and have advantages over all competitors. SEO is fine if you want to play for a long time. This is one of the most reliable and cost-effective traffic sources, which has its own nuances.
Think about this - Business often invests in starting a blog and getting SEO traffic from there. But nobody thinks about how to sell something to this traffic. It's cheaper to do the following: Write an article and fill it with paid advertising for those queries for which you would like to be indexed naturally. After all, if there are no sales from paid traffic, why would they come from free traffic?
When we talk about Retention, we often refer to trigger communications, reactivation, and so on. But it does not make sense if your product does not solve the user's request better than its counterparts. Best Retention Driver is a good and user-friendly product. The CMO and CPO should have a close connection and ongoing communication to work on the product together.
We use in practice a case when marketers have access to calls and sales chats. So that the salespeople would be aware of what the lead saw (as an advertisement) before the application. Overgear's experience shows it works great.
(Alex) No matter how ironic it may sound, COVID-19 has become a good growth point for us, since a large number of people were at home, they devoted more time to games. And people who, under other circumstances, might not have tried a similar product spent more time online, and we got more customers.
The non-obvious side of the coin is that the pandemic time was stressful for a huge number of people around the world, and Overgear for some of them became an additional way to relax.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
(Alex) In terms of strategy and business, our main goal is to increase the marginality of the services. Now we are proud that more than 20% of our customers have made more than five purchases during our two-year history, people always come back to us, although the number of the audience is also increasing several times.
Now the team is working on preparations for the release of the new WoW update - ShadowLands. It's an important event for our users, a big change in the game, and we want to allow them to enjoy it to the full — we're updating guides, sections and continuing working on the service.
Now everyone understands that games are no longer only for children, our target audience is people aged 24 to 36. These are people who have already grown up, but still love games, and in most cases, they simply do not find enough time or people with whom they could play together, develop their skills in games.
Over the past year, we have provided services for more than $ 8 million, and the number of clients has increased 6 times. To achieve these results and continue to grow, we adhere to a strategy of reinvesting all profits - in hiring, development, marketing. Since its launch, the team has grown from 15 to 50 people, 50 people who know why they are here. We are always looking for passionate people about gaming and are not going to stop.
Find good partners, it will allow you to diversify your risks slightly. Someone that is on your same wavelength, and with whom you complement each other's weaknesses.
(Dmitriy) I am obsessed with the idea of making gaming an honorable and respected hobby, showing the world its advantages — which helps people develop, relax and socialize. Now I'm an active gamer and use the services of different companies, communicate with performers and clients.
From the client's point of view, you look at the service in a completely different way and see new opportunities. It is important to get such insights because they can become the next feature that you add to the release.
Already in 2021, we plan to launch at least 2 new features that were born this way.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
(Tony) Invest in your team and your HR brand early, or you'll end up working overtime trying to fix other people's mistakes. And it won't be enough!
(Alex) When you start creating a startup, you should be prepared to change your idea, model, or approach several times. The one who can change an approach and adapts faster stays on the market.
For example, my partners and I immediately came up with the idea that Overgear would be a marketplace and work according to its principle — where all performers communicate directly with customers, answer customers themselves, and so on. This was the basic idea, because we believed that the market would regulate itself, and we would provide a return of funds if something went wrong.
In practice, everything went wrong. We concluded that most of the performers, who are real professionals in their field, do not know how to sell at all. They didn't respond in chats, were late for sessions, or simply didn't keep up the conversation. It greatly affected the overall sales results — one of the main metrics of any service.
In order not to lose money at the moment, we had to quickly reorganize our current model to a hybrid one - to hire a sales department, which took over the processing of basic services and customer accounting. Although it was not easy to build such a process, the result fully justified the efforts.
(Dmitriy) I'd like to point out thoughts that I tell everywhere — on personal coach consultation and business seminars.
- A founder needs to be good at marketing, to understand at least basic things: key queries, targeting, creative technologies, offer. Otherwise, any contractor can let you down, and you will not even understand what he did wrong.
- Be careful with influencers: it is a specific type of advertising, their target audience has no intention of buying anything, but you can't call them cold traffic either — because they trust the blogger. Influencers can be a good sales channel, but it often requires a special product prepared for them. This channel seems to be simple, but it is often quite tricky.
- Create honest communication within the team. Trust your people, think about them, not for them. Such relationships will always attract the right people and professionals to you, even from your closest competitors. The market is worldwide, but at the same time, it's very small.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
(Tony) Like any modern IT company, we have a long list of SaaS we use. And most of them are the industry standard. But if I were to pick one, I'd definitely highlight Mixpanel. It may look like a product analytics service at first. But don't let them fool you! The thing is much more than that.
First of all, we've saved an insane amount of time by not creating some of the Admin UI interfaces in the first place.
Why would you do that when you have almost all of the data updated there in real-time? You just save a report in Mixpanel. Create a dashboard even, if needed.
Second, their Messages tool is absolutely fantastic. Humble name notwithstanding, it allows you to watch for events or patterns in user events and take action. You can grab your user's attention with a pop-up (fully customizable), send an e-mail, or even perform an API request to your backend. We were able to even set up fraud protection with that! It's insanely flexible and limited by your imagination alone.
I would like to also shout out to my boys at Integromat (I don't actually know anyone from the company, but if you guys read this, drop me a line!). Their service has saved us months of development time. We are able now to build entire features on Integromat that would otherwise take several sprints to complete. And we always build with Integromat, if possible. You get, basically, a superpower to MVP some of your features with 0 development time.
Just a few examples of the features we were able to implement:
- A Telegram bot that helps our managers with custom orders.
- A billing mechanism that automatically creates invoices for our customers and tracks successful payments.
- A notifications bundle that informs our staff of important events that require their attention.
(Dmitriy) It's a funny fact that now there are tools for any aim and request, but they are usually so inconvenient that to automate something, you need to spend the same amount of time learning the software. The approach to the task is often more important than the tool.
Almost any task can be decomposed in a dashboard. For me, any project starts with it — a control panel that can be created even in google tables.
In the marketing team, everyone has their own dashboard, we set goals, control figures in real-time. Transparency is also one of the basic principles of communication.
Since several games are presented on Overgear, an analyst needs to get information about each of them, analyze dependencies and try different hypotheses. It is also collected on the operational response dashboards.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting?
(Alex) The first piece of advice is to find good partners, it will allow you to diversify your risks slightly. Although the risk is the second meaning of business. A good partner is someone with whom you are on the same wavelength, and with whom you complement each other's weaknesses.
The second tip — if your product is useful and people need it, the idea should be described in a couple of sentences. If you cannot briefly and clearly explain what kind of business it is and who needs it, then there are problems. It is better not to launch at this stage, it's better to go to potential users and talk with them.
Any business is not a beautiful idea, it starts with the needs of the audience. There are exceptions when you create know-how and create new markets. But in 99% of cases, when you need to think about the question of who needs your project, it means that your business will work extremely badly if it will at all.
Short to-do list:
- finding a partner and pain that you will solve on the market
- provide your concept with a good unit economy
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
(Tony) Right now we are looking for new people who are as passionate about games as we are and can strengthen our team. All updates about new vacancies you can see on our Angel.co's page.
Where can we go to learn more?
We are happy to share some insights, the way our company is developing, how we work with clients, and, of course, to talk about the latest news from the gaming market and important updates in the disciplines loved by users.
Comany’s blog - Here we post gaming overviews, instructions, and tips on how to solve some problems in games. One of the latest posts was "How to get the legendary item in Shadowlands".
Facebook - Stay tuned, and don't miss our news.
Blog on Medium - Recently we've launched our blog on Medium there you can find loads of useful content created to improve your gameplay and make your gaming life easier. Besides, we share the latest Overgear news, game dev tips and tricks, resources, insights, and more.
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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