Rebels, Misfits and Innovators, 50over50: Tony Pearce

We think it’s time to recognise and celebrate the true talent in our industry, the creatives, technologists, founders and leaders that are really driving our industry and shaping society, who just happen to be over 50. 50over50 is a series of interviews, shortly to become a podcast, with our most influential and inspiring industry leaders aged 50 and over.  

The ebullient Tony Pearce has been a mainstay of the mobile and digital tech industry for over 25 years. An entrepreneur, CEO and investor behind some of the most innovative companies in the digital sector, he’s also behind the wildly successful Centurions networking events in cities including London, New York and Berlin.

What is the biggest mistake companies are making in their attitude to age today?

Mark Zuckerberg famously once said ‘Young people are just smarter.’ That’s bollocks when running a business. Never under estimate how important experience in failure and success are.

What one thing are you proudest of in your career?

It’s so difficult to pinpoint one thing, I’ve had so many proud times and also so many bad times.

The first would be growing one of my companies from a 2-man start up to over 120 people. Player X was named, by Library House, as the fourth fastest-growing VC-backed company in the UK before being sold.

Another was successfully closing a funding round via an ICO (Initial Coin Offering), when every thought I was mad.

When I look back at some of the most difficult times, they have turned out to be some of my proudest. I remember one month not being able to pay payroll in one of my start-ups (over 30 people), no one knew, but I never gave up, and pulled in a deal in the last minute. The company went onto be very successful.

I’ve just finished a new mobile game called Reality Clash, which has been named as one of the most anticipated blockchain games of the year, of this I am immensely proud.

Managing to resist the seductive lure of the big corporates and their pay packets…who wants that?

My advice – never give up when times get hard – with a will there is always a way.

What creative heights are you now capable of that you wouldn’t have been able to achieve at the early or mid-point of your career?

I’ve always been an entrepreneur but in my early career I would tend to listen to what other people said and never believed in myself. Many times I wish I had just got on with it and not been put off by people telling me ‘it’s too risky, why quit your job to do that, it’s a shit idea, it will never work’.

Now I just don’t envision failure, this enables me to be creative – I have managed time and time again to come up with ideas for new start-ups (some have been successful, some have failed), but I have been able to pivot them in a new direction when needed.

My advice is not to underestimate your ability and never take no for an answer.

I now have confidence in myself not to be put off with negativity, in fact it just makes be more determined to prove them wrong.

What gives you the most satisfaction in your role today?

Working with the latest tech, smart games developers and being my own boss

What is the biggest lesson you have learned in your career?

Don’t drink your own ‘Kool-Aid’.

If you start a new business also ask yourself if you would use your product. If it does not work, pivot or move on fast.

No job is safe whether you work for a big corporate or a start-up, so work for yourself and put your destiny in your own hands.

What advice would you give your 25-year old self?

Don’t always be the last one at the bar. I’m still working on this one at 50!

What are you most excited about in your industry over the next 10 years?

I work in the games industry, it’s astonishing how quickly the technology moves. I’m particularly interested in how AR and VR games will change game play over the next 5 years. However, the area I’m most excited about is Blockchain games.

This is a game changer, imagine playing Fortnite and purchasing some in game items (hats, skins, weapons) but being able to take these digital items into other games and then trade or sell them to friends. This is now possible by tokenising these in-game assets and logging them onto the Blockchain. You can now actually own the in-game digital items you buy and you can do whatever you want with it.

This is a potential trillion- dollar market.

What is your biggest regret about the industry today?

Unfortunately, the games industry is difficult to enter and you need deep pockets to develop games. Console games have multi-million-pound development budgets and long development cycles. Only the top 5% of mobile games actually make money and getting your game discovered on app stores amongst 900 million other apps is difficult.

CPA and advertising to acquire new users is expensive and a challenge, but when you do get a hit and you actually see people playing your game there is no better feeling.