Adam Lieb is the Founder and CEO of Duxter, the LinkedIn for Gamers. Duxter is a funded startup in Seattle, WA, poised to be “the next big thing” in gaming. Rather than listen to the conventional wisdom that, “playing games was a waste of time,” Adam turned his passion into business. After starting his first gaming company at age 11, bringing in tens of thousands of dollars selling virtual goods at 13, and building his first million dollar business by 20, Adam founded Duxter, his largest and most prosperous venture yet. Adam believes in challenging the status quo and following your passion.
MO: You started your first company at the age of 11. Can you tell us about your first company and what made you decide to jump into entrepreneurship at such a young age?
Adam: I didn’t set out to be an entrepreneur. It isn’t exactly like I sat down and said to myself “I am going to start a business.” My first real business came out of passion. I loved video games. I loved video games so much I started writing about them. I started writing reviews and guides on how to beat games. Other kids liked these guides, so I started selling them. I figured the only way I would get more kids to read my guides was to start a website. This was 1997, so I hopped on AOL and started learning about how to build websites. My friend Albert Kim and I built a website about our shared passion for video games. We figured out we could put advertising on our site earning us approximately five cents per visitor. We told everyone we knew to check out our website. I am not 100 percent sure either one of us even knew what an entrepreneur was but we were having fun and making money doing something we loved.
MO: From there you went on to start several other businesses. What lead you down the path to founding Duxter? Can you tell us a little more about what Duxter is all about?
Adam: Starting businesses really became a pattern for me. My passion for video games, my budding skills in web development, combined with an ability to recognize the needs of gamers led me down a variety of similar paths. I went from selling game guides, to virtual goods, to account leveling, to custom Xbox consoles. Anything that gamers needed, I found a way to give it to them. Duxter came out of a need I felt in one of those businesses. I had a hell of a time trying to get gamers to “like” my Facebook business page. I would receive glowing testimonials about our products and services, but I couldn’t get more than a nominal amount of “likes.” I started asking my customers about this. They would tell me things like “I don’t want my mom to see this,” “I don’t need my girlfriend knowing how much time I am gaming,” or “Facebook isn’t for this.” I started to recognize that gamers wanted to be social AND they wanted to be gamers. However, they didn’t have an adequate place to do this. That is why we built Duxter — to give gamers a place online to call home.
MO: You have succeeded in making a company around doing what you love. What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs looking to turn passion into profits?
Adam: I think it is all about keeping your eyes and ears open. If you are passionate about something, odds are you spend a bunch of time doing it. One thing that can trip you up is giving too much credence to your own problems. It is important to talk to folks and keep an eye on trends and problems you see in the arena you are passionate about. I personally had no issue leveling up my characters in Diablo 2; what I found out is that there were thousands of people who did have this problem and were willing to pay me to solve it. I built a fairly large business solving this problem. Passion is great, but don’t let it blind you.
MO: What has been the most difficult part of the process of starting your own company?
Adam: Patience. As an entrepreneur you want to do everything, solve every problem, and knock over every wall. And you want to do it all right away. Building a company takes planning and time. Making sure to do the right things in the right order has been the most challenging piece for me. I always feel like I want to push the fast forward button and see where we are in two years.
MO: You have achieved a high level of success at a young age. What advice do you have for other young professionals trying to make it in the startup scene?
Adam: Trust your gut. I often see smart, young, ambitious people who get caught up in what other people say. I read blogs, I read books, and I consult with industry experts and advisors, but none of those make my decisions for me. I think this is especially important for young people. Seeking out advice and learning from others’ mistakes is an unbelievably important part of running a startup. However, you will be faced with 50 decisions a day and there is simply no time to read a book about every possible problem you encounter. Ultimately making good decisions is what separates great founders from everyone else. Trust your instinct.
MO: Out of everything you’ve achieved thus far, what are you most proud of?
Adam: The people I get to work with everyday. I have had plenty of failures and a handful of successes. What I have learned is, that at the end of the day, all you have left are people. People are who stick with you when things don’t go well and whom you have to celebrate with when the stars align and things go well. The relationships I have built are what I am most proud of.
MO: Where do you see Duxter heading in 2013?
Adam: 2013 is about growth. We spent 2012 building the core platform, getting people in the right roles, and making sure we were on solid footing to start scaling. We are excited to continue to develop the tools gamers love and attract folks who believe in our vision. I couldn’t be more excited about our prospects for 2013.
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