When the pandemic hit Toronto in March 2020, Reuven Cohen and his family were weeks away from opening an esports training facility in West Toronto. It would be a place for Gen Z, today’s youth, to gather and game together in a safe and inclusive environment. A place where learning about STEM can be fun with gaming and game development classes. They even had a little spot set aside for the board game lounge when Reuven’s wife Brenda planned to spend her weekends. But when the pandemic hit and a physical location for Gen Z to gather was no longer viable— it was time to pivot.
What kind of business do you start when you can’t leave the house? How do you keep three kids at home engaged and learning? Reuven’s answer is, “Teach them what you know.” Reuven and Brenda asked themselves, what do we know? How to build a website and start a business. What had we been researching? Esports. What do the kids love to do? Game. The answer was there. An esports engagement platform that rewarded gamers for taking part with gift cards and NFT.
While Brenda spent each morning teaching grades 1, 4 and 5 at the dining room table, Reuven locked himself in his office for four months and built the architecture of an automated end-to-end esports competition, engagement and management platform. He named it Award Pool.
Reuven took his son Finnegan and together, they created the chat system for Award Pool. Brenda developed a business plan, an investor deck, and a marketing plan with their older son, Sam. Their daughter, Isla, helped design the logo and defined the colours and style of the website.
At this point, Reuven brought in a trusted friend and business partner, Alex, an experienced CFO, to help take Award Pool to the next level. They completed the team with Ahmad, an expert in esports and business processes. Suddenly, a little family project became a viable and growing business.
Dinner conversations changed from what happened in virtual school to what was needed to make Award Pool better. Reuven and Brenda taught the kids about ownership, stock options, sales and marketing tactics. The kids taught them about what Gen Z were interested in and what bored them. One day, Brenda overheard Sam talking to his friends about the different ways you can sell a company and which one will give you the most profits. Isla started building in Scratch and designing skins in Minecraft. Finnegan became the family’s tech support and an expert gamer.
Jump to 2021; Award Pool evolved to focus on engaging the digital generation in new ways. Award Pool continues to feature game integration and competitions but also offers social actions and challenges for users to complete to receive unique NFT rewards. Content creators ad brands now have a way to reach the digital generation in a meaningful and exciting way while Gen Z still gets to play games together, have fun and win amazing prizes - which is why Reuven built Award Pool in the first place.
One day, Award Pool will be a giant in the engagement and NFT world, but to Reuven and Brenda, it will always be a pivot their family took when the world shut down, and they were left to depend on creativity and drive to make something happen.
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