First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Akos Gabossy: My wife is pregnant, and we expect our baby boy in November, so we have to be extra cautious. Professionally I was very active during the first phase of the pandemic. I had a lot of spare time to work on new projects and get ready for our upcoming 2 years, which is going to be extremely intensive.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded PanIQ
Akos Gabossy: After acquiring my university diploma in 2010, I established the 2 biggest family entertainment centers in Hungary in collaboration with local angel investors. Thanks to these projects, I learnt a lot about the leisure and service industry. Budapest became the global capital city of escape rooms back in 2012, so it was kind of obvious to me to get involved in the business and try to build something meaningful. My goal was to create an internationally successful franchise brand, which has several offices across the world. PanIQ Room became my life 6 years ago, and I’m proud to say that we have brought joy to many people with our games and we are able to promote another great Hungarian invention internationally.
How does PanIQ innovate?
Akos Gabossy: Location-based entertainment is a very capital intensive industry, which means you need a lot of money to innovate and keep your guests excited. Starting a business in the US from Eastern Europe is a huge challenge, and capital has always been the biggest limit of our growth.
I always like to think long term, so PanIQ is committed to creating a better and better experience, which are technologically more advanced and immersive. Our newest project is our generation 4 escape room, which is a fully automated alien-themed adventure. Instead of just solving a random chain of puzzles, the storyline becomes more relevant, and players will be part of their own movie.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Akos Gabossy: Just like other similar location-based service providers, most of our units are currently closed. PPP program was a huge help, and we also had some reserves, which will keep us active. We also see a huge business opportunity after COVID, for our plan is to start building 10+ new locations in 2021-2022. We predict half of our competition will disappear in 2021, so if we act quickly, we can dominate the market. We also started to work on some new projects, for example, creating our own tabletop game seemed like an excellent answer to social distance. Our guests can take home the PanIQ experience, and I hope a family-friendly battle royal style board game mixed with escape room puzzles sounds like an exciting activity.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Akos Gabossy: We learnt a lot about negotiating with our landlords, and major events will play a significant role in our future lease negotiations. It’s also wise for PanIQ to create a virus-proof revenue source, our board game can provide an excellent answer to this issue.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and PanIQ in the future?
Akos Gabossy: Stress has always been part of my life, when you do 4-6 multi-million dollar construction projects simultaneously you get used to pressure. I like to watch sitcoms and spend time with our vizsla dog, Vitéz. Having a son in 2020 also sounds like quite a challenge, my wife and I are trying to create a peaceful vibe and a safe environment for him.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Akos Gabossy: Compete with other location-based entertainment businesses, such as bowling alleys, arcades, trampoline parks, escape rooms, VR parks, etc. COVID-19 has struck the entire leisure industry like lightning, surviving the pandemic is probably the biggest entrepreneurial challenge for me so far. I always have a plan B, so I hope that will keep us alive this time too! I feel responsible for my investors, partners and associates; sometimes it’s very exhausting to keep 50 people around you enthusiastic and optimistic.
Your final thoughts
Akos Gabossy: Stay healthy and look for the new clues!