First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Bartosz Skwarczek: The last three months were definitely challenging, both professionally and personally. My number one priority has been the safety of my family, ensuring that those closest to me are healthy. Thankfully, I am happy to report that no family members have been directly impacted – which is a huge relief.
My second biggest priority has obviously been the safety of G2A employees – G2Anians as we call them, my corporate family, and ensuring that G2A’s 600 team members around the world remain physically and mentally healthy. These have been stressful times for us all and that’s why we’ve tried to engage with colleagues as much as possible, checking-in with staff daily, on a 1:1 basis, and been as flexible as possible with our working arrangements.
Thankfully, the transition to remote working went very smooth, as G2A has long-standing policies and procedures to support remote working that were in place well before the pandemic. Most of our employees are continuing to work remotely, as I believe it’s the safest option at this time. I miss meeting employees in person, but health always comes first.
As a major international business, we’ve also tried to do what we can to give back to the communities in which we operate. That is why we have donated to charities that are supporting the COVID-19 relief effort, including organizations in the Netherlands, where G2A is headquartered, and in Hong Kong, where we have offices. We have also provided funding support to local hospitals in Poland, where our R&D operations are based.
I’ve been really encouraged to witness the energy and willingness that many entrepreneurs have shown during this pandemic to support the most vulnerable. I’ve personally contacted many of them, and we were able to solve lots of problems related to coping with COVID-19 together. We even created an online platform for charity organisations that are fighting COVID-19, so they can collect and manage donations from their communities for free.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded or joined G2A
Bartosz Skwarczek: It often surprises people to hear that my entire career had nothing to do with gaming until I helped to launch G2A.
I grew up in Poland in a traditional working-class family, and during my high school, my very first job came as a manual worker assembling furniture. I’m a lifelong learner and love acquiring new skills, so spent the next years combining learning and working across various different industries, including trade, services, manufacturing, different selling and IT.
During my time at AGH University in Kraków, I founded a steel company and realized that running my own business was my true passion.
In 2010, a young gaming enthusiast, Dawid Rożek, came to me looking for help in realizing his entrepreneurial dream. He had a lot of passion for gaming, I had experience in running a major business, and so together we launched G2A under the name Go2Arena. We started in Poland, and we quickly moved the center of our business to Hong Kong, as this is a strategic gateway to Asia: the fastest growing market for video games in the world. Then, our business skyrocketed, and now the entire group is based in Amsterdam, Netherlands, where I also live.
Our vision was to establish ourselves as an online destination for video games. Most importantly, we wanted to sell games at a price-point that made them accessible to all gamers. Before G2A was born, many young people had the choice between buying very expensive games or downloading it illegitimately from torrents sites. In 2014, we launched G2A Marketplace, which is now the largest online gaming marketplace in the world, having around 20 million users and 400,000 sellers in 200 countries. Thanks to the huge competition on the platform we see the prices are far below the SRP, and piracy rates are plummeting.
It’s also worth to mention G2A increased overall demand and new game discovery throughout the ecosystem, as it’s providing free additional marketing for publishers. Also many official distributors sell on G2A, bringing to games clients who would never pay full price for the title. This helps publishers to cover all segments of customers.
How does G2A innovate?
Bartosz Skwarczek: Our vision is to make G2A.COM the number one shopping destination for gamers and geeks. To achieve it, we’re constantly adding new product categories. We also must continually innovate to ensure that G2A provides an e-commerce experience like-no-other when it comes to buyer and seller user experience. That is why we are continuing to invest significant sums of money towards our proprietary technology, including our AI systems, to help make transactions via our site as smooth, seamless and secure as possible.
Our technology leads the industry and we are also determined that our people do too. That is why, despite our size, we continue to recruit and reward staff like a start-up – ensuring that we hire carefully and strategically, then reward innovation by providing competitive pay and benefits for our employees. Technology is extremely important while running e-commerce, but still we care a lot for our clients, partners, and of course employees. I’m proud to work with the best people in the industry, and I love G2A’s vibe. We’re more than just professionals doing their jobs, we’re more like a huge group of friends.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business and how are you coping?
Bartosz Skwarczek: I am saddened to see how the global pandemic is heavily affecting many countries. Social distancing requirements have inevitably meant more people staying at home. As you would expect, this has led to an increase in demand for games and consoles, as individuals look for something to keep them entertained and distracted during lockdown. From a business perspective, this has had a positive impact on demand. In the US, for example, we have seen a 155% increase in users’ searches for the first four months of 2020.
But it’s the human interest angles that always interest me… For example, we noticed that one of the biggest surges in demand for games during lockdown in the US has been from over 60s. This is a generation that hasn’t grown up with Playstations and Nintendos, but is now realizing what joy video games can bring, as they look for new hobbies during lockdown.
Did you have to make difficult choices and what are the lessons learned?
Bartosz Skwarczek: Like every major business, we’ve learned lots of lessons during this pandemic. At G2A, we’ve learned that we have the character, attitude and expertise to overcome almost any challenge. We’ve also learned that being apart from one another can be really tough if not properly addressed. We’re in no rush to get staff back to the office – and our priority is the safety of our employees. However, from a personal perspective, I cannot wait to get back to some kind-of-normal, to see my teams face-to-face and to return to office life.
As we come out of lockdown, I think all businesses will need to make tough decisions as to how we strike a balance between office and home working. I think the long-term solution is a combination of flexible working and more purposeful office-work, but I am looking forward to engaging with colleagues on this and hearing their views.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety, how do you project yourself and G2A in the future?
Bartosz Skwarczek: Everyone deals with stress differently and I don’t believe there is any magic formula that works for everyone. For me, however, I like to keep myself in-check by sticking to my routines, exercise a lot, eat healthy, and aim for proper amount of sleep.
It is also proven that your community – whether that’s family, friends or colleagues – can alleviate anxiety and stress, therefore, I try to make time every day to chat with my G2A work colleagues – G2Aanians as we call them – about something unrelated to work… whether that’s family, a new game we are playing or our new exercise routine.
I also believe it’s important, as an employer, that we create an environment that minimises stress. As well as setting the right culture, we try to provide office resources for employees to take a break… At our offices, we have nap rooms, a sauna, a gym, games room, etc… so they can take care of their wellbeing. While people are working remotely, they can take their comfy chairs from the office, everyone could also order noise-cancelling headphones, laptop stands or massage pillows delivered to their doors.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Bartosz Skwarczek: All the time we aim for the stars. I believe there’s no company like G2A, and there’s also no company that I want G2A to become. Of course, we’re looking at many leading international e-commerce sites, trying to learn from their successes, and also failures. Today, there is no place for gamers and geeks in the world where they could go to find everything they dream of. And that’s where we’re heading.
Your final thoughts
The last few months have taught us a very important lesson: to value simple things that before had seemed obvious, but now are not: human connection, living without a fear of the health of your family, friends and employees, freedom of travelling. I believe that our life will never be the same, because we are not the same anymore. We are wiser and more human.
My personal website: https://skwarczek.eu/
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