From SEGA to VALORANT: How Two Singaporeans Turned a Gaming Passion Into a Thriving Esports Startup

Matt and Nikh talk about starting IMPLS Entertainment and Paper Rex™, one of Asia’s premiere professional esports teams.

Matt: Growing up, it was obvious I was a total nerd. Some of my most memorable times came from playing Pokemon, Tamagotchi and Digimon. I would save up lunch money just so I could take the bus to Serene Centre to purchase Magic: The Gathering cards. 

One day, a good friend asked, “Hey Matt, want to go to a cybercafé in Shaw Centre after school? There’s this awesome new game called Counter-Strike!” And that was it. That was my introduction to competitive gaming – I was hooked. 

Nikh: I have a very similar story to Matt. I was always a tech geek and my dad’s a tech nerd, too. I played my first games on DOS back in 1992. As a kid, I had a Super Nintendo, Sega Megadrive and PlayStation

In 1999, a good friend of mine introduced me to Counter-Strike. I was only 11 then. I would lie to my parents about where I was going just so I could play after school. Almost every hard skill I have today can be traced back to Counter-Strike

Matt: Nikh and I have known each other since our teenage years. We were acquaintances in school but reconnected in 2019 because we were both in the esports space. 

Our conversations about starting an esports company together did not take any longer than a month or two towards the end of 2019. At midnight on New Year’s Eve, I sent him a quick WhatsApp message that simply said, “We have the investment” and the rest is history. 

Nikh: We founded IMPLS Entertainment because we were tired of seeing so many esports companies get it wrong. After sharing and talking about our own experiences as gamers, we wanted to build communities and products that people care about. 

We started with CSGO2ASIA, which is the go-to website for all Counter-Strike related news in Asia. Today, we have 30,000 monthly active readers in over 40 countries. We also organise a paid subscription-based league for players to compete against each other. 

Matt: We founded Paper Rex™ as well. They’re one of Asia’s premiere professional esports teams. We ranked sixth in Asia for Counter-Strike and have recently entered VALORANT.

It’s a relatively new game by the same makers of League of Legends. In just a few months, our VALORANT team is now ranked top 5 in the APAC region. 

Our team is a full-time team, meaning players get a full-time contract and paid fair salaries. They also receive similar benefits an employee gets in any other job. On average, the team works about eight hours a day, five days a week. 

Like Nikh said, we’ve seen so many esports companies get it wrong that we want to do this right – treat our players right with fair contracts and create a standard of professionalism and work ethic that is needed to succeed.

Nikh: Of course there were challenges. Growing up, my parents hated me playing games because it obviously affected my grades and commitment to academics. It’s easier to find success if you’re a lawyer, a doctor or an engineer, but I was none of those from day one. 

I’ve worked in three different companies and I just hated the idea of working a 9-5 job. It never sat well with me. It was a struggle, comparing yourself to others who seemingly found their “dream job”. I craved that but simultaneously despised it. 

Matt: It is no secret that Asian parenting is tough. We were both supposed to take over family businesses that were built through generations of hard work. But at the end of the day, it was a compromise between having a financially comfortable life versus grinding it out in a space that we have passion for. 

Nikh: Obviously for us, gaming turned out to be something viable. We’ve started a company that is providing jobs, financial stability and opportunities to ourselves and those that we employ. But this didn’t happen overnight either; it was over 10 years in the making! 

So if you have the option of pursuing your true passion instead of “taking the easy way out”, I highly recommend you do so. It may be scary, and it may not be the thing that pays your bills initially, but believe me, when you follow something you’re passionate about, the money arrives in one way or another.

Matt: I would caution though, that simply following your passions blindly is also not a good idea. Ultimately, you have to ask yourself what can you “give”? What can you provide that no one else can? If this is something that the market demands, there is a business to be made. 

Now that I’m in the esports entertainment and management space, what drives me is the idea of being a part of a growing space that I love. I get to create opportunities for those who previously never succeeded in a career that wasn’t even seen as a career not too long ago.

Interview by: Arman Shah

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1 Comment

  1. Duster

    Easy to say , these guys never had
    To work a day in their life , “the magical investment “ is from family , just Google Matt Last name when you find it ! I agree that yes the passion is there but this would not have happened if not for the privilege circumstances they hail from !

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