Sports are one of the driving forces of the global economy; estimated to be worth over $90 billion USD in 2017 alone. Fans of sports such as football, baseball, cricket and soccer invest huge amounts of time consuming through TV, online and at live events.
I sat down with Chris Hentschel, Founder and Tech Lead at TradeStars, and gained his unique insights into leading teams, ensuring clarity of vision in delivering complex products and blending high performance with wellbeing within a rapidly growing business. They have created a Fantasy Sports platform, where Fractional NFT (non-fungible token) markets enable a DeFi gamification system for trading digital assets which represent real-life athlete performances.
Q: What was your journey towards founding your own startup, and what are some of the key lessons you learnt along the way?
I have been involved in the gaming space now for over 7 years. Before getting into blockchain scaling research with payment channels back in 2016, I was consulting for gaming / gambling operations and running a Daily Fantasy Sports with its principal focus in Brazil.
As soon as I got involved in the blockchain space I started contributing to companies in the sector, like Decent.Bet and then Decentraland, which I joined in late 2017. It immediately caught my attention the creation of the NFT ERC-721 standard at the time, with its first massive appearance when Dapper labs launched crypto kitties in December 2017. I saw how the ERC-721 took shape and how we used it to sell the first 90K virtual parcels inside Decentraland in April 2018.
It was the 2018 FIFA world cup, and because of my background in the Fantasy Sports and Gaming industries, I started thinking about the initial concept to represent athletes performances through NFTs and implement a decentralized exchange layer on top of them to allow users trade fractions of those NFTs.
I learned a lot down the road, but key lessons I would say are related to how a new industry takes shape. That’s a pretty unique experience. I saw how ERC721 was born and some concepts found its way to mainstream, such Bancor’s bonding curves implementation.
Q: As a sport dominated business, what learnings have you applied from the sporting world which have helped drive growth for TradeStars?
Community and fans sit at the heart of sports. Without the fans, most sports would not exist in their current forms. We take this to heart, not just in the value we place on our community of fans, but in our internal community here at TradeStars. For us, this is a passion, and by sharing our passion we are all motivated to do better things.
Like in sports, teamwork, dedication and a common goal are really important. I am truly fanatical about ensuring that every member of our team feels like they are contributing; whilst understanding what they are contributing towards. Why are we doing this, and not something else? You know?
Q: How do you motivate your team to share your passion for the business?
Having a shared passion, as well as a shared objective is extremely important. My team is highly motivated as they are passionate about the project, but also are given ownership and accountability to deliver their work. This helps give them a clear sense of being something bigger than just themselves; or their immediate team.
Yes, making a huge success of my company would be phenomenal, but because we are so passionate about the project, and have shared vision, mission and goals, the real victory would be in being able to share our passion far and wide through our product.
Q: With many businesses now focusing on team mental wellbeing, how have you developed the TradeStars culture to keep your team both high performing and happy?
That’s a great question, and one which we take seriously at TradeStars. While it’s important for us to create a great product which our customers will love, it’s equally important to ensure the team creating it is motivated, happy and engaged. What’s most important for me is to never expect a member of the team to do something which I myself would not do. This ethic is especially important in fast moving, but small teams. There can be no ivory towers!
While we do have a clear leadership structure, we have found that a flatter, transparent and democratic way of making decisions and assigning ownership has led to massive increases in both productivity, and team satisfaction. Like I said previously, we are all passionate about the product we are creating. So by providing opportunities for individual team members to be accountable for their specific area’s delivery has been hugely successful.