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Razer: From Startup to Cult Brand

 

How two guys on opposite sides of the planet birthed an industry.

Every business starts with an idea. The success of that business relies on the passion of its exponents. Sometimes the idea is deliberate, thought-out and built from fundamentals into a going concern. Other times, well, there’s just something you think should be better, so you take it upon yourself to improve it, and a company happens before you know it. Razer falls into that second category.

Razer’s genesis came about when I met Robert Krakoff online whilst playing Quake. Between games, we would be chatting online, musing about how the world needed a mouse that didn’t suck, that was fast enough and accurate enough to keep up in-game with our actions in real life.

BIRTH OF AN INDUSTRY

In a surprisingly short amount of time, pontifications became discussions, which in turn matriculated to planning and the creation of the world’s first gaming mouse. We had no idea how huge an impact the Razer Boomslang mouse would have on gaming, we were just excited for our friends to get their hands on what we’d created.

Between the two of us, we had created a faster, more accurate mouse than anything on the market. How do I know, you ask? Well, while testing the mouse in an online First-person Shooter (FPS) game, I got booted off the server because I was suspected of cheating. I was simply too fast and too accurate to not be cheating somehow, they concluded. That, inspired me to do more – to give gamers an “unfair advantage”. Robert was just as keen.

We took some time to get our act together, and started Razer as a company in Carlsbad, California – near the “Silicon Valley South” area, which was a great location for a startup. There was more appetite for new businesses there as opposed to other parts of the world. Although being an entrepreneur and running a startup back then were nowhere near as “sexy” as today, the experience was definitely gratifying.

When we started in 2005, we had a small office that could barely fit our three staff members. Every day was a battle to stay solvent. We had one product, a fistful of ideas and rapidly dwindling capital. The one thing we did have going for us though was an unending pool of passion. We were all gamers and, rather than making a product then trying to figure out how to make people want it, we decided to engineer what we and other gamers would want and bring those concepts to life.

BUILDING A BRAND

We spent the next 10 years building our brand. There were ups and downs but we stayed true to our vision of creating cool products that gamers would want, sometimes in defiance of common business sense. Slowly but surely, we began to grow. We hired more staff and built our community together with the gamers out there.

The real tipping point came after we had been in business for a few years. We were going through a trying period; a bigger company approached us to sell out. It warranted serious consideration. I went as far as to meet the company’s CEO who told me point blank that if I didn’t sell, he would simply run us into the ground.

This would have sounded intimidating if not for the realisation that we had something they did not – the Gamers. They were a big company that would devote maybe two percent of their time on thinking about what gamers want. We, however, spend all day, every day thinking about what gamers want. Since the beginning we have been hyper-focused on our niche target audience – the Gamers, and instinctively I knew if we continued on that track, we would eventually succeed. On that same day, I returned to the office and assured my staff that we had nothing to worry about. I was right.

FROM STARTUP TO UNICORN

From that point, our growth was exponential. We stayed hyper-focused on our target audience, making sure that we didn’t lose sight of what they wanted by staying close to them through social media. Today, we have over a million followers on Instagram, over two million followers on Twitter and another seven million plus on Facebook. We even have our own channel to talk to our community in a completely unfettered way: Razer Insider.

There are no canned responses at Razer. Every comment comes from a real person, in a real, uncensored way. We are guided by our motto, “For Gamers. By Gamers.” And we will never compromise on our values or our promise to gamers. The result is, we now have a pretty phenomenal gamer community around Razer – active, engaged and real. We will change nothing.

 

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