If you have been reading our other interviews, there is a constant theme. It is that professional life is a journey. Everyone was involved with very interesting professional activities prior to joining Reality Games. Our Tech Evangelist, Paul Chen, has made the longest geographic journey of all. He was born in Asia, grew up and educated in America, and now working in Poland. Let’s hear his story.
Hello Paul, Please tell us something about yourself.
I was born in Taipei, Taiwan. Moved to the United States when I was quite young. I grew up in New Jersey not too far from the Jersey Shore, no relations to the TV show. I got my undergraduate Bachelor of Science from Rutgers University. I got my Masters of Science in Education from St. John’s University in Queens, New York. Before joining Reality Games, I had been working as a journalist for the Polish government. I was also doing some blogging for the startup community in the CEE region.
We see that you have had quite a teaching background, what was it like to teach in the New York City public schools?
It was a very rewarding experience. I had a chance to teach with a whole army of dedicated professionals. Teachers really are one of the cornerstones of society. New York City school students are some of the most underserved populations out there. Many of them come from broken homes while having to deal with many of society’s complexities when they step out their door. As a result, they need a person who will not only teach them some curricular content, but be a good role model as well. I tried to be that for those students. It can be quite difficult for many of the more conservative teachers, but I find that if you can reach the students on a human level, then they will listen to you. On the whole, it was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.
We hear quite a lot of bad stories about living in New York City, are they true?
Television shows and movies will have you believe that New York City can be a very dangerous place to live. Then again, small towns can be just as dangerous. When you have the population of small countries squeezed into the space of a city, and on top of that, people from over 100 cultures and languages forced to interact with each other, you are going to have some problems. Shows are also meant to be more dramatic. The fact is that New York City is safer now than ever. Yes, you still have killings and disasters, but it is because everything is more concentrated.
What are some of the highlights of working and living in New York? And what have you learned?
Oh, where do I start? Working in New York meant the opportunity to interact with a diverse demographic of people. It’s never boring. It meant that you have to be very dynamic and clever. You learn to pick your battles as well as learn when to let things go. I also learned that not everything is black and white. You have to be flexible. I also learned that if you work hard and intelligently, you can do very well. As far as the highlights, New York doesn’t stop for anyone. There are literally something going on every second. There are the world’s best concerts, plays, shows, sporting matches, exhibits of art and history all at your front door. Some of them are not expensive, even free. You meet all types of people, from street vendors to rock stars to movie celebrities. If you like food, the choices are endless.
If life is so good in New York, why did you leave?
Despite the millions of people in New York, you can get lost in the humanity. After getting used to the excitement of taking part in all that the city has to offer, you can start to get lonely. Because of this fear of missing out feeling, developing real close relationships can be hard. It is true with friends and romantic partners. I was always curious about Europe, so I decided to leave for a while.
So you came to Poland?
Not exactly, I first lived in Prague, Czech Republic for like four years. I got involved with a Polish girl who manipulated me and pulled me back to Poland with her. When I realized what had happened, it was too late and I was tired from the struggle so I decided to stay and see what is going on.
How did you get involved with the startup community?
So it’s a very interesting story. It started by me meeting a guy named Richard Lucas who is a local business Angel and he invited me to a morning coffee held at the Google offices in Krakow. And then I kept on going to these startup meetups. I decided that these events should be recorded so I started a Blog. And by writing this blog I was able to attend more meetings and some of them were invite only so that allowed me to me even more interesting people, and be in even more interesting meetings.
What have you been doing in the startup community?
Because of all the blogging I have been doing, the Polish government (PARP) hired me to write some articles for them and I did that for a year because it was a one-year project. On top of that, I also organized a few one-night meetings in order to connect the Krakow startup community to others in the European Union. One of the meetings was co-organized by the European Commission. The other meeting was co-organized by the Pioneers Startup Festival.
What do you feel are the good things that the Polish startup community are doing?
The Polish start a community are doing quite well. Recently there have been some articles written about us by Major Western Publications like Forbes and VentureBeat. And our companies are doing well. Many startups are raising a good amount of money like multi-million dollar rounds. And startups like Reality Games are winning Awards and gaining international recognition.
What do you feel could be a problem?
For many years now there has been a big obsession by the community about unicorns. A unicorn is a company that is valued at more than 1 billion dollars. So many of the startup leaders are focusing too much on this and they are focusing on fundraising and getting International attention. It’s like the Air Jordan problem. You can spend your whole pay check on a pair of Air Jordans but have nothing to eat or you work hard and earn enough to buy Air Jordans and eat well. The current state of the Polish startup community reflects the first scenario. They are not talking too much about building really great businesses and building a strong economy. Currently, unicorns are dying because people realize that they are not great businesses. So I believe that if you have an ecosystem with many great businesses, then unicorns will come they will come naturally, and the economy will thrive.
How did you end up in Reality Games?
So because of my blogging, Zbigniew, was quite fond of the way I think the way I write and how I’m able to promote the startup Community here in Krakow. As a result he decided to take me on to help him with promotional and communications activities of Reality Games.
What are you doing for the team?
Currently I am providing content for the website the blog and social media. I also do media outreach by contacting journalists. I am also promoting the company at conferences and other startups and gaming events. It’s been pretty cool, the job is challenging me to expand my abilities and skills.
What are good things and bad things that you can observe?
The good thing is that we are growing and we are profitable and people really like our game. I also play Landlord, and I am enjoying it quite a lot. Our biggest problem is that because we are growing we need more people to help develop the other games and the game engine. Tell if you are a program especially with Scala and looking for work please contact us we are hiring!
How do you feel about the future of the company?
The success of Landlord has been mind blowing. Over two million downloads with almost zero marketing spending! We have another two games in the works. Lots of media professionals have show tremendous interest in the concept. The future looks bright. Our job is to be able to execute. And I believe we will.
Even though there are already quite a lot of data out there the area of big data is just in the beginning. There are still quite a lot of things to do with it. The possibilities are endless. The fact that we are actually doing something with all that content is something that hasn’t really been explored by many companies yet. So I believe our first mover’s Advantage is still quite significant. And it should provide us years of work to come.
What do you like to do for fun?
Like many guys I like watching football on television. I support Manchester United and FC Bayern. I’m quite excited about the Euro 2016 tournament coming up. And like my colleague Sebastian I also like good food so I do a lot of cooking at home. I also enjoy going to different places. For example conference in Spain was amazing because I had never been to Spain before so that was exciting.
Thank you very much for your time, Paul!
It was a pleasure.