Bobby Thandi is the founder and CEO of XR Games, an award-winning virtual reality games studio. Bobby started XR Games in 2017, with four other people. Now, just seven years later, his staff numbers are 110. Based in Leeds, they create VR games for Hollywood studios and publishers such as Meta, PlayStation and Microsoft. Bobby talked to the Barclays specialist Games and Creative team about five things that helped him go from start-up to scale-up.
1. Know your customer
Although I was coding games from a young age, I also had a weekend job on a market stall. Meaning I had an idea about how to sell things while I was still in my teens. And after uni, I worked for a market research firm, in their data unit. This helped me understand what made customers tick. So having ideas and the ability to bring them to life are important, but it really helps to know you’re making something people want to buy.
2. Partner with people who get you
Our previous bank didn’t really see us for the kind of business we are. But when the Barclays specialist Games and Creative team turned up, it was a breath of fresh air. They didn't dress in suits, they dressed like us. They spoke like us. They were at the networking events I was going to. I could talk about anything with them – especially our industry, which they seemed to know inside out.
3. Play well together
When I was younger my favourite games were the co-operative games, where you’re playing with each other. It’s why I went into VR gaming, because there’s a big element of co-operative play there too. Taking this approach to business – trying to find the best outcome for both parties – that’s how you develop long, multi-year relationships.
4. Hire right first time
At the start of XR Games, I was involved in the hiring of every new employee. But as we got bigger, this became more difficult. In 2022 we grew from 40 staff in January to 100 by the year’s end. And because I felt I couldn’t interview everyone, we took on a handful of people who weren’t really right for us. I suppose it’s one of the growing pains of a new business. Now I make sure I’m involved in every key hire.
5. Get out there
A lot of game development is obviously done in front of a screen, but if you want the business to grow you’ve got to get up from the desk and meet people. I’d go to these networking events, and Barclays were great with that. They seemed to know exactly the right people I should be talking to. At one event I was put in touch with someone who’d founded a games company a few years before me – he’s now become a valuable mentor.
“When the Barclays games team turned up, it was a breath of fresh air. They didn't dress in suits, they dressed like us. They spoke like us”