Zach Pettinger ditched top-ranked business schools in the US in favor of a full-time MBA in Australia. Now, he’s co-founder and chief gaming officer at GameCore, a Sydney-based tech startup connecting corporate professionals through a common passion for gaming.
Like a gamified LinkedIn, GameCore’s unique algorithm matches people together based on their professional profiles, industries, and backgrounds.
The idea is that like-minded professionals play video games together, and develop meaningful relationships across the corporate workplace at the same time – GameCore has just launched the world’s first corporate gaming league.
Prior to his MBA, Zach worked in finance for big corporate firms like General Mills and KPMG in the US. He relocated thousands of miles to pursue a 16-month MBA at Sydney’s Australian Graduate School of Management (AGSM).
Zach wanted to differentiate himself and take a risk. At AGSM, he’s done just that. With his first foray into entrepreneurship, Zach wants to disrupt the traditional networking model.
How did the idea to start up GameCore come about?
Our team of founders came up with the idea during our Entrepreneurship & Innovation course, part of our full-time MBA curriculum at AGSM. Our team found that we were a perfect mix of professionals from four countries across several industries. As we developed the idea of using video games as a medium to connect people professionally, we saw the huge potential in the product.
Employees are less and less engaged with employers utilizing old forms of corporate engagement and at the same time the gaming industry is exploding with opportunity. If we could connect people while doing something they love, they will form new and stronger relationships than they would have organically.
How have you been supported by AGSM?
The school has been instrumental in getting GameCore off the ground. Besides the fact that we grew it while sitting in the courtyard of AGSM, the staff has helped put us in contact with venture capitalists, incubators, angel investors, and many other professionals in the start-up ecosystem.
The school has given us ample opportunities to pitch our idea, present problems we are having with the business, and to continue to work with our entrepreneurship teacher as our mentor.
Where are you at right now with your business? What do you hope to achieve?
Our team is hard at work experimenting with different value propositions to different customer segments utilizing several channels. It’s a complicated process that is pulling us in many directions, but we are using a hypothesis-based approach to run targeted, quick experiments to validate our business assumptions and see which channels or messages achieve traction.
We have facilitated several games so far and are looking to grow our customer base so that we can have customers constantly playing and networking. Our goal from the start has been to help customers make meaningful contacts through our platform, while having fun.
Why did you decide to pursue an MBA at AGSM?
My original consideration of AGSM was fairly accidental. I was in the process of applying to schools in the US when I took a vacation to Australia. I absolutely loved the country, especially Sydney, so I googled Australian MBA programs and AGSM came up at the top.
After a bit of research, I realized that the AGSM program offered so much more than just the perfect location. It would give me the chance to work with incredibly smart and diverse international students at a top-tier university, which would help set me apart from other US MBA grads with similar backgrounds.
What advice do you have for applicants considering an MBA?
Think about the things that are most important to you and don’t be afraid to take a risk. Can the schools you are looking at provide the professional and personal growth that you are looking for? Don’t just apply to a school because of an arbitrary ranking on a website.
If done right, this decision will accelerate your career path and transform you as a person. Make sure the program you’re applying to can do both.
The MBA at AGSM has empowered me to try something different and has given me the business background to help me succeed. Now, I’m more willing to take risks to pursue my true passions.