Gaming, Esports and Blockchain: Enter Zytara
Interviewed by Daniel Jennings
Fintech company Zytara has announced its game-changing digital banking platform and payment network for gamers and esports enthusiasts. With Zytara only just coming out of stealth mode, the news has already caught the attention of the global gaming community. This new digital platform could pave the way for millions to enter the digital assets space. Recently, we had the opportunity to sit down with Al Burgio, serial entrepreneur and Zytara Founder & CEO, to learn more about this revolutionary platform.
Starting things off, how will Zytara integrate with banks and gaming platforms?
Zytara offers a two-fold solution. It is primarily a platform for gamers and esports enthusiasts. In addition, it serves as a solution from a B2B standpoint. There is a considerable amount of friction across the sports landscape in the ability to pay out to gamers during tournaments. Think of it as a virtual bank and payment network. So Zytara will have anything you would expect from a virtual bank: a checking account, a virtual and physical debit card, and it all will be FDIC-insured. You could be 14 years old working your first job and deposit your paycheck using Zytara.
Initially, we plan to launch in the United States, but we do have a global roadmap. We’re looking to target Europe next, in 2021. And in early 2022, we will be entering the Asia-Pacific region, which is massive for gaming.
We are partnering with some of the largest esports teams in the world; many of them are global organizations. Their fan base is not necessarily exclusive to the United States, but rather is spread across the planet. These are long-term relationships that we are building, and as a result of that, when we do enter, for example, Europe, we will already have had market exposure by virtue of our partnerships with esports teams.
Is Zytara considered a bank, a neobank?
We don’t intend to have the physical branches that a traditional bank would have. We have partnered with a bank that will serve as our custodial bank on the backend. Our user experience, product – all will be virtual. You are, in essence, banking with Zytara.
What credit cards does Zytara work with?
We are starting with debit cards. From the standpoint of our target demographics, younger Gen Z and Millennials, primarily the Gen Z, are less credit focused, but the credit cards will come later. Our virtual and physical debit cards will integrate with Google Pay, Apple Pay, and Samsung Pay.
There’s a number of ways you could get money into your account with us. You can deposit your paycheck with direct deposits, or with a bank transfer from another bank account. Working with partners like PLAID, it is very easy to transfer between different banks, which is another way to move money to Zytara. There are also ATM networks where you can just deposit cash.
And last but not least is that people can give you money directly, peer-to-peer. So whether it’s mom and dad, a friend, or a business associate – whatever the basis of a transaction is – you’ll be able to send and receive money.
Why aren’t banks interested in gaming?
I would say that some banks are starting to show interest. Even Paypal, Venmo and Cash App are doing some marketing in gaming. The problem in gaming that Zytara is helping to solve is that these bank solutions are targeting primarily adults. For example, you need to be 18+ to use Paypal. And in online gaming, over 20% of active users are under 18. Globally, there’s 2.5-2.6 billion people playing games, with half a billion or more under 18, and it is equally as proportionate in the United States.
In the Fortnite World Cup last year, a 16 year old gamer came first, with an allotted prize of $3 million. He can’t use PayPal, so he would have to go through his parents. Fast forward a year later, and not all of this prize money has been distributed. So there are tremendous issues. There are weekly tournaments that players under 18 want to participate in but they can’t get the prize money, or it’s a challenge. And it doesn’t stop there, it is frustrating for the tournament hosts as well.
We are embedding Zytara into the gaming experience. Among other things, it creates a feel that our product is built by gamers, for gamers. We are very caring of the friction that exists in the space today and want to promote financial inclusion and literacy while providing a product that creates maximum value to banking and investing users as well.
How do you get millennial gamers to trust banks and use them?
Off the bat, I would have to say, customer service. But what really comes first is a good product. It has to work and it has to provide more value than what the user could get somewhere else. And if not, then why bother?
We are very focused on not just checking account functionality, but savings and investing. We are looking to provide maximum value to our users – the ability to spend, be rewarded, receive cashback, and reward themselves, in other words, invest in their future. This could take the form of rounding up a point-of-sale, investing directly into stocks, similar to a Cash App or Robinhood. All of this will be possible within Zytara.
It’s also appropriate for youths under 18. We’ve designed Zytara so that parents could proactively gain peace of mind via parental controls – they can set specifications to prevent overspend, designate tasks/chores and reward kids for completing them, programmatically set allowances. Essentially, Zytara will operate as a partner in financial literacy – it’s only getting harder for parents to get gamers attention, and I think we can play a big part in helping with this.
How will Zytara make money from gamers?
Our goal is not to charge, we don’t want to be a tax on the consumer. That being said, there are a number of ways for Zytara to derive revenue. Everytime you use your debit or credit card, you don’t get charged by your card provider, but these companies still make money through interchange revenue. And so, you can spend your money at no cost to you – anytime you use our card, that’s been provided, these merchants and retailers, whether online or physical retailers, are charged in order to accept the card. And we, as the de facto issuing bank, get a meaningful part of that revenue. So by using our product, you help us make money, and we don’t have to charge you. So that’s one way, us doing everything we can to stimulate consumers to do more transactions through us. So it’s a win-win in that regard.
With respect to High-Yield savings, we can provide a spread, in essence, by providing an opportunity for high yield savings, high yield rewards, there is revenue for us there as well while customers are also earning.
Then there’s the stock trading side, that’s another category of revenue. In the grand scheme of things it is non-invasive, with no cost to the consumer at all, and we are able to derive revenue. We believe that if we provide a quality product that creates as much value as possible, the money kinda works itself out. In other words, there are integrations that we are doing, that are just free to use. And we are investing the dollars in having built these integrations that are very important to gamers, they’ll have a better gaming experience, save them a tremendous amount of time, what they would otherwise have to do with another bank or Paypal for that matter. We feel by providing these free solutions and integrations they’ll use our product more. And to do that, it works itself out, they win, we win. It’s about solving problems that exist out there, and you don’t have to charge the consumer to help solve problems
What does “Zytara” mean?
You know, I remember my first startup. It was in the 90s, and it was very easy for me to get a domain name. They were more available then than they are today. And in naming a company, I like to have the opportunity to really define what that means. In other words, that there not necessarily be a preconceived notion, right. And so what was nice about Zytara is that not only do we have the dotcom, we also have the trademark.
It’s kinda like Google, what does it mean? In the beginning, it didn’t mean a whole lot, now it is a noun and a verb. We hope to have the same fortune with Zytara, with it being synonymous with what we do and who we are. It stands for our values, our products, and the value that we bring. And it can become both a noun and a verb.
What aspect of gaming do you think is going to be the most lucrative for Zytara?
We’re highly focused on esports, both short-term and long-term. We’re looking at gaming as a whole, esports is not 100% of gaming, within esports you have fans, pro players, aspiring amateurs, there’s a whole economy. You have tournaments, there’s plenty of commerce and payments moving around. But in terms of the other categories, you have entertainment gaming, which some might argue is a bigger category than esports, of course.
We’re happy with the strategy that we have, and the partnerships that we have within the esports space. It allows us to wedge into gaming – this is phase one of our strategy to enter this market. But we do intend to expand beyond this, to be a contender within the entertainment gaming category as well.
Do you plan to expand to other fields outside gaming?
The nice thing about Zytara is that it is actually designed for anybody to use from day one. In other words, when you download the Zytara app, you can stay with the generic look and feel, which we have already revealed.
But you’ll have the opportunity to pick the look and feel of your favorite team, if you have a favorite team. So in other words, let’s say there’s a 16 years old and he wants a Zytara account. They can pick their favourite team. Now if mom and dad download the app, they don’t have to pick a team, they can stay with the generic look and feel if they want. In fact, they could see the value, they could see stock trading, and there may be other kids in the house that are not gamers, but they want accounts for those kids as well. Parents will have the ability to sign up multiple accounts, for both the gamers and non-gamers of the household. Gaming is a culture for us, and it flows through the entire household.
If someone wants to use it for something outside of gaming, can they?
Yes. You would be able to buy your Starbucks coffee, for instance, whether you play video games or not, with Zytara.
Do you plan to be on platforms such as Twitch?
Absolutely, with our partnerships, we will have frequent campaigns, you’ll see us in livestreams; pro players will use Zytara. You can think of pro players on esports teams as influencers. We have an influencer strategy, and you’ll definitely see Zytara used across livestreams on Twitch, Youtube, Instagram, and so forth.