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Laurence Escalante, 2011 Anthill 30under30 Winner


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What is 30under30?

30under30 is an Anthill initiative launched in early 2008 to encourage and promote entrepreneurship among young Australians. Each year, we invite our readers to nominate young Australian entrepreneurs deserving of recognition for their outstanding entrepreneurial endeavours. More.

Laurence Escalante, WA (b. 1981)

Name: Laurence Escalante
Age: 29 (Born: November 1981)
Gender: Male
State: WA

The way Laurence Escalante sees it, it’s nigh time to rise from the ashes.

Escalante, who suffered a crushing financial and personal blow with an earlier business, has a phoenix by the tailfeathers with his latest venture. Virtual Gaming Worlds might still be an early stage startup, but its concept of combining online games with online gambling has attracted some serious venture capital.

A posting on AngelList describes Virtual Gaming Worlds as “the world’s first integrated social gaming + gambling company, using social games as a mass-market acquisition and engagement mechanism to monetise players through virtual goods and online gambling.

Escalante also says his company will be the first gambling concern to deliver a truly responsible “micro” service that ensures players’ gambling is affordable and socially responsible.

A development team spread across five cities was charged with building a virtual casino on a low budget. Overseeing it all is a board of directors that represent online gambling, game development and manufacturing, and technology law.

A high point in developing buzz for Virtual Gaming Worlds was Escalante’s presentation for Reuters and the Wholesale Investor network. The presentation — a harrowing trial by fire — landed a rare meeting with the heads of Macquarie Private Bank, and gave him the leverage to close many of his early stage investors.

Ah yes — that venture capital. Escalante says he has raised nearly $1 million, at a pre-money valuation of $22 million. “That allows me to retain an unprecedented level of equity and control over the company,” he says.

Control — of a lack thereof — was a symptom of his earlier nosedive. Escalante says his company, a game developer, was leveled by a U.S. game publisher (now defunct) that reneged on its commitments and dumped Escalante’s manufactured stock on retailers, sabotaging his efforts to get a new publishing and distribution deal.

“Barely into my mid-20s, this setback was financially and emotionally crushing, and almost cost me my marriage,” he says.

These days, “material success drives me much less. Having readjusted priorities with a young and growing family, and having developed a much deeper understanding of happiness and what drives myself and others — I am now driven more by a desire to bring happiness to others, to transform industries that need to be transformed (i.e., gambling) from the inside out, and to be challenged and engaged by what I do. I make games!”

Anthill asks: Laurence Escalante, what’s your superpower?

“I have three: Vision — seeing solutions and products where I believe market opportunities exist; resilience — to come back from severe business and financial setbacks, even when these have impacted personal relationships; and sales ability — to communicate my grand vision to others.”

Laurence Escalante on Wholesale Investor network


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To check out the full list of Anthill’s 30under30 winners, click here.