The Pitch is a Milwaukee Business Journal and Wisconsin Inno series that gives a snapshot of a local startup. The Business Journal doesn’t endorse companies featured in The Pitch, nor is this an invitation to invest. To suggest a startup for possible future features, email tnykiel@bizjournals.com.
At the end of last year, Nishon Radhakrishnan was living in Boston and had just closed a seed financing round for his new mobile poker app, RadPoker. He was getting ready to hire a team and decided to relocate to Milwaukee, where his brother also lives and works in the technology space.
“I thought it was a really good opportunity to live in a new city,” Radhakrishnan said. “There’s a big pool of people to pull from and at an affordable price and also, it’s really a great city.”
Radhakrishnan now has a team of six other Milwaukee employees who work together in person from the downtown co-working space Expansive, near Cathedral Square at 790 N. Milwaukee St.
“It’s incredible,” Radhakrishnan said. “I found that a lot of people know other people and it’s very easy to kind of get plugged-in quickly.”
It has been relatively easy to hire technology talent in Milwaukee, Radhakrishnan said, in part because he’s hired individuals with unconventional backgrounds — including a developer who doesn’t have a college degree but learned to code through a boot camp program.
Radhakrishnan also had a somewhat unconventional path. His first foray into entrepreneurship began in college when he started a sunglasses company, he said. After a few years, he wanted to get more into technology and completed a 12-week full-stack web development course through the coding boot camp General Assembly, according to his LinkedIn profile.
Radhakrishnan worked for sports betting and mobile gaming companies before founding his company, known as The Rad Team. He launched a minimum viable product — the first version of RadPoker — in February 2021. In November, he closed a seed round of financing from TRS Capital, an early-stage investment firm in Fort Walton Beach, Fla. In December, he moved to Milwaukee.
RadPoker is designed for Gen Z and millennial users with its super-fast format in which the average game takes four minutes. The app is nearing 11,000 users and had more than 100,000 games played in May, Radhakrishnan said.
The current RadPoker app is designed for fun, with no betting element. The startup is developing a real-money version expected to launch with an invite-only beta version in mid-July. It’s slated to be a fee-free product with an optional subscription that will unlock advanced statistics and the ability to purchase opponents’ hand history, the company said.
Beyond that, the Rad Team has plans to expand beyond poker by innovating on other popular casino games, Radhakrishnan said.
Company name: The Rad Team Inc.
Headquarters: Milwaukee
Year founded: 2021
CEO: Nishon Radhakrishnan
No. of employees: 7
Website: www.radpoker.io
The product: Casino gaming mobile apps aimed at Gen Z and millenial users. The company’s first game, RadPoker, provides no-limit Texas Hold’em with fast two-player games in a format known as heads-up poker. It utilizes a custom rating algorithm and a live leaderboard so players can track their performance in real-time.
How it makes money: RadPoker has free iOS and Android apps available worldwide. Users can subscribe to RadPoker Pro for $9.99/month to have access to advanced statistics and unlimited gameplay.
Size of the market: There are 100 million online poker players worldwide, according to The Rad Team.
Competition: Poker mobile apps including World Series of Poker (WSOP), Zynga Poker and World Poker Tour (WPT), according to the company.
Competitive advantage: The Rad Team Inc. said the poker industry has become stale, with the average player age rising consistently over the past 10 years. RadPoker’s super-fast format appeals to a demographic whose attention span is getting shorter, according to the company. Users play heads-up poker and only have six seconds to make a decision, making it an excellent poker training tool, the company said.
Key leaders: CEO Nishon Radhakrishnan, director of marketing Rafi Rahmani
Investors: TRS Capital
Capital raised: Seed round closed for an undisclosed amount
Ideal exit: Acquiring a publicly traded casino, the company said.
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