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Mobile game platform moves headquarters from California to Las Vegas

Updated August 18, 2023 - 10:34 am

When Andrew Paradise was looking for a new place to headquarter his competitive mobile game platform Skillz where skilled players can win money, he saw Las Vegas’ commitment to fairness in competition as a huge advantage.

“One of the great things about this town is that it understands fair play and gaming really well,” Paradise, CEO and founder of the publicly traded company, said. “No one wants to play a game for real prizes (money) if they think there’s cheating of any kind.”

Skillz relocated its headquarters to Las Vegas from San Francisco earlier this year, following a trend of tech companies that have moved out of the Bay Area or reduced their presence since the pandemic’s onset.

The company bought its 36,000-square-foot office in southwest Las Vegas in March 2023 for $11.5 million, Clark County property records show. The building, with a sleek and modern interior currently under construction, used to belong to famous landscape photographer Peter Lik. Paradise said it can fit about 200 of Skillz’s 250 employees on-site when it opens the space in the fourth quarter this year.

Paradise said Nevada also provided a holistic work-life balance to Skillz staff while staying a short plane ride away from any major business activity that could happen along the West Coast.

Cost of living in the Bay Area was a growing concern, he said. Though Skillz employees typically earn more than $100,000 annually, Paradise said he had several employees who were rooming together with bunk beds.

“It’s a real commentary on what the value equation is,” he said. “People say, ‘Wow, the Bay Area makes so much money,’ but it’s so expensive that the average person can’t have a good quality of life.”

Though Paradise was attracted to the region’s gaming history, Skillz is not an iCasino product. Skillz games differ because they are skill-based, not chance-based. They involve tournament-style play, where a player may go head-to-head to compete for the highest score or fastest time against another player of similar skill level. The typical entry is under $3, the company said.

“I think in the offline world, people understand that better,” Paradise said. “It’s a skills-based competition. Those can range from golf to rodeos to spelling bees — there’s a very broad range of ‘money in, money out’ skill-based competition that happens all the time in the United States.”

With 1.1 million monthly active users, according to U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filings, the gaming platform is a leader in a growing form of gaming. Developers say it’s a different way to monetize their product against the typical advertising or in-app purchases.

“With skill games, you’re essentially betting on yourself and that’s such a powerful mechanic,” said Aletheia O’Neil, co-founder and COO of game developer Tether Studios. “Everyone who’s been working in this space feels like it’s the next big thing in gaming as a whole.”

Coincidentally, Skillz staff will join Tether partners in the Las Vegas Valley. The studio — whose games accounted for 43 percent of Skillz’ revenue in the second quarter, according to SEC filings — has long focused on remote work. During the pandemic, O’Neil and her husband, co-founder and CEO Tim O’Neil, moved to Henderson from the Bay Area to be closer to family, they said.

The pair said they hope Skillz’s move sparks more activity in the local tech industry.

“We wish it would grow faster,” Aletheia O’Neil said. “But (we do) whatever we can do to help push that along. I would love to see the next Silicon Valley.”

A previous version of this story incorrectly listed revenue generated from Tether Studios games.

McKenna Ross is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. Contact her at mross@reviewjournal.com. Follow @mckenna_ross_ on X.

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