Facing the Firing Squad: Alex Dreyfus
Meet Alex Dreyfus
If anyone has enjoyed a meteoric rise from relative obscurity to ultimate power and celebrity within the poker world, it’s Alex Dreyfus.
Perhaps more than anyone, Dreyfus is currently in the process of truly revolutionizing the game, which assuming that happens, makes him at least a king if not an ace in the deck of poker’s most powerful 52 players.
Dreyfus’ online entrepreneurial journey began early. When a sixteen-year-old Dreyfus, hailing from Lyon, France, realized that the revolutionary potential of the online ecosystem had more to offer him than a conventional classroom ever could, his destiny was set.
While not a high-tech or online whiz at the time, Drefyus nonetheless decided that continued schooling and his own dreams represented a fork in the road, and he was committed to chasing his aspirations. While his parents initially forbade leaving school, he was already becoming entrenched in the world of tech solutions, spending the lion’s share of his time on things like on projects for his school utilizing CD-ROM, or drawing up early business plans for how to create an online version of the Apple Expo, all while keeping his vision of using emerging web technology as a platform to bring services to people en masse in tact (a vision that inspired Cybergone, which in turn grew to become Webcity in 1999 — distinguished as the first web based European city guide).
Back in 1995 though, Dreyfus — now eighteen and free to be independent — quietly sent a letter to his local Head of Schools, informing them that he was leaving his current science focused coursework behind in order to delve into a much more highly lucrative venture — the IT industry.
Shortly after trading in his educational pursuits, Alex jumped into the business of building his own operations. Joining forces with a recent EMYLON Business School graduate, the duo founded an agency specializing in Internet activity. As Dreyfus recalls, “The web was just beginning to take off. Our play was introducing businesses to it all — installing internet connections for them.”
Taking an uncertain leap into this (at the time) emerging vertical paid off for Dreyfus and his partner, who together sold their agency to Publicis Groupe, globally the 3rd largest communications group.
With one success under his belt Alex returned to his Cybergone concept, found the inspiration to develop Webcity — a web guide dedicated to connecting tourists and locals to Paris’ cultural highlights — and quickly secured the financial investment from Dassault Development’s Auriga branch needed to turn it into a reality.
The key to securing the funding to fuel this vision was straight-forward in Dreyfus’ eyes, as he explained, ‘I simply convinced them [of Webcity’s viability] because I myself was 100 percent convinced of its viability as a business. I was ambitious but certain this was pioneering work. So, I can’t say I necessarily pitching them for support. I was just unveiling an opportunity they couldn’t ignore.”
By September 2000, Carrefour had become a stakeholder in Webcity and Dreyfus’ earliest investors had reaped the financial rewards that came with trusting in the tech guru — and seemingly established his second successful business endeavor in as many attempts. Yet, the sharp rush of success — and the accolades and attention it garnered Alex — veiled the precarious position.
Looking back on it, Dreyfus is humble to admit that once Webcity was a hot commodity, success clouded his ability to maneuver a business that had grown to encompass eighty employees across eight offices. As the always candid Dreyfus explains, “The folly of my youth was not having the courage to restructure in order to cut costs. I also had too much confidence in myself and my team.” Webcity was eventually forced to file for bankruptcy in 2002 and later purchased by Cityvox — a one-time direct competitor.
What many would consider a set back instead served as a valuable learning and growth experience for Dreyfus. Lessons he took with him as he relocated to Malta and dove into the online gaming area after identifying it as a market ripe with potential. By 2004 he’d co-founded Winamax – the first French based online poker and sports betting site, whose revenues exceeded $100 Million by 2014 — before splitting off to found his own online gaming company, Chilipoker.com, in 2006.
Within two years Chilipoker.com was generating yearly revenues of $11.7 Million, and would go on to become the first European company to partner with a U.S. based Casino operator to provide technology and support services in anticipation of future regulation of the U.S. online market.
Strategically connected with U.S. organizations, Dreyfus successfully sold Chilipoker.com’s assets to publicly traded Bally Technologies — the 2nd largest manufacturer of slot machine games in the world.
Sensing it was time to build a new type of business, Alex wasted little time trading in his much loved online gaming platform in order to pursue a much more grandiose vision.
With the dissolution of ill-fated Epic Poker Tour’s parent company — Federated Sports and Gaming — Dreyfus saw a unique opportunity. He purchased the defunct company’s most innovative asset, the Global Poker Index (GPI). Now under the wing of his recently founded company, Zokay Entertainment, Dreyfus pledged to develop GPI into a globally unified ranking authority for Live Poker via GPI’s unparalleled impartial player ranking algorithm.
As of 2014 Alex’s Zokay Entertainment (specifically after acquiring TheHendonMob.com — the world’s largest live poker database — in 2013) is regarded as the Poker Industry’s leading digital hub, with a unique user base of over 4 million poker players and fans visiting yearly.
Collectively. the company tracks 198,000-plus events and actively maintains 340,000-plus unique player profiles, all of whom are ranked via a unified leaderboard that sets top professionals and eager amateurs on a single competitive spectrum. With assets such as these in tow, Dreyfus is positioning his company to effectively unify the segmented Live Poker market — pushing this globally loved sport/ skill game into the mainstream competition.
Alex freely admits that in entrepreneurial terms, this endeavor is his most ambitious. But in many ways, for a man whose business goals were only superseded by larger visions, its a logical step forward within an industry sphere Alex Dreyfus has grown up within — and called home — for more than eighteen years.
Thanks to Alex Dreyfus for agreeing to face the firing squad.
READ ALEX DREYFUS BLOG HERE
What are some of the things you stand for?
Compromise. I’m too consensual and I like people to agree (ideally with me).
What are some of the things you stand against?
Ignorance and intelorence. I hate listening to people stating something so inaccurate (about immigration and minorities especially) and just don’t get it because they are ignorant.
What living person do you admire the most, and why?
I can’t state only one person I admire the most. Each person I admire is for different reasons and different approach. I’m a street-smart kind of guy, so i’ll mainly admire people I’d like to sort of become. Most of them are famous entrepreneurs, not because of their status but because of their achievements, like Xavier Niel, Richard Branson. I admire people who think out of the box and act.
What historical figure do you admire the most, and why?
As I said, I’m a street-smart, not a book-smart guy, so my expertise and knowledge to justify the right pick would be an insult to all the others ones I haven’t picked. I’ll go for the ultimate historical figure I can admire for his/her son of humor: GOD.
What living person do you despise?
My social status doesn’t allow me to reply to this question.
If money were not an object, what profession would you chose?
Archeologist or explorer.
What is it about yourself that you are most proud of?
My gift of communicating with people and being able to persuade them in something I believe.
What is it about yourself that you’d like to change?
How I’m not enough involved and committed in my social life.
What’s the most exciting thing you’ve ever done?
That’s the kind of questions that will make me look very arrogant.
What’s the most unusual time and place you’ve ever visited?
I don’t like to answer one thing while I could be able to answer ten. But one of the thing I really enjoyed and it was unusual, was to privatize the Observatory of Nice last year and look into a 19m telescope and see, with my own eyes, Saturn and its rings, a galaxy and some stellar objects. Was unreal.
Name a place you’ve never visited where you still want to go.
New Zealand, but going there for my honeymoon soon. Then if you ask me again the question, it will be “the moon.”
Favorite book, favorite movie, and favorite musician.
I don’t want to be ashamed of answer to this question.
What upsets you the most?
My accent and my English. (Nolan comments: Actually, this is Alex’s most endearing characteristic)
What bores you?
Twitter. Too short.
Do you believe in an afterlife and why do you believe it so?
I’m agnostic and I don’t believe in afterlife. I’ll be too tired anyway of my exciting life, so I’ll need rest after all.