End of September, the happy news arrived in our internal slack channel: Our lead developer Peter, as well as front-end GOAT Wojtek, announced that the platform would be ready to get filled with content, and was ready to be shipped on October 1st. Those were exciting news. Can you imagine: A project we had been working on so hard for over six months, partly dedicating north of 60-80 hours/week into it, not having any life on the side, would finally come to a conclusion. We were quite relieved, yet I still made the same mistake over and over again: Underestimating the actual workload.
As you might imagine, and our team members know that, our Netflix-like content platform is not just filled with videos. It is filled with videos, but those are accompanied by thumbnails, intro animations, lecture descriptions, quizzes, author descriptions, tags, key takeaways, chapters, captions, subtitles, and skill levels. On top of that, lectures are filled into overarching content buckets, topics, and channels, to keep the structure of our training ground overviewable. So, also those topics and channels need descriptions, background colors, thumbnails, assets, and more and more. All this, in German and English, all this, manually filled in into the backend of our platform. I am sure I forgot to mention some stuff, but overall, one lecture needs around 22 steps of work in order to go from the moment our coaches hand it over, up until it’d finally get released on our platform, so our Team Pokercode members can enjoyably consume it, and take the most out of it. Nowadays, I am very happy to have Gaugi, Felix & Co. who lead the product_content department, and take care of all those steps which are to be submitted on a weekly basis, every time our fantastic headcoaches come up with additional content for our Team Pokercode members.
I can recall the times in July already when I initially scripted and drafted all the platform content for the platform. I was on a training camp with my U15 football team, and grinded the nights and breaks in my room, writing all the descriptions, quizzes and co. Obviously, getting feedback from our headcoaches, who had to submit their agreement before anything would be used for studying purposes. It was a very draining and exhausting week, and the same workload was now to be repeated end of September, so our platform would actually finally get filled with the content. I clearly remember a call with our product support from Masterplan, where I got a 30min tutorial on how to handle the admin control panel of the backlog of our study platform, and afterward was left alone with it. Not only was I lost in the first place, but I also forgot to assign the right window to OBS whilst recording, so could solely rely on Nick’s voice, giving instructions for a completely bewildering software infrastructure to me. It was one hell of a ride. Needless to recall the experience of launching all our platforms in German a few months later, where I would rerun the whole process, before finally starting to onboard Gaugi for product support.
In order to announce the finale of our presale, starting to finally commit to a date for platform release, all moving parts finally came together. Big shoutouts here to our lead design Jan, who had been grinding his arse off day in day out to make it happen. Also at this moment, Jan was there, preparing fantastic launch graphics, so we could spread the happy news in style. The hype was real and a big relief was there when we finally launched on October 1st, 2019. In the first hours some more roadblocks occurred, when only 100 email invitations for platform access were sent out per hour, leaving some Team Members to wait for additional hours, after a months-long wait for the Pokercode launch to finally happen. After few hours though, everything worked well and we got the first team community members, which was mainly great. However, also some critical opinions were starting to get voiced.
The Pokercode officially launched on October 1st, 2019, with a special live launch event with Fedor Holz.
We were convinced of having achieved greatness. Armed with such a belief and conviction in our product, we thought there would be no way around our community loving what we had announced and been working on for so many months, taking everyone on our journey. However, after all, we chopped down and condensed the content so massively, that we were left with a mere 8-9 hours of actual content. Also, we had only had one week, so around 5 weekdays, to record what Fedor, Matthias, and Simon had raw-built, so time was scarce and some compromises already had to be made back then. Things were starting to build up. Firstly, as anyone would experience, some critical voices expressed their disappointment, the content would be too little, and also too superficial. “Where is the true Fedor?”... “Some half-backed PIO-analysis” were statements amongst them. And, to be honest, I do think that our massive bias back then led to an over-conviction of our product. In hindsight, we would never have announced to launch “the best poker course ever”. It is just not any messaging we can identify ourselves with, it doesn’t feel great, and, we need to be honest, there are just things that could or could’ve been better. No single product is perfect, the Pokercode was far away from it at launch for sure. Still believing in our product and everything we had built, we had to really wrap our heads around questions such as what to do with the very productive, and to-be-taken-serious critique, as well as a followup-plan for what we actually had been working on so blind-sighted for the previous 6+ months.
We were working so hard on finally shipping the Pokercode as “the best poker course ever”, we had completely neglected what would be afterward. We thought, imagine how honestly naive we had been, that “launching the course” would be some kind of achievement and end goal, that no follow-up was anticipated by our team. There were bugs within the course which were to be worked up, over 150 up until today, which was a mess and insane amount of work, taking in the community’s feedback, scripting the exact bugs, assigning it back on our animations beast Giang, who would then retweak the lectures for me to reupload to our unique content platform. Also, obviously, those 8-9 hours of content were soon to be consumed by our team members. What would be next? Luckily and happily, we were in such an honest and close relationship and communication with our early Team members already, we would just tell them that we’d do our best to get better, and work things up to everyone’s expectations and hopes. That was our big task back then, and an important decision and process. Nobody within our internal team believed that this would be the end. We did know, that there was a lot more, purpose, value, culture, community, injected into the Pokercode. We didn’t plan to give up on it, nor were we happy about the overall setup. We finally started to ask ourselves important questions, such as: “Which problem do we actually want to solve?”, “What do we really feel passionate about?”, “How can we inject value for our community?”, and “Where do we see Pokercode x down the road?”. Stuff, you should ideally figure before starting a company or developing a product.
The first meeting between Fedor Holz, Matthias Eibinger, and CEO Johannes Mansbart after the launch in October 2019.
Our headcoach Simon “IgorKarkarof” Rønnow Pedersen took over great responsibility in this spot. Simon came up with the idea of “Igor’s toy games” which would soon be published as a fourth channel for our Pokercode platform. Also, we identified that we had been so trapped in our idea of “launching a course”, that we actually forgot to identify what the true value and idea of the Pokercode should be: To inject value into the industry, help the players, guide and accompany the community. This can only happen if you come up with content repeatedly, or just try to extend the cake a little bit over time to come. Also, obviously, the hype around the launch of the Pokercode was so big at launch, that it would be hard to keep up a sustainable model for our members and our owners at the same time with the given product and pricing structure.
In that intense process full of sparring, discussing, sitting down together, we identified that “a course” was actually not what poker players would need to become better in poker. Firstly, we had to identify what we actually wanted to achieve, which was to help, support, and give guidance to players who felt like they needed it, out of a trusted source, Fedor, Matthias, and Simon. Providing the most supportive and trusted infrastructure for any poker player to safely rely on, in order to grow and build a skill set that would help crush the tables. The Pokercode would need to progress and grow itself in order to achieve that, accompanying and growing hand in hand with the Team Pokercode community.
Stay tuned for episode #5 of “Inside the Pokercode”, our next part, which will be: “What’s next?”
What do you think about “Inside the Pokercode”? Please, give us feedback via youtube, in our socials, or simply directly to the author of this blog post and the accompanying youtube project, at [email protected]
Thanks for your precious time and invaluable support!
Johannes from the Pokercode Team
CEO & Co-Founder
This was the fourth part of "Inside the Pokercode", where we try to share insights and provide behind-the-scenes disclosure of how the Pokercode truly is built, and works. Subscribe to our YouTube channel and follow along as we take you back to our origins and show you behind-the-scenes footage!
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Pokercode Origins is a 5-part series where Pokercode CEO Johannes Mansbart takes you along the ride past memory lane on how it all started.
Hill Kerby is involved with the Pokercode Blog since before Day 1, but he wears many hats as a writer. One of those hats, outside of Pokercode, is live reporting for PokerNews. That's where Pokercode crossed his path for the first time during EPT Prague.
Fedor Holz about why he came back to poker and started the Pokercode after retiring in 2016.