Careers talk: building a $1.9b business
Corsair is a leading global developer and manufacturer of high-performance technology for gamers, so imagine how excited our Sixth Form Economics students were to be invited to a talk by the company’s Co-Founder and CEO, Andy Paul (RGS 1968-1975)!
On Friday 11 March, there was a buzz in the Old Library as students filed into the room to hear Andy’s incredible journey from RGS to running a tech company with over 2,100 employees and a revenue of $1.9b.
Having moved to the USA in 1981, this was Andy’s first visit to RGS in over 45 years, and his talk was preceded by a tour of the school and lunch with the Headmaster.
He began his talk by comparing his time at the school with the amazing facilities and academic successes we now enjoy. Indeed, looking back at his old school photos, Andy joked that he was unpopular with Prefects (the disciplinarians in the school) and staff for having long hair! And his passions while at school were rugby, sailing and playing the piano and guitar – definitely not his studies!
Andy highlighted to students that both at school and at university it’s always good to hang out with people who are smarter than you as it makes you raise your own game.
After completing a Physics degree at City University, Andy’s first job was with Decca (who famously didn’t sign The Beatles), making electronics for the military. In 1981, he moved to Maine, USA, then to Silicon Valley in 1985, which had a huge number of start-up businesses at the time.
It was the early days of gaming and you couldn’t just play on a PC, so most gamers were building their own equipment. Andy Co-Founded Corsair in 1994 and created a bit of a cult by overclocking (increasing a component’s clock rate, running it at a higher speed than it was designed to run), making high-speed gaming PCs. Corsair quickly expanded to offer other products, before acquiring other companies, which, as Andy explained, was the only way to grow the business quickly.
Some 26 years later, and in the middle of the pandemic, Corsair went public. Traditionally, being listed by Nasdaq would be accompanied by a roadshow, but with most of the world locked down, Corsair was the first company to run a virtual roadshow!
Corsair now makes a wealth of different gaming products: keyboards, headsets, greenscreens, cameras, lighting, monitors, stream docks, microphones, gaming controllers, gaming chairs, acoustic panels, capture cards and more.
Andy explained how Corsair has embraced modern methods of marketing, relying on third-party endorsements by supplying gamers and influencers who are trusted in the sector (especially those with millions of followers). The company also sponsors e-sports tournaments and uses events, live streams, social media and product reviews, rather than traditional advertising. He revealed that 50% of Corsair’s sales are online (via its website and Amazon), but, despite being more expensive, it continues to sell products through most major retailers worldwide, believing that you have to do both.
Andy ran a short quiz, giving out some amazing prizes for correct answers to questions such as, ‘Which e-sports game makes the most money?’ (Answer: Dota), ‘With which game has Corsair recently partnered?’ (Answer: Tiny Tina’s). After this, students put a couple of questions to Andy, including, ‘How did you raise the capital to start a business?’, ‘What was your motivation in setting up Corsair?’, ‘How can we make ourselves stand out from the crowd?’. To the latter, he said, “If you want to do anything, you need to plan a bit. Not only does this help you spot opportunities when they come up, but it will also help you be ready for those opportunities. University will introduce you to a diverse range of people. Beyond that, when taking your first job, think about how it sets you on the pathway to what you really want to do.”
RGS Foundation Associate Director, Jonny Hylton thanked Andy for speaking to students. Head Girl, Jasmine F handed Andy a gift and thanked him for taking the time to give such a fascinating talk. We’re quite sure Andy won’t leave it quite as long before returning to RGS again!