This May Prizeout, a New York-based financial technology company, announced it had closed its $4.5M series A. “It was a validating milestone for us,” says 29-year-old Richard Blankenship, one of the company’s cofounders, via Zoom.
In many ways it is an unlikely milestone too – a mark of Prizeout’s early success that has come in part due to the close relationship between Blankenship and his cofounder David Metz. A relationship that began as a chance encounter in 2018 in Las Vegas.
At the time Blankenship was Chief Revenue Officer of Poker Central, a poker media company, and Metz was CEO of FleetWit, a trivia app. Blankenship says, “Poker Central has deep experience with live productions as the rights holder for the World Series of Poker. Fleetwit needed those capabilities and was interested in a hybrid trivia and poker show. We needed to make a deal. It made a lot of sense for both companies.”
As the two companies negotiated the deal over three months Blankenship and Metz got to know each other, and Metz mentioned his idea for his next startup, a financial technology company that would evolve into Prizeout. “When David told me about it, I was so excited,” Blankenship says. “I knew from my experience in the gaming industry that companies were sitting on billions of dollars of consumer funds, and that these consumers had poor options to withdraw these funds. I knew that we could get them their funds faster and with a bonus if we used gift cards.”
The following month Blankenship and Metz made a handshake deal and Blankenship wired Metz the seed capital for Prizeout. “Richard is someone who draws you into his orbit,” Metz commented. “Look at our relationship. We started with him selling me production services for Fleetwit, then he became my first investor in Prizeout, then his value add as an investor was so large that I brought him on as a Cofounder and Chief Revenue Officer. And I’m not unique in this. Almost everyone who has done business with him will say the same thing.”
And they did. A number of Blankenship’s associates whom we reached for comment spoke to Blankenship’s interpersonal curiosity – a sense of caring that allows him to connect with people.
“I think it’s really simple. I just try to work hard and be kind,” Blankenship says. “I’m not a very calculating person. I don’t size up everyone I meet and strategize how I can win them as a friend. I like people. I like hearing their stories, talking about their kids, and learning more about why they do what they do. I think when you have these kinds of natural conversations with people it’s easy to fall into a friendship.”
Blankenship’s career has crossed industries – residential real estate, E-commerce fashion, poker media, Esports, and financial technology. To the outsider the only thing that seems to connect them is their attractive growth profile. Talking to Blankenship, though, it’s clear that a handful of his closest relationships and the opportunities they created have drawn him into these industries.
One example of these relationships is Blankenship’s longtime partnership with serial entrepreneur Jeff Liboon. Liboon and Blankenship first met when Liboon was the head of marketing for the Amazon App Store and Blankenship was Chief Revenue Officer at Poker Central. Liboon was impressed with Poker Central’s live production capabilities on the World Series of Poker and wanted that expertise for Amazon’s Esports events. As the friendship between Blankenship and Liboon strengthened, so too did the relationship between Poker Central and Amazon. Ultimately Blankenship and Liboon formed Estars Studio, an Esports production company, to service Amazon and other brands. Liboon is an early investor in Prizeout, and Blankenship was an early investor in Liboon’s latest company MightyKidz, one of the fastest growing childcare facilities in the United States and #344 on the INC 5000 list.
Liboon commented via email: “My relationship with Richard started out just like the hundreds of other transactional business relationships I’ve had in the past. What made Richard different though is how he connected with me as a person. We’re invested in each other’s businesses, we talk all the time, and we take family vacations to Disneyland together. Richard started out as a vendor for my business, and now he’s godfather to my daughter.”
In just ten years Blankenship has been Chief Revenue Officer of three companies, received Cofounder credit in two of them, and has built a venture capital portfolio most full-time investors would envy. Asked about this early success Blankenship says, “I try to do good things. Generally, good things come back to me. I surround myself with the right people and build friendships with them. It makes every day enjoyable, and sometimes we accomplish something spectacular.”
(Syndicated press content)