Startup enthusiast and IT student Jackson Grant may have stumbled into success through his latest venture: an online game of Pizza Roulette.
The premise is simple: between 5pm and 7pm weekdays, players from across Australia pay $2 for one-in-15 places on the digital roulette wheel. Once every spot is filled, the wheel is spun, and the lucky winner gets a pizza delivered to their door.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the idea was executed by three university mates with the right skills.
Grant is a fourth-year computer science and economics student at the Queensland University of Technology, and president of the student startup club QUT foundry.
QUT foundry is also where he met co-founders Greyden Scott and Ollie Collins, both third years and the brains behind the code.
“We’re all sort of interested in startups and interested in tech — and we also really like pizza,” Grant tells StartupSmart.
“It started out as a total joke, but it turns out, there are a fair few people who like playing it.”
From joke to launch
Grant had been sitting on what he had thought was just “a bit of a funny” idea for a few years. It was Scott who encouraged him to make it a reality and, together with Collins, put together the code in two months.
A campus charity event gave the trio an opportunity to debut Pizza Roulette, where it received a warm welcome.
So the three built it out into a more robust platform and ran it in the background of their regular live-streamed gaming sessions.
By chance, on one of these Friday nights, the trio “couldn’t be stuffed setting up the game” and decided to trial Pizza Roulette as a stand-alone game.
“We were like ‘stuff it, let’s just launch it’, and people kept playing,” Grant says.
“We learnt … that people didn’t give a crap about Minecraft, they were more interested in actually playing the game.
“And from that moment on, we started going live every Friday night and the growth just started going from there.”
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Spreading beyond their campus and network of family and friends, Grant says they soon noticed players joining from Sydney and Melbourne.
After three months rely almost entirely on word-of-mouth to grow their player base, the number now stands at about 1,200 players and counting.
According to Grant, “there are more people coming back every night, and people who play one night will come back.”
“We’re pretty proud of how it’s going at the moment,” he adds.
With the second version already in the works and set to launch in the upcoming weeks, Grant is thinking big picture.
“At the moment, we’re only making like 90 cents off them at the moment, so trying to push that value a bit more could work for us,” he says.
“Obviously, since we’re uni students, we can’t throw a bunch of cash at it,” he adds.
Regardless of the trio’s inability to bootstrap the project on a larger scale, Grant says the money side of Pizza Roulette is growing steadily, with revenue currently over $1,000 a week.
Spurred by the growth in figures, the trio is currently weighing their options as they look to future growth.
Although the winning players receive a pizza delivery from Australia’s largest pizza chain, Pizza Roulette has never formally contacted the pizza chain and instead automates the delivery process.
Although Grant is reluctant to write-off the possibility of partnering with the chain in the future, the current strategy leaves other food options open too.
“We would like to grow it out,” he says.
“We’re not one hundred per cent sure how we’re going to do it yet but there are a few options — expand different food offerings beyond pizza or we could start doing upsells or trying to get more value out of the people currently playing.”
The focus, for now, is to grow a community around Pizza Roulette — “maybe like a chat function” — and the potential for consolation prizes.
For Grant, the real topping would be the opportunity to go global.
Everyone’s slice of the action
Grant is clearly enthused by all things startups — a passion he’s been nurturing while “trying to keep up with uni”.
Grant began his startup journey in year 10, opting to do work experience at an accelerator program. From there, he interned for investment firms and worked on his own side-projects.
“I did a car-wash project. When I was younger, I did a lawn-mowing business. I did a coffee cup thing where I tried to get disposable cups off campus,” he says.
“I’ve never gotten as far as Pizza Roulette.”
In this regard, he credits Scott and Collins for building a successful product while he worked on the business model.
“I’m not really dev-heavy,” Grant says.
“In terms of the founding team, Greyden builds everything on our website that the customer sees. All the games, logic, the spinning wheel, the forms — all of that.
“Ollie builds all the stuff, all the infrastructure, that sits underneath that, which is all fully scalable. The automated ordering system, the sort of core game, all that sort of infrastructure.”
Despite having the same computer science background, Grant prefers to provide the strategy and the marketing side of things, which he “absolutely loves”.
“It’s really fun hanging out with them, so it doesn’t really feel like work,” he says.