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Despite being one of the largest individual creditors of fallen giant FTX, Zach Bruch hasn’t lost his love for crypto and has now set his sights on revolutionising the crypto gambling ecosystem with MyPrize.com.

The iGaming industry is no stranger to bold personalities, but when Zach Bruch introduced his crypto casino, MyPrize, it was clear a new, colourful figure had joined the industry.

At just 30-something, Bruch is a seasoned pro in the crypto world.

He has held leadership roles at Kraken, Cumberland/DRW, and JST Capital — some of the top institutional trading desks in the US. In 2021, he made Forbes‘ 30 under 30 list.

He eventually launched his own venture, emerging as one of FTX’s most successful individual traders — until the exchange’s collapse. Today, he stands as one of the platform’s largest individual creditors.

He also co-founded NFT platform Recur, which hit a $333m valuation in 2021 after a $50m Series A funding round led by Digital, a metaverse investment platform backed by billionaire Steve Cohen’s family office.

However, as with many high-flying ventures, Recur’s journey wasn’t without turbulence.

Just two years in, the platform announced its shutdown. Despite the initial buzz and hefty investments, Recur’s NFT collections didn’t gain the traction needed to sustain its growth.

Bruch, however, didn’t linger on the failure.

Building in stigmatised industries

Bruch, who first became interested in Bitcoin in 2010 and was determined to “learn everything about it,” only recently turned his attention to the gambling industry.

Around nine months ago, he started to built crypto casino MyPrize.

Speaking to NEXT.io, he says the gambling sector “hasn’t had its full internet moment” yet, with most revenue still generated in land-based casinos.

Online, he adds, is not dominating like it should be yet, so the question for him was: “Why? Why is that not happening?”

He believes one reason is the lingering negative perception of gambling, which is slowly shifting.

“To me, that’s very reminiscent of the early days of crypto,” Bruch explains.

“You know, 10 years ago, you called crypto crypto. Today, it’s web3. Or take something like the cannabis industry; it was weed, and now it’s cannabis.”

“Once the stigma wanes, lots of entrepreneurs suddenly feel comfortable building and lots of innovation can happen. On top of that, new capital can come in, funding that innovation.”

Bruch believes that stigma is not the only reason online gambling is lagging behind, however; the profound impact of community is another key factor.

He draws a comparison to the video game world, noting the shift from single-player experiences in the 1990s to the multiplayer dynamics of the early 2000s.

This, he suggests, is a clear analogy for the future of online gambling.

“You’re not playing Fortnite by yourself; you’re playing with a group of people. That sense of community is missing in online gambling.

“People are playing slots alone, blackjack alone — all these things that, in in-person gambling, are very social.

“Likewise, if you go to Las Vegas, Macau, or Monaco, you’re sitting around a craps table with others,” he explains.

“You might not know a single person there, but you’re having fun, rooting together, and enjoying yourselves.

“That enjoyment, that engagement, that aspect of social interaction that happens in brick-and-mortar casinos does not exist online but it needs to.”

A new form of entertainment

Streamers, and their massive followings, are another part of Bruch’s concept for MyPrize.

He says that despite the success of several creators in the gambling sphere, for players, this has so far been a mostly passive experience, Bruch says.

At MyPrize, they can play alongside their favourite creators.

Bruch believes MyPrize is now the only online casino offering this, creating “a new form of entertainment”.

“What was once a passive experience of watching a creator play online has now transformed into an engaging, active experience where you’re playing with that creator.

“So it’s a better experience — a more enjoyable, more social experience for the end user or the player.”

Meme coin frenzies and GameStop bets

Bruch also highlights a growing desire among people to engage in collective betting.

He points out that individuals are actively participating in meme coin frenzies, organising online communities to speculate on these assets’ market movements.

This behaviour closely mirrors the dynamics of the WallStreetBets movement some three years ago, where Reddit communities united to trade stocks like GameStop and AMC.

Earlier this month, GameStop shares surged following a new Reddit post by Keith Gill, known as “Roaring Kitty,” indicating a fresh $116m bet on the chain.

Examples such as these, Bruch says, emphasise the demand for platforms like MyPrize, which provide a venue for people to come together and participate in collective betting or trading activities.

No idea crypto would grow so big

As a crypto pioneer, it comes as no surprise that Bruch launched a crypto casino.

However, he recalls that when he first discovered Bitcoin back in 2010, he found it fascinating but didn’t foresee its transformative potential.

To him, it was just an intriguing technology at the time.

However, he soon witnessed its evolution. “When I was at Kraken, I saw the industry’s development from a capital markets perspective.

“Trading desks in the crypto space were just starting and were very small. We were one of the first to trade institutional sizes.

“At DRW, we traded significantly more, becoming the largest market makers in the crypto space. This allowed us to understand crypto flows deeply.”

Fast forward to today, and Bruch believes crypto is incredibly relevant for the gambling industry for several reasons. It settles and clears instantaneously, for one, meaning there’s no chargeback risk.

He says his focus has always been on onboarding people into the broader crypto ecosystem.

“Today, MyPrize is a centralised online casino where anyone, crypto user or not, can play and have fun.

“Over time, we aim to support a broader decentralised gambling ecosystem, allowing users to explore crypto beyond our platform.

“We aim to be an introduction for many users to the wider crypto universe, much like how Kraken and Coinbase were the first places people experienced the world of crypto by buying Bitcoin or Ethereum.”

A “real” industry

“There’s still a slight stigma attached to crypto,” says Bruch, “but more people are opening up to it.”

Today there are Bitcoin ETFs and big institutional players entering the space, while stablecoins are gaining prominence, which goes a long way towards establishing crypto as a “real industry”, according to Bruch.

He stressed that today, younger generations are immersed in crypto — “they understand it, they have crypto wallets on their phones, and they’re actively participating in decentralised applications.”

On the other hand, older generations now have the option to buy bitcoin through traditional brokerages and ETFs.

This dual adoption from both demographics is a recent development, which he believes will significantly accelerate the growth of the crypto market.

A successful pitch

Bruch’s vision has resonated widely, leading MyPrize to secure substantial backing from Silicon Valley venture capital firms, totalling $13m across two funding rounds.

This propelled the company to a total enterprise value of $140m, based on the company’s fully diluted equity capitalisation plus the implied fully diluted value of warrants.

It did help that MyPrize was not his first venture. “We approached investors we’ve known for a long time, selecting those we wanted to partner with,” he explains.

Bruch prefers not to disclose the detailed aspects of MyPrize’s strategy.

The company operates two distinct products: MyPrize.com, which is licensed in Curaçao and serves international markets, and MyPrize.us which caters to the US with a sweepstakes product.

“We aim to onboard users from various countries. In general, we believe the internet is a global market, but we want to make sure that we are participating in these regions in an appropriate manner,” Bruch says.  

Betting lunch sandwiches

Bruch says while MyPrize marks his entry into the gambling industry, he and his co-founders have been building trading systems, exchanges, user account management, payment gateways, anti-fraud measures, and more over the past decade.

“This experience has given us a robust understanding of constructing a reliable online infrastructure.”

Moreover, he notes that his foray into gambling actually dates back to his time in the first grade, when he was betting his lunch sandwiches and flipping coins for candy bars.

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