When 29-year-old Lambros Photios, from Bondi in Sydney’s east, was 18 he spent an entire summer holed up in his bedroom playing the game on his computer
A gamer who would spend 16 hours each day absorbed in World of Warcraft has revealed how his obsession helped him start a multi-million dollar tech start up.
At 18, Lambros Photios spent the entire summer holed up in his bedroom in Sydney’s Bondi playing the online game on his computer.
The now 29-year-old told FEMAIL there ‘wasn’t much time for anything else’ because his world revolved around the online universe and the friends he made playing it.
His mother was so concerned about his obsession, she worried he would never put down the controls and ‘come back to earth’.
‘She flagged it with me a few times, and looking back she, had viable cause,’ Mr Photios said.
Mr Photios is pictured here working on his gaming forum – when he was well and truly addicted to WoW
The tech guru is pictured here, aged 17, when he was addicted to WoW. He chose to wear this outfit for a school dress-up day
When university started Lambros had no choice but to spend less time in his make-believe, online realm.
This focus on reality led him to starting his own tech business but if it wasn’t for his time spent behind the keyboard the software developer doesn’t believe he would have seen success.
‘It started when a friend I knew from World of Warcraft asked me to help him build a forum where people could collaborate and work on strategy,’ he said.
Mr Photios had been interested in programming before the project and managed to build the forum after teaching himself some coding.
Then fate intervened – a friend saw Lambros sitting with his laptop open at university and before he could close it – noticed he was coding something.
‘He was intrigued by it all and asked if I could build a website for a family friend’s medical practice,’ he said.
Now the tech-company boss can’t even pick up a game without getting bored
He was 19 at the time and it was to be his first paid programming job – and the start of his journey toward Station Five, his software development company.
Mr Photios explained the ‘virtual tokens’ were what hooked him World of Warcraft – the game currency, leader boards and rewards for meeting milestones.
Five tips to buildings a successful business
1. Set goals in the ‘real world’ outside your obsession
2. Not having a business plan allows you to remain adaptable
3. You need to work hard – there’s no way around it
4. If you are successful, be prepared to give back
5. You must keep physically healthy – as exercise helps clear your mind and help you focus
‘They are addictive because they are modelled on real life,’ he said.
‘So I subconsciously replaced all of these virtual tokens with things in real life.’
He created his own metrics for success – switching game currency to real Australian dollars.
‘I realised you don’t need the game for accolades – you can get them in real life and take them with you.’
The start-up was was awarded the ‘AFR Fast Starter’ award as one of Australia’s fastest growing tech businesses before he had even made a business plan.
‘I started working from my parents’ house; after three years I made a business plan and when I was 23, I realised I needed to hire staff,’ he said.
‘Of course there is a lot of strategy now, but I think starting without it gave me the opportunity to pivot and carve out what I have today.’
Today, the company has 71 staff and has grown 160% in just two years.
He went from working on the medical website to building his portfolio with big brands like BUPA and AMP Capital.
His business success means he can employ 70 people and help aid organisations in some of the poorest communities on the planet
Now he works on the Swiss government’s World Food Program and ‘tracking peace’ in Somalia to give humanitarian organisation an understanding of where aid is needed most, in real time.
‘We are locked in to the program for eight years, which is really exciting,’ he said.
‘It is also eye-opening and confronting because it makes you aware of the incidents and makes me realise how amazing it is not to have to worry about going into the office or supermarket in fear something will happen to end your life.’
Pictured here with his friends, Lambros is excited he can be successful doing what he loves
The aid work is something the young tech guru didn’t think he would be able to do until his 50s or 60s.
‘I feel so blessed to be able to give back at 29. It means I can devote more of my life to these causes,’ he said.
And his parents couldn’t be more proud.
‘Usually if you go to university for a degree in engineering and commerce you are setting yourself up to do something in finance,’ he said.
Lambros spent 16 hours each day playing the game during the time off between university and school
‘So becoming a software developer was a risk. But my parents are proud of me for making something from nothing,’ he said.
And those 16-hour days in the chair definitely helped too.
‘There are long days behind the screen in this job and patience is key,’ he said.
Lambros now employs 70 people and is still excited by the fact he can make a living from behind his computer screen – something he was once told would be impossible.
It took Lambros ‘a year to put down the controllers’ – now he grows bored in minutes if he tries to play a video game.
‘I even struggle to play anything light-hearted,’ he said.