I am not a Serial Entrepreneur.

I’m a pretty fortunate guy. I hit a home run with my first serious startup in Puzzle Break. America’s first escape room. My team and I:

  • Opened several Puzzle Break locations across the country.
  • Forged a fruitful partnership with Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines to put Puzzle Break experiences of all shapes and sizes on many ships with many more on the way.
  • Are in active conversations to create several new groundbreaking partnerships.
  • Served hundreds of thousands of players with over a dozen unique experiences.
  • Reached 7 figure revenue before our 3rd year, having doubled every year with no signs of slowing after our 4th anniversary.
  • Achieved a flattering & humbling level of fame for both the business and myself in the international entertainment & entrepreneurship community.

And we achieved all of this and more without a single dollar of debt. My team is great, our players are great. I couldn’t be happier; I jump out of bed every morning thrilled with the fresh challenges of every day.

Some of those challenges include figuring out how to plan for tomorrow and beyond. Part of figuring out a roadmap includes looking to other successful outfits in my field. As it happens, there’s a fairly common set of backgrounds you find in Escape Room entrepreneurs. The most represented folks come from:

  • Haunted Houses
  • Software (This is me)
  • Games & Puzzles (This is also me)
  • Serial Entrepreneurs (Who I’ll be talking about today)

Thanks to a number of factors, Escape Rooms and other live-action immersive experiences really started to explode in 2015. We’ve seen an enormous volume of serial entrepreneurs looking to capitalize on this hot opportunity. Today, a significant percentage of escape rooms in operation today came from these folks. This is neither objectively good nor bad. As with anything else, we find folks in the game hoping to make a quick buck with a shoddy product, and also serious businesspeople who don’t half-ass their product and create some seriously high quality product.

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I’m writing this in late 2017 when a new hot trend has begun to emerge in the live-action entertainment space: Axe throwing bars. These are establishments where you and your friends can share a drink while tossing axes at a wooden target. Violent bowling, if you will.

 Pictured: Failed prototype of "Violent Bowling"

Pictured: Failed prototype of "Violent Bowling"

Now, many of those serial entrepreneurs are moving on from their escape room ventures towards this hot new trend. Logistically, there are many shared factors across the standard business models. I myself have been approached about a couple potential partnerships. They sound pretty fun! And as it stands, I have little interest. Why?

I am not a serial entrepreneur. Puzzle Break is the success story it is because myself and my co-founder have a burning, all-consuming passion for puzzles, games, interactivity, immersiveness, mental challenges, and fun. We didn’t get into the game to cash in to a trend. When we opened in 2013, there was no trend. We had to create the trend ourselves. And we knew it wouldn’t be that hard, because escape rooms are just that fun.

Escape rooms and large team puzzle experiences aren’t going anywhere, and I’m not interested in cashing in upon every opportunity that crosses my desk. I certainly do not begrudge those that do, but I realize how stunningly lucky I’ve been to live in a world about which I’m so passionate. I’m not a serial entrepreneur; I’m a puzzle addict that happens to be an entrepreneur.

-Nate

Dubbed the "Founding Father of Escape Rooms," Nate Martin is the Co-Founder and CEO of Puzzle Break, the first American escape room company. Puzzle Break is headquartered in Seattle with locations in Long Island, Massachusetts and on Royal Caribbean ships. Prior to Puzzle Break, he was a senior executive at Microsoft and Electronic Arts. He has shipped software used by billions of users as well as some of the most beloved video games of a generation. @GuyFromTomorrow on Twitter.

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