When was the last time you did something for the first time?
A question around which a multi-million-dollar business has been built as more and more people flock to location based entertainment venues in hopes of feeling their heart rate rise as they exercise their mental and physical abilities and share time with friends, family or work colleagues in a unique bonding experience that most people seem to crave now more than ever before.
For thirty-five-year-old Hungarian born entrepreneur Ákos Gabossy, the pandemic presented one of the ultimate challenges as his brand, PanIQ Escape Room looks to establish itself as the unquestionable leader in unique location based entertainment; An interesting thing happened –as it has during other trying times in Mr. Gabossy´s life- the hardship endured only strengthened him and his brand further.
With more and more people across America returning to their normal lives to a larger extent, location based entertainment has experienced a meteoric rise in popular demand. Mr. Gabossy´s brand already enjoyed extensive presence across over a dozen key U.S. markets as well as international franchise locations; However, PanIQ Room´s newest Las Vegas franchise flagship store is the crown jewel for a company that has become a dominant force within its field against all odds, and shows no sign of slowing down.
Launched alongside franchisee-investor Mr. Erno Varadi and located inside Grand Canal Shoppes at The Venetian Resort on the world famous Las Vegas Strip, fun seekers effortlessly gravitate towards PanIQ Room as it is the only Vegas escape room that combines a myriad of brain challenging games with a full service bar and lounge, providing even more opportunities for players to spend quality time together.
With this opening, Mr. Gabossy further expands the playing field for the company he created out of an idea he first had as a high school student spending an academic year in Los Angeles who visited a Chuck-E-Cheese´s and became fixated on applying himself – after successfully completing a Masters Degree in Economics – to developing and launching a new breed of location based entertainment experiences.
According to Grandview Research, the global location based entertainment market size was valued at USD 3.05 billion in 2020 and is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 34.4% from 2021 to 2028.
As it happens with most large scale business opportunities, those who believe in their vision for the future and put their money where their mouth is, ultimately become segment leaders within burgeoning new industries; And the investors who backed them get to enjoy market beating returns and a front row seat to witness the revolutionary restructuring of spending habits in times of a new normality.
Ákos Gabossy and PanIQ Escape Rooms have successfully secured over $8.5 million dollars in funding which has paved the way for a momentous strategic acquisition and expansion effort that is setting the stage for what the company hopes will be the finishing touch in their unique positioning strategy.
Mr. Gabossy recently granted us an interview in which we discussed the future of this powerful new consumption trend and the insights that have enabled his brand to capture the lion´s share of this rapidly growing market.
What makes your Las Vegas flagship store unique?
Our goal was to build a very upscale escape room facility, that lives up to the standards of the entertainment capital of the world. It was a challenge to come up with unique puzzles and exciting story lines, we also wanted to create an environment, which is very “Instagram friendly” and inspires younger generations. We also added a bar and lounge area, so players can discuss/process their experience and spend more time at PanIQ Room.
As experience entertainment undergoes a process of evolution, why do you think audiences and consumers are selecting escape rooms as a top choice?
Escape rooms are an extremely interactive experience, where players become an actor or actress of their own story. The new generation escape rooms are not about escaping anymore, a well designed game offers a complex adventure for a small group of people (usually friends, coworkers, family members) in an authentic environment. Most escape rooms can only be played once, which means they are a very exclusive and once in a lifetime experience. Players also don’t need any special abilities to have fun at PanIQ Room, most venues are very well-located and easily accessible.
How has your company navigated the pandemic and did that challenge ultimately make you stronger within your market position?
We survived it with almost zero revenue for one year, which is a huge entrepreneurial success for a vulnerable brand like us. We have a great investor partner, who could support us financially during the darkest days. Unfortunately, most of our landlords weren’t wise enough to support us with a reasonable rent relief, so we had to figure out other ways to keep our stores alive (or more like hibernated). The location based entertainment sector is probably the biggest victim (businesswise) of the entire pandemic, the different aim programs were absolutely ineffective and redundant.
After securing a new $8.5 million dollars in funding, what’s next for the PanIQ brand?
Hiventures, a Hungarian state owned venture capital firm invested $8.5M dollars into PanIQ Room in order to open prime corporate owned stores and support our franchisees. We just signed new lease agreements in Austin and Seattle, but new locations are yet to come in San Diego, Los Angeles and New York City. Our goal is to reach the $10M dollar annual revenue mark by 2024. We are also working on a big 40+ location merger, which will hopefully lead PanIQ to become the biggest escape room brand of the planet.
How do you manage to stay a step ahead from competitors in the space?
I always think long term, which means we had to sacrifice majority of our short term profits. We are in the middle of an incredible journey, where we launched a global business from Eastern Europe in a very competitive market.
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