Interviews

I’m a “sucker” for my people – Sean T. CEO of Jamaican Dominoes Online

Sean T. CEO of Jamaican Dominoes Online
Written by Xavier Murphy

Sean T. is CEO of JamDom.com a social platform and gaming experience for players from all over the world to engage in Jamaican/Caribbean Style Dominoes. JamDom has been online since 2007, and it’s the first site to provide the ability to play Jamaican Dominoes against real actual players online. Here is our conversation with Sean T.

Q: What is your connection to Jamaica?
I’m Jamaican “by blood”, born to Jamaican parents who emigrated to Toronto, Canada “for a better life”. I’m a “sucker” for my people and this has caused me to develop a gaming platform for my people and culture.

Q: Are you a business person or entrepreneur or both?
I think I’d say I’m both. I strongly identify with being an entrepreneur – I like to blaze new trails and trod on unbeaten paths as opposed to just sticking to the “tried and true”. Oftentimes, the possibilities and opportunities of the unknown excites me.

Q: What was your profession before you started your business?
I was (and still am) a Programmer / Web Developer before starting my business. These skills were essential to starting my new venture.

Q: Who or what motivated to start Jamaica Dominoes?
I grew up with the game all around me as part of our culture. I always noticed how passionate the older folks would get about the game. As you know, it gets pretty intense, heated and contentious, lol. We younger kids would play with each other sometime, mimicking the excitement and antics we observed from the veterans. The game is a staple in Jamaican culture, and it followed us into the diaspora (“farrin”/foreign). In high school, we played during lunch hour and this persisted even into college.

I knew that there was a “problem” when students were playing dominoes, very passionately, to the extent that they were even skipping/ditching class to play. I was captivating by how compelling the game was. Even spectators who were standing or sitting around were very reeled into the game! I would play other online games with friends and family but there was no way for us to play dominoes when we weren’t in person. The only version I found was a different style of playing that was so different and foreign to me.

Q: Did you face any challenges taking the game online?
Many, many, many!! Bwoy, where do I start, LOL. The biggest challenge was the magnitude of work involved in developing the sophisticated technology and software involved in allowing many users to interact with each other online in real time games! It literally put me through the fire. Server infrastructure, crashes, bugs, you name it! It was no walk in the park to get the platform to the stable place of where it is today.

Q: Tell us about the game?
If you’re Jamaican or you have been around Jamaicans, then you are most likely familiar with the game of Dominoes! It’s a staple in Jamaican culture and even if you don’t play yourself, you’ve definitely seen it played at one point or another. So the essence of the concept of JamDom is very simple: playing dominoes on JamDom is the next best thing to actually playing in person. You don’t have to wait until the next family link up or BBQ, just log in and get in the game without the extra expense of buying drinks at your local bar.

Q: Tell us the moment you knew that game was a “hit”?
I knew I had a hit on my hands when many many players confessed to being addicted. The game and the extremely competitive culture surrounding the game is very compelling, to say the least! In the early days and it continues today, we spend hours upon hours playing and “carrying on” online. Sometimes even all night, and drop asleep on the domino table, LOL. It’s quite interactive and players turn on our video camera or audio to enjoy the LIVE interaction even more. So when I saw how consuming the game was, it was clear to me that it was a “hit”. And here we are still, 10 years later – JamDom remains a staple item in many homes.

Q: Currently what is your biggest challenge?
The hobby and pastime of dominoes is totally different from running a business centered around dominoes! JamDom caters to a niche audience, people who like to play dominoes or those who are motivated to learn. Being a business with limited financial resources, the biggest challenge is growing the platform to reach more members in order to scale the business. Sometimes, the real Domino “Vetrans” (Veterans) are seniors and they are not always tech-savvy and they can be set in their ways of just playing dominoes in person.

Q: Other than the money what types of satisfaction do you get out of your work?
Wow, Great Question! What really moves me is when I hear how much JamDom means to the members. Many friendships, relationships, babies, marriages have been formed through the platform. Some members used to play back in the day in high school or college in Jamaica but have moved abroad to different countries in the diaspora like Canada, the UK and the US and they’ve said that JamDom has allowed them to reconnect and reminisce on the good old days even though there is much distance between them now. For many, it’s the stress reliever from a long day of work and it allows them to unwind.

Q: What motivates you on a day to day basis?
I’m aggressively goal-oriented and I love business! So I’m always motivated to achieve my goals especially if it means growing and expanding business. I like to delight my customers so it feels great when I can honour their feature requests and enhance their gaming experience. I’m happy when my customers are happy. Then I know I’m doing something meaningful and worthwhile.

Q: How do you motivate people that aren’t close to you and enable them to see your vision?
Wow, another great question! I think that any successful business person needs to be a people person. No matter what your product or service is, when it all boils down to it, you are in the business of people. People are your customers. People are your co-workers. People are your investors. I’m by no means a social butterfly, lol, but I understand a thing or two about people and I’m a good listener.

So I listen carefully about what people want and focus a bit on them instead of only on me. Then I assess how my vision might align with their own personal goals? On the other hand, it’s easier to work with people who immediately see the vision without selling or convincing and I have formed a small team from the very same players who were already very passionate about the game.

Q: How do you remind yourself of what’s important?. When you are ambitious and progressive, it’s easy to get caught up in the flow of doing, doing, doing. The hustle and grind of work, work, work. However, I think family certainly keeps you grounded.

They help bring me back down to ground zero. Also, unfortunately, I have had a startling number of untimely deaths in my family and death has a way of REALLY putting things into perspective for you, in terms of what’s really important and what really matters. At least it does for a thoughtful person like myself. I used to think it was just cliche and something to say whenever I heard people say “life is short” but I’ve come to realize that this is very very very true. If you remember that life really is in fact short, then it’s much easier to hone in on what’s really important.

Q: What time do you wake up and do you have a routine?
I’m typically an early riser and if I wake up early, I’m at my peak productivity. If it’s one of my workout days, I try to get the workout done first thing in the morning before work, so that I can get it out of the way. Otherwise, it’s so easy not to do it the more the day rolls on.

Q: Do you have any hobbies? I’m a bit of a musician so every now and then when I need to unwind, I play the piano/keyboard. And, I’m a bit of a nerd. I like Math, numbers, formulas, equations. I’m that guy who would get 100% on a Math test or exam. I’m also a psychology freak and a business freak. These are hardly hobbies right? But when it’s all said and done dominoes on JamDom.com is my favourite past time.

Q: If the economy crashed hard and there was no more room for you in the business sector, what would you do with yourself?
The entrepreneur in me says that there will always be room for me in the business sector, even if the economy crashes. I will just have to be flexible and clever enough to think in different ways to apply myself to a different type of business or industry that is still relevant in a recession.

Q: Seven day, six night, all expense paid, my vacation destination is…
Dubai! I want to see what all the hype is all about. I wonder if they play dominoes there and more importantly on JamDom.com. lol. Destinations aside, I should tell you that we have players as far as Nigeria, Japan and Qatar. I’d like to travel to those countries as well.

Q: My favorite guilty pleasure is…
Sounds redundant but it’s dominoes on JamDom.com. Even though I developed the platform I often find myself hooked on it trying to improve my rank or spending hours trying to drop back a 6 love!

Q: My favorite Jamaican food is…
How do I narrow it down…Ackee & Saltfish with PROVISIONS (Food). Or even Stew Chicken with Provisions. I also want to squeeze in Jerk Chicken with Rice and (Red) Peas.

To learn move about visit their website, JamDom.com or their Facebook page https://facebook.com/JamaicanDominos

About the author

Xavier Murphy