Immutable Has A Product-Led Mindset: An Interview with James Ferguson, CEO

Adrienne Tan

To make the digital world real – that is the ambitious mission of Immutable X. 

Immutable X is a company striving to make time spent in the digital space as economically meaningful as the time spent in the physical world. Wondering how on earth a company like Immutable X decided to tackle such a lofty goal? 

Well, its founder and CEO, James Ferguson, was an avid game player who spent over 1000+ hours playing games. The games he played had entire ecosystems with their own digital economies. But the 1000+ hours of James’ time playing games were wasted. The value he generated while playing games could not be extracted from the digital world into the physical world. James wanted to change that. Now he and his team at  Immutable X are building a new business model that can thrive in the 100 billion dollar gaming industry while also benefiting those who invest a  significant amount of time and money playing games. 

We sat down with James to learn how Immutable X is moving forward on their mission with Product in the driver’s seat. 

“Product Management is the discipline of learning fast” 

-James Ferguson, CEO, Immutable 

Immutable has a very interesting mission statement. Can you tell me about that? 

“Immutable’s mission is to make digital worlds real. Digital worlds, whether that’s online communities, or online games are becoming more and more immersive. But the business models that they’re using, especially in games, are becoming more and more exploitative. The fact of the matter is, we don’t own the stuff we buy-in. Our big goal is to use NFT’s (Non-Fungible Token) to recreate the same property rights that we have  in the physical world in the digital world.” 

How big is the market? 

“So the market for NFT’s is growing very, very, very rapidly. We have seen the NFT market grow about 100 times year on year, which is some  crazy growth.” 

What about the Immutable customer? Who is Immutable’s target customer and what problems are you trying to solve for them? 

“We have two distinct parts to Immutable. We have Immutable Studio, which is a game studio. And we also have the Immutable Platform. The  Immutable Platform is how we allow NFT’s to be traded in an instant. [Our platform] allows you to create NFT’s without needing to hire people who have blockchain experience. As a customer, you do not need to start going down that very technical paradigm. So for us, our customers come in two very distinct categories. One, we have video game companies and different media companies who want to make digital experiences and are who are very interested by this world of NFT’s. And then we have a second group, the players of those games. And for that, you really  have to think around a blend between a traditional gamer, but also people who are quite interested in the game of trading itself, almost a typical  Robin Hood style user who might trade stocks as part of a game.” 

You’re trying to develop this company and you’re looking for Product people to help you do that. What kind of Product people are you  looking for? 

“We’re trying to build an Australian company which is a little bit more technical. Essentially, we’re building under the hood a high-frequency  trading platform that runs on blockchain for NFT’s. We’re building something that needs to appeal to different customers with very different  requirements. We’re trying to appeal to retail traders in-game players and give them a really fun, immersive and interactive experience. At the  same time, we’re trying to appeal to some of the biggest video game conglomerates in the world who have very strong requirements around  uptime and data availability. So, for people who are looking for a challenge, potentially being part of a company that is building a product that is  more typically built in Silicon Valley than Australia, then that’s the type of ambitious people in the product community that we’re looking for.” 

What’s the Product culture like at immutable? 

Immutable is a very strongly Product-Led culture. As we are trying to build something that is very innovative, we need to make sure that our  Product culture can navigate a lot of uncertainty quite quickly. This product is not something that we are copying from the US and scaling it  according to a playbook. There are real challenges that we’re dealing with. So, in terms of a Product culture, it’s one in which people need to be  ready to quickly test and iterate, not be afraid to break things, test assumptions quickly, and then work out what works to quickly scale. 

One of the other beautiful things is that our market is not Australia, it is global. So when things hit and the product works, there is a massive scale  that gets to come really, really quickly, which is really satisfying for all of our Product and Engineering teams. 

What steps are you taking personally to grow this Product practice? 

So my big goal, and I actually have it as my desktop background, is to delegate myself out of the job. I think if any Founder is not hiring people  who are better than them at any speciality, then there’s a cap on the scale that the company can get to. 

If we can bring the best Product leadership into the company to coach the rest of the team that would be great. People in Product Management  are very ambitious and they want to learn. They want to learn how to be better Product Managers. So, staffing the company with top-level talent  and leadership is priority number one. And then number two is just teaching, learning and making sure that we have big budgets for education. 

And why is good Product Management so important for Immutable?

One of the advisors of the company is Justin Waldron, who was one of the co-founders of Zynga. He gave us some advice really early on –  whoever learns fastest wins. Product Management is the discipline of learning fast, and then turning that into action and turning that into an  actual product. So if that’s the core challenge, how fast can we grow? How fast can we figure out what digital property rights are going to look like  throughout entertainment? We’re not in a hyper-saturated market where we get paid on sales or marketing; Product really is the core of our  company. 

As we closed off the interview, James was keen to encourage the Product community to consider working on a truly technical Product. 

“If people are interested in product and are really interested in working on something that is technical, innovative and challenging, but that  ultimately is quite fun, then please have a look at Immutable and everything we’re doing here.” 

Interested in joining the Immutable team? Learn more here.

Adrienne Tan

Adrienne Tan | Author

Adrienne is Co-Founder and CEO of Brainmates and Co-Founder of Leading the Product. She has been championing Product Management since 2000, earning international recognition for raising the profile of the Product Management profession. In this capacity she regularly consults to the Asia-Pacific's top businesses and speaks at business and Product events around the world.

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