GameStop’s digital-first transformation pinpoints the company to the tech hub of Seattle, Washington for fresh talent in the physical world. 

Back in May, GMEdd revealed that GameStop was hinting towards a new corporate location in Florida. While nothing has been officially announced regarding Florida, the appearance of Florida-based hires on LinkedIn as well as Florida-based positions on GameStop’s careers page have only increased.

All your base are belong to us.

During Ryan Cohen’s brief speech at The Annual Shareholders Meeting, the GameStop Chairman made it clear that the company may not ever announce these strategic decisions.

We know some people want us to lay out a whole detailed plan today, but that’s not gonna happen. You won’t find us talking a big game, making a bunch of lofty promises, or telegraphing our strategy to the competition. That’s the philosophy we adopted at Chewy.

Without official word from the gaming retailer, investors are left to analyze breadcrumbs to learn what comes next for the public company.

For the last few weeks the breadcrumbs have pointed to GameStop branching out to the rapidly-growing tech hub of Seattle, Washington.

Career listings

Over on the GMEdd Discord Server, a bot has been developed to track all of GameStop’s public job postings. Readers can join the server via GMEdd.com/Discord to keep tabs themselves.

A search for career postings in Seattle on GameStop’s website shows a variety of corporate level openings, with categories ranging from Data Science to Merchandising, posted just within the past week:

It is important to note that while the GameStop Careers platform only goes back to mid-June, GMEdd began taking note of Seattle jobs making their starting appearances in May. Several Merchandising and Data Science jobs have already been filled in the rainy city, making their mark on GMEdd’s GameStop Tech and E-commerce Hires Spreadsheet.

GameStop’s decision to expand corporate to Florida could be easily explained through Ryan Cohen’s deep roots in the palm tree state, along with many former Chewy execs remaining in the area — but what reason would the gaming retailer have to expand to Seattle?

Home to Tech & E-Commerce Giants

According to Statista, nearly 11% of Seattle’s workforce is employed in tech. Jacqueline McGraw of sf.citi believes that Seattle’s tech scene looks a lot like San Francisco’s did nearly a decade ago.

Even with remote work on the rise, the number of tech jobs in Seattle is growing and tech companies are expanding their footprint in the Pacific Northwest. Seattle appears to be following a similar tech policy trajectory to that of tech giant San Francisco.

Behind Chewy, Amazon and Zulily are two of GameStop’s favorites to poach from; 31 of the recent public hires come from Chewy, 22 from Amazon, and 19 from Zulily.

Both Amazon and Zulily have established headquarters in Seattle. LinkedIn and Crunchbase reveal that 17 of the hires have indicated Seattle as their primary location.

With Cohen heavily influenced by Amazon’s customer-obsessed mantra and Amazon remaining one of the biggest threats to e-commerce retailers, it’s also no surprise that GameStop is poaching more senior executives, including new CEO Matt Furlong and incoming CFO Mike Recupero, from the e-commerce giant. 

GameStop’s known Seattle-based senior executives include: Matt Furlong, Chief Executive Officer, [Former Amazon] · Mike Recupero, Chief Financial Officer, [Former Amazon] · Matt Francis, Chief Technology Officer, [Former Amazon] · Elliot Wilke, Chief Growth Officer, [Former Amazon] · Rob Mayer, SVP of Merchandising, [Former Amazon] · Ken Suzuki, VP, Supply Chain Systems, [Former Zulily]

At first glance, it may seem odd that GameStop is poaching from Zulily; an e-commerce company that sells clothing, footwear, toys, and home products isn’t a competitor to GameStop.

However, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to those who have studied the prologue to this entire saga.

When I left you, I was but the learner

A look into the past tells us that the Co-Founder and Former Chairman of Zulily, Mark Vadon, was previously hand-picked by Ryan Cohen to serve as Chewy’s first Chairman of the Board. 

The Man Who Found Gold In Dog Food, published by Forbes in early 2017, details the story of Chewy’s past told through Ryan Cohen’s experience building the e-commerce giant. 

Cohen flew to Seattle to meet with Vadon, who was impressed by Cohen’s attention to detail. Not only did he agree to become Chair, but also to invest $5 million into Chewy after meeting Ryan

Chewy’s About Us page on March 3, 2015 featured Ryan Cohen as CEO and Mark Vadon as Chairman

Mark Vadon and Ryan Cohen share a similar lay-low strategy when it comes to running their online-based businesses, as revealed in a rare October 2014 GeekWire summit interview with Vadon.

It turns out that Vadon — who has built one of the most powerful e-commerce companies in Seattle since Amazon.com — consciously avoided press in the early days so as not to tip off competitors to the success they were seeing in the business.

The Zulily Chairman joins GeekWire to talk about building big technology companies, the future of e-commerce and more. Vadon had just begun his role as Chewy’s Chair at the time of this interview.


Vadon draws an analogy to oil drilling to explain this philosophy.

When you are drilling and you hit an oil patch, the last thing you want is people coming and drilling right next to you… It is important to put press off as long as you can.

In a separate TechCrunch article from 2017 post the sale of Chewy to PetSmart, Vadon is quoted as giving advice on staying low profile directly to Ryan Cohen and the Chewy team “to better avoid competition”.

Big Sky Ahead

Vadon’s latest venture is Big Sky Growth Partners – a blank check company or special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) incorporated on February 11, 2021, immediately following the GameStop frenzy in late January. 

Not much is known about Big Sky’s intentions, however SEC filings suggest they intend to leverage the deep expertise their team has in growing digitally native Internet Retail and Direct-to-Consumer companies. Big Sky intends to focus their search on these sectors or technologies that power these sectors.

LinkedIn activity suggests that Vadon was following the GameStop frenzy in late January, liking content relating to Reddit-fueled short squeeze events. Could it be that, like fellow former Chewy board member Larry Cheng, Vadon is continuing to mentor and support Ryan Cohen?

After all, GameStop’s first significant tech hire under Cohen’s direction was Matt Francis to the role of Chief Technology Officer. Francis, a Zulily veteran, was formerly Chief Technology Officer at Seattle-based Flyhomes, a company Vadon is both a board member of and investor in.

It is possible that Francis was recommended to Cohen by Vadon given their extensive history together.

Seattle silence

There isn’t much Seattle chatter on LinkedIn yet, but we think that may change soon. Rob Mayer, SVP of Merchandising and Amazon vet, shared a post on July 2nd on LinkedIn highlighting new roles in Seattle and that there would be more to come.

Jordan Holberg, the eccentric Principal Engineer at GameStop GMEdd uncovered only days ago, shared a tweet on May 11, 2021 where he polled his followers on whether to move to Washington or Florida.

Could these be two relocation options he was given as part of his employment contract at GameStop?

Why does it matter?

Of course, Amazon and Zulily are not the only major companies based in Seattle. It’s also home to countless other major players in the tech and gaming space including Microsoft and Valve, the company behind PC gaming giant Steam.

We already know GameStop has formed strategic partnerships with Microsoft, and the gaming retailer plans on expanding more into PC hardware. Nintendo has offices in Seattle as well.

GameStop expanding out to Seattle could indicate that the company is, in fact, evolving into a technology company, which Cohen pointed out as a need back in his November letter to the board.

Career postings and activity on LinkedIn continue to provide clues to what the future of GameStop will look like. GMEdd has now counted over 70 key tech hires under the new leadership, and that’s just from what we can see publicly on LinkedIn.

Based on current information, investors can expect to see an influx of new hires coming from the Seattle area and LinkedIn posts pointing to more Seattle-based job openings from GameStop.

New hires and new career listings are evidence that GameStop is undergoing a transformation under Ryan Cohen’s leadership. The company, which was founded in 1996, has always been based in Texas.

With chatter heating up around South Florida developing into the next best tech hub, and Seattle already being home to many FAANG offices and dubbed “Silicon Forest”, GameStop expanding to these cities in particular shows us that it’s taking big steps towards its evolution to a technology company.  

Recall new Seattle-based Chief Technology Officer Matt Francis’s optimistic LinkedIn post from April, where he declared GameStop’s transformation will be studied in every business school for the next decade. 

Perhaps establishing roots in Seattle is part of the prologue of a groundbreaking transformation story taking place at GameStop.

Jenna and vestro contributed. Toast edited and contributed.

Sources: Big Sky Growth Partners Form S-1, Mark Vadon on LinkedIn, Jordan Holberg on Twitter, GeekWire, Chewy.com About Us (May 2015), sfciti.org

As the Chewification of GameStop continues, perhaps investors should take a closer look at the other Chewy co-founder Michael “Blake” Day and the potential for him to be involved, alongside Volition Capital.

Since reaching an agreement between RC Ventures and GameStop in January, Ryan Cohen has worked almost entirely behind-the-scenes on transforming the retailer, with investors uncertain as to who he consults with towards strategic moves. By looking at Cohen’s past, and the breadcrumbs along the way, GMEdd is able to make a few educated guesses.

Chewy’s “Other” Co-Founder

Chewy.com was founded in 2011 by Ryan Cohen and Michael “Blake” Day, hereby referred to as Blake. We know enough about Ryan’s past from the various interviews he has given recalling his time at the pet-focused E-commerce giant, however, we don’t know much about the other founder, Blake. Could he also be involved in the GameStop story?

Blake does not leave much of a trail on the internet. He has a Facebook page, but it doesn’t have a public profile picture. It doesn’t look like he’s on Twitter or Instagram. He does have a LinkedIn page.

Blake’s LinkedIn shows that he was Co-Founder & CTO of Chewy until April 2018, just a month after it was announced Ryan Cohen would be stepping down as CEO. Both Blake and Ryan remained with the company for a year after a $3B payday from PetSmart in 2017.

From past interviews with Ryan Cohen, we know the founders first met through an online Java chat room and shared similar visions for a groundbreaking e-commerce business before starting Chewy.com together, but insight on Blake remains limited beyond this.

In a TechCrunch interview in 2019, Ryan Cohen was asked,

Would you partner again with Michael on a different e-commerce business or maybe a venture outfit?

to which Ryan Cohen responded,

We’re really close. It needs to be the right opportunity obviously, and we need to be picky. But I have no plans to sit in retirement, that’s for sure. I’m 33 and I’m competitive and I like consumer businesses and I like to win.

Ryan is arguably in the midst of his biggest venture yet, so you have to wonder what his former business partner is up to these days.

Back to Blake’s LinkedIn page: The last activity on his account was a liked post from 4 years ago, when Blake still worked for Chewy… until 4 months ago when Blake liked a post sharing a Forbes article about Chewy’s exceptional customer service, dated none other than January 29th, 2021.

Interestingly enough, January 28th was the day buying of NYSE:GME was restricted across several major brokerages including Robinhood. During this time, GameStop was all over the news. Blake knows how to lay low, as indicated by so little out there on the internet about him, but if anything, this recent activity shows he is still using LinkedIn, and coincidentally while one of his former cohorts is at the center of a historical financial market controversy.

Despite Chewy’s headquarters being based in Florida, the company established a small team based in Boston, beginning in temporary spaces before leasing their own 20,000 square foot space in 2017. According to Cohen, Boston was an attractive location to poach tech talent:

Boston is an amazing technology hub and startup hub, with dozens of universities. There’s just a ton of talent. We looked at all of the major US cities when we were planning this office, and Boston was the most competitive — either equal to or better than anywhere else.

Blake Day, serving as the CTO, ran the Boston location. He gave an interview to VentureFizz about the move to Boston, and one might say he sounds a lot like Cohen:

Samantha Rassner served as Chewy’s Vice President of Software Development from September 2015 to February 2018. In a LinkedIn blog post on her exit of the company, Samantha Rassner recounts Blake’s visionary speech. Blake and Ryan sound one and the same here as well.

Chewy’s First Investor

Larry Cheng, co-founder and managing partner of Volition Capital, was the first major investor to back Chewy after the company was turned down numerous times by other firms.

Larry’s investment through Volition was key to the growth and expansion of the company, and as a result, Larry and Ryan remain “fast friends.” While GameStop is a different story than Chewy,  it’s not crazy to think that Volition Capital and Larry Cheng have long been involved in mentoring the turnaround based on these facts alone.

In fact, when Ryan Cohen tweeted a picture of an ice cream cone on February 24, 2021, some drew the connection that it could refer to Volition Capital’s website citing Chewy’s first official board meeting including McDonald’s soft serve. 

Who else would have been present at the first official board meeting? The Co-Founder of course, Blake Day.

Timelines Suggest Volition was Clued in on Ryan’s Plans

Ryan Cohen filed his first 13D for GameStop via RC Ventures LLC on August 28, 2020, disclosing an initial 9% stake. This sparked waves, particularly within value investor circles, as many pondered the E-commerce guru’s investment motives.

What few realize is that Cohen didn’t initially invest in August 2020, but much earlier in April 2019. This can be deduced from the initial 13D, through share counts and averages based on implied price. Rod Alzmann of GMEdd.com states that when he inquired with GameStop last year, investor relations confirmed that Cohen had held $GME since April 2019. 

Just one week after Ryan’s public disclosure, on September 4th, 2020, Volition Capital published an insight piece titled Gaming as a Service and Why it Matters, authored by one of the firm’s associates, Claude de Jocas. This also appears to be the first piece of gaming related research the firm has released.

Over the next few weeks, Ryan added to his position twice more until reaching a 9.98% stake, disclosed September 21. Weeks later, on October 9, Volition released a video where Claude de Jocas discusses the future of internet gaming and its growth potential.

Skip ahead just one month, and on November 17, Ryan filed an amendment to his 13D with an attached letter to the GameStop board urging the company to share a credible plan for seizing opportunities in the rapidly growing gaming sector.

PR Blitz

Ryan Cohen was far from being a household name in August of 2020 when he filed his initial stake in GameStop, so many investors started researching him to get a feel for what his plan was. At the time, Ryan had established a website, ryan-cohen.com, that embedded various media appearances and formal interviews the Chewy co-founder had given, but it has since been shut down in December of 2020.

Had the website done its job? 

Retail investing icon Roaring Kitty first stumbles upon Ryan Cohen’s rudimentary homepage during an August 28th, 2020 livestream.  At the time, the deep value investor was merely trying to learn more about the Chewy founder. Most of the content was posted on the site between mid-2019, around Chewy’s IPO and Cohen’s initial GameStop investment, and mid-2020.

Investors could speculate that this may have been a coordinated PR blitz campaign before revealing a large stake in a public company, one that he had already been discreetly acquiring.

Each interview Cohen conducted provided valuable insight into his business strategy, and much of how he described Chewy’s story and his vision could also be applied to GameStop. Was this intentional? In one September 2019 post on Medium, when asked about what’s next, Ryan hinted at something being on the horizon.

I’m only 34, so I certainly haven’t peaked as an entrepreneur yet. Stay tuned.

For more, check out GMEdd.com/report-model for a compiled model featuring all of Ryan Cohen’s known media appearances and formal interviews.

Okay, where were we? Ryan Cohen started buying into GameStop in April of 2019, with a disclosure following increased holdings in August 2020. It’s unknown as to when he made the decision and how much time was spent beforehand figuring out activist investor logistics coinciding with a PR blitz, but it is reasonable to assume he was strategically building public-facing credibility for himself before revealing his high-stakes investment.

Fast-forward to 2021 and Ryan Cohen now owns 12.9% of GameStop, joins the board, a proclaimed short squeeze event arises national coverage on the retailer prompting a series of congressional hearings, and suddenly everyone knows about r/wallstreetbets.

Amid all of this attention, the company remains quiet but starts undergoing rapid transformation, which was initially visible from the Investor Relations page, but now only seen through activity on LinkedIn — there have been over 30 new hires in tech and E-commerce positions starting in February, just a month after Cohen joined the GameStop board.

Strategic Advisory

On March 2nd, 2021, Volition Capital launched a new Strategic Advisory Board that, “will provide focused guidance to the firm and its portfolio companies regarding strategic direction, investments, executive hiring and development, due-diligence, network and operational strategy, among other areas.” Volition states that the firm had been working on assembling this board for almost a year.

So a venture firm launched a strategic advisory board. Who cares?

Wait, that name is familiar…

That’s right. As of March 2021, Blake is now at the helm of Volition’s Strategic Advisory Board. Blake has largely laid low since his Chewy departure and still lives in Fort Lauderdale according to his Volition Capital bio.

This appears to be the first public role he has taken since leaving Chewy in 2018. Cohencidence?

Volition’s second listed Strategic Advisory Board Member is Raul Fernandez, who serves as Vice Chairman and Owner of Monumental Sports & Entertainment, which is a private partnership of Washington DC’s major sports franchises including eSports teams.

Early GameStop investors will recognize Raul’s name, because they will have seen it before as well.

GameStop’s May 2020 “Driving Value For All Stockholders” notes that Raul Fernandez serves on GameStop’s board to provide insight into the world of professional eSports on slide 32. 

GameStop claims that Raul Fernandez was appointed to the board  under an agreement with Hestia Capital Partners, L.P. (“Hestia Capital”) and Permit Capital Enterprise Fund, L.P.  (“Permit Capital”), lead by currently outgoing GameStop director and atypical shareholder activist Kurt Wolf.

Hestia Capital and Permit Capital, together with their affiliates, beneficially owned approximately 1.3% of GameStop at this point, and Kurt Wolf, as their Managing Partner, had just sent a letter to GameStop’s board calling for a corporate refresh.

Wolf had been advocating for GameStop’s board to adapt to the times and transform from an underperforming retailer into a forward-thinking company that emphasized long-term growth. He later insists that Raul was placed on the board without any involvement or communication with Permit/Hestia in a May 2020 Restore GameStop presentation deck.

While the GameStop board claimed they began to cooperate with Hestia/Permit in April of 2019, Ryan Cohen began purchasing his initial position in the gaming retailer.

Fernandez still currently serves on GameStop’s board, and filings reveal he will be stepping down at the Annual General Meeting on June 9th, as Ryan Cohen takes the reigns as incoming Chairman of the Board. 

On April 8th, 2021, just one month after Blake and Raul’s appointment to Volition’s Strategic Advisory Board, GameStop announced Larry Cheng from Volition Capital as a candidate for its board of directors for the company’s upcoming annual meeting .

What now?

There’s no denying that GameStop and Volition could be tied together in some way. Larry Cheng, Volition’s Managing Partner, will likely be granted his seat on GameStop’s board in June, and we wouldn’t be surprised to see Blake come out of secrecy in the future as well. 

The big question remains: What are these guys planning?

Jenna guest wrote this article exclusively for GMEdd, Toast edited and contributed

Sources: Chewy on Crunchbase, Michael Day on LinkedIn, Vox, TechCrunch, Forbes, BostonGlobe, VentureFizz, inc.com, Samantha Rassner on LinkedIn, Larry Cheng Profile at Volition Capital, Chewy’s Portfolio at Volition Capital, Ryan Cohen on Twitter, Volition Capital Vimeo, Wayback MachineSEC Report, Volition Capital Vimeo, RC Ventures Letter to the Board, Medium, Volition Capital, Investor.GameStop.com, GameStop News Release, GameStop News Release