It’s no secret that the esports industry has a very bright future ahead of it. An expected revenue stream of $906 million in 2019, equating to a 38.2% year on year growth, has solidified esports’ longevity.
Full of promise and potential, the esports industry has attracted numerous entrepreneurs seeking a slice of the success. However, without a robust organisational structure in place that includes three critical C-suite roles, esports teams will struggle to realise the enormous potential that exists.
CEO: The Visionary
In a rapidly developing industry like esports, securing or retaining a Chief Executive Officer who can guide the team over obstacles often faced by emerging businesses is crucial.
Many current esports teams’ CEOs come from playing backgrounds, and often double as founders too. Their passion and understanding around esports is invaluable to the development of a team, and many hold the key traits traditionally seen in successful CEO’s. However, where the core traits and esports knowledge exist, some individuals may lack a depth of understanding around business and operational skills. Sourcing other C-level executives who can complement the enthusiastic and visionary nature of CEOs from an esports background with their knowledge will be key.
If a team should seek out a CEO, they will need to possess an innate ability to strike the key balance of developing a cohesive brand, as well as build a competitive, successful performance ecosystem for the players. The longevity of esports as an industry relies on esports teams recognising the immense importance of developing a brand hand-in-hand with developing the industry.
A CEO should bring business acumen and knowledge to an industry that in comparison to other established industries, lacks in regulation and structure. Concerns regarding esports’ lack of sophistication can be quashed with the support, leadership and commercial expertise of an experienced CEO and a strong support team.
To steal a march on competitors, teams must have a robust organisational structure, a clear vision of their brand and their ambitions, and a point of difference, all of which can be determined by an effective CEO.
A highly desirable trait in a CEO of an esports team is a willingness to embrace appropriate risks to capitalise on opportunities. Determining whether certain opportunities equal success is a skill acquired from experience, and as such, having an accomplished CEO to make these calls is imperative. Original thinking, an ability to visualise the future and predict future trends, especially in this innovative industry, is another highly sought-after trait when it comes to finding a CEO to lead an esports team.
CCO: The Revenue Generator
With the ultimate responsibility of defining the commercial strategy of an organisation, the role of the Chief Commercial Officer is paramount to the financial success of a company.
Much like any other business, the ability to drive revenues through understanding, engaging and monetising your fan base, is critical to the company’s success.
As the esports industry continues to evolve and professionalise, new revenue streams and opportunities are now being made available such as media rights, partnerships and licensing, amongst others. As most of these revenue streams are alien to the traditional gaming industry, the need to find a skilled professional to lead in these areas of revenue generation, and fully exploit all opportunities, is an absolute necessity.
Securing the right CCO at the early stage of an esports team’s development will be highly beneficial to the long-term success of the team. An apt CCO will need to develop the brand, have a comprehensive understanding of the fan base, and most importantly, how to capture and build it. An effective CCO will drive an increase in revenues and provide the support and skills to globalise the business. An effective CCO with commercial expertise will render the team a more attractive platform to investors; a significant goal of all emerging esports teams.
COO: The Business Structurer
Best practice in a business emanates from the Chief Operating Officer. The COO is the catalyst to ensuring a high standard of best practice is implemented across the business.
Crucial functions of any business, including legal, finance, IT, HR and data are all overseen by the COO. As such, it is the role of the COO to establish a platform and infrastructure that supports the business and drives its success and effectiveness. Without solid foundations, no business will flourish.
With most businesses in esports classified as start-ups, a COO is a crucial hire.
The esports industry is inundated with passionate CEOs, often with a playing background, who have a drive to establish the best in performance development for their players and teams. At the same time, whilst visionary, they are often inexperienced when it comes to the operational and commercial structure of a business. The COO is key to addressing this imbalance, and in turn renders the CEO a better leader in the process. Both the skills and experience of the right COO and CCO can supplement the drive, industry knowledge and passion of a CEO.
Stronger infrastructure, established processes and a clear standard for best practice will equip a team with the necessary skills to succeed commercially and operationally. With these foundations in place, a faster growth rate is likely to attract better talent and offer a stronger proposition to potential investors.
Attracting the best talent
First and foremost, don’t be afraid of an outsider. Securing senior talent from a gaming background is not always possible or necessary. Sourcing talent from outside the esports industry can be highly beneficial. Multifaceted professional backgrounds equip any individual with transferrable skills, that enable a holistic approach to both company growth and development.
With that being said, it is crucial that any individual coming into the esports industry has a certain level of empathy and understanding around this sector. With such a nascent and fast-moving industry coupled with his highly nuanced culture, politics and challenges, any ‘external candidate’ must be willing to embrace this and adapt quickly.
We’ve seen the effectiveness of hiring from outside the esports industry in our own work, with the recent appointment of Peter Mucha as COO at G2 Esports, who joined G2 after working for companies such as Adidas, Universal Music and Microsoft.
With offices across Europe, North America, China, Singapore and Australia, our global reach enables us to access a diverse candidate pool, and source the best in talent to continue to expand, develop and transform this exciting industry.
About the authors
Chris Jordan leads SRi’s Esports practice.
The leading executive search expert in esports with a thoughtful and methodical approach, Chris harnesses the power of his sector expertise and best-in-class network to assist the rapid growth of esports properties across the industry.
An integral member of the firm’s Esports practice, Charlie utilises deep insight to source candidates for global properties such as G2 Esports, Riot Games, and RFRSH Entertainment. Charlie also plays a vital role in SRi’s core sports practice, regularly working for international federations, governing bodies, clubs, teams and agencies.