“Getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life”, Steve Jobs.
It's been a minute since the last time we talk about the Biz Goat, not Steve, but somebody who worked with him, Andy Miller.
If you want to learn about the arc of a hard-charging boy from Boston, Massachusetts turning into a badass mother fucker, now owner of the Sacramento Kings, NRG, SF Shock and Chicago Huntsmen, take a look at this podcast episode.
During his talk with Watchtime, Andy laid out some thoughts about esports teams' current leadership models, which made me think a lot about it.
Food's on the table, let's get it.
Would esports teams survive if we take away their founders or CEOs? At the moment, teams are experimenting with their vision, lead by different personalities.
If we look at sports today, nobody would give a shit if a founder leaves a team, except from the ones owned by billionairs like Roman Abramovich investing (losing) millions with Chelsea F.C just because he wants to be part of the game... and maybe laundering some dollaroos? This is, mainly, because of two facts:
These teams keep winning titles because of legacy, money and power. The draft system makes the NBA and NFL a more equalitarian structure for teams to get the spotlight, which creates different business strategies. Strategies that still have one priority in common: the pro players.
What's the first thing that comes to mind when you see the teams' logos on the image? Not a CEO, not a founder, not an investor.
We instantly see a player or a coach.
How many times was the Bulls' CEO mentioned during The Last Dance? Two times, for a couple seconds, on a ten hour long documentary.
Gaming expanded the model that we had in our brains for so long. The game can now be consumed in different ways at the same time:
Giving space for teams to place strategies not only around players and coaches, but also personalities and content creators.
A few years ago, the competitive side of gaming was the only ingredient for team owners to find success. It developed into the same way sports did: a small group of teams pioneering the scene, getting the best players and winning everything.
TL's Steve Arhancet, C9's Jack Etienne, TSM's Andy Dinh, Fnatic's Sam Matthews and Patrik Sättermon built legacy, and it's not even close. Nobody else lifted a local trophy in EU or NA ever, other than Alliance and CLG.
But wait a minute...
... not only changed the perspective for some of these owners, but it also gave birth to the idea of personalities founding their own teams. The clear examples would be G2 Esports' Carlos "Ocelote" Rodriguez and 100 Thieves' Nadeshot.
Esports orgs won't be just competitive teams anymore, they are entertainment companies with intertwined departments around pro players/streamers. So, what is the current status?
Fnatic, Team Liquid, TSM, Cloud 9
League of Legends and CS:GO, being the most important titles in the world, benefited the ones who built early success with it. Not at lot of teams have the luxury to be in this position, thats why their main focus its still around the competitive side of things while experimenting with some entertainment. These orgs are unforgettable brands, already bigger than their owners. If they leave or change positions the internal team will suffer but the fanbase will stay strong.
Their focus is apparel and entertainment, they have a good position in esports but it isn't the priority. The face of the company, Nadeshot, is literally on every single piece of content they release. If he goes away today, yes, the company will suffer big time. However, if he goes away in a couple years from now 100 Thieves will be just fine without him.
The hype around this team is not just about Nadeshot, he is building a company where everybody is influential. Their content creators are huge, both local and international. Their investors and advisors are well known, their graphic designers and videographers have platforms. Even their fucking interns are famous.
G2 should be aligned with the first four teams, since they share competitive success and current focus on esports, but... Carlos. I've seen with my own eyes a full stadium chanting his name, I thought Rocky Balboa was about to come out, but it was the owner of a team. G2 relies 100% on a personality leading a company focused on esports. If he is gone, there will be no personalities left to hold fandom for him, and competitive loyalty won't make the cut since there's another Spanish team coming for their titles and fans, MAD Lions.
Here we have a unicorn. In my opinion, the team with the most interesting future ahead. NRG's leadership counts with a 2x1 CEO deal, Andy Miller and Hector Rodriguez. Andy's biz and investment expertise combined with Hector's know how on esports and branding is pretty lethal. Without them, the COD team should be concerned but the rest of the org will be fine. They built success in both entertainment and esports + found a way to make every pro player and content creator cohesive with the other. NRG is rolling already, I don't think anybody can stop them.
Esports teams are still at a loss, but they are growing. It's a jungle with a wide variety of leaders trying to find ways to make it profitable and stay at the top. Entertainment, apparel and branding helped the cause at first, but now we realized it surpassed it.