Step-by-Step Guide on How to Start an Esports Team

As someone who has worked in the esports industry for a number of years, I know the thrill and excitement esports enthusiasts experience as they start, develop and grow their own esports team. The challenge in of itself is big, but the payoff for the creator and the players is even bigger with potential financial payoffs and the ability to learn about entrepreneurship in a very recreational manner.

That said, there’s a lot of work when it comes to creating an esports team. So what are the steps in starting an esports team? The steps are:

  1. Understanding your goals and current limitations
  2. Studying business and the business of esports
  3. Creating a business strategy and long-term plan
  4. Selecting only one game to begin with
  5. Developing the team branding and story
  6. Building up your remaining business infrastructure
  7. Selecting administrative members
  8. Securing necessary assets
  9. Securing team players/streamers and controlling social frame
  10. Launching team publically
  11. Establishing business relationships
  12. Gathering and analyzing metrics
  13. Revising business strategy routinely
  14. Reaching out to prospective sponsors

In this article, I will be going into depth on how to enact each of these steps. This will be your one-stop-shop for basically what you want to do for the next year in building out your esports team.

Also if you have any questions or want some feedback, feel free to reach out to me at uzair.hasan@esporthow.com.

 

Before we get into it, I wanted to post here some powerful advice from my friend Peter Nunez from Ardens Esports (previously ImmenZ Esports) about the basics of how to start an esports team. This message was posted in the Esport How Discord, join us if you are serious about starting your team and network with professionals! (if it’s hard to read, click here)

1. Understanding Your Goals and Current Limitations

Your Goals

Before we can dive into how to make an esports team, I need to make this important distinction that will help you navigate this article and your team-building process. Are you serious about creating a business or looking to have some fun with friends? Do you seriously want this team to make money or can it be something you run in your free time for the appeal of running something you like?

Neither is right or wrong, but you have to know. A lot of these steps still apply to both mindsets, both some don’t and I specifically point that out at the start of the ones that don’t apply to the “for fun” mindset.

Some of this may be very serious-toned and targeted towards real business, but if you are just looking to have some fun, leave out the serious parts and just take in the fun parts.

Assuming your goal is not to have fun, figure out what that goal is. Do you want to run a real company to make money as a long-term project? Or do you want to build some traffic to sell the team? Figuring this out will help you plan your next handful of business moves and decisions.

Your Limitations

When it comes to building any company, there are 4 key attributes that can play in terms of your limitations. Technically it’s only 3 but the 4th is one I added and I’ll explain why shortly.

Time

Your first limitation will be time. The amount of time your company has to succeed, either because of a window of opportunity that opened up in the marketplace or due to other limitations of the current ecosystem.

Time can also relate to the amount of time you as an individual can allot to a project. Maybe you can only work on this for 2 years full time before withdrawing. Maybe you can only go for 4 years part-time.

Regardless, understand how much time on a daily basis and the long-term duration you are willing to allocate to this project.

These estimations can change over time, for example, if you start making enough money to work full time, you may stick to the project long term and change your working time from 40 hour weeks to 70 hour weeks.

For now, just assume you won’t be making any money for the next 5 years, what is your commitment in terms of time.

Manpower

A company, although can be started with 1 individual, will hit a low ceiling if not without additional members, known as manpower. If a project may take you 300 hours to complete, it may take 2 less-skilled employees 200 (and freeing up 300 of your own hours for other more important work) or even 1 more skilled employee 180 hours.

Some projects will require more manpower, such as hosting a tournament or managing the travel for a team in a high-tier tournament. You may start off with low manpower, although ideally, you grab a committed handful of people (even as volunteers) and you will want to scale that overtime.

I’d consider third-party companies to be included in this manpower, along with contract work and freelancers. We will speak more in terms of getting free labour for your company below, but for now, having this understanding in terms of what you have and what you ideally want will help you more as we build out a business plan.

Money

Money is king in a capitalist society. It can buy you all the other resources, more time by using expensive services to free yourself from other life commitments, can buy manpower to an infinite.

Money can also accelerate literally everything. That said, acquiring that money may be hard and at the start, you must be frugal with your money to gain the most ROI.

Many companies are started by people with saved cash that they are willing to burn in this high-risk-high-reward investment. Meanwhile, others get it crowdfunded or received from investors.

Look into your bank account and see how much you have saved up. If you have nothing saved, perhaps you may want to hold back from seriously making a team until you saved up for a few years.

If you already have a popular brand name or connections to strong platforms for marketing’s sake, perhaps crowdfunding may be your path to success.

Crowdfunding is exceptionally powerful since no one individual’s funds at a massive stake to be lost, the crowdfunders don’t get a portion of your company like an investor and you yourself remove a big risk factor from your own pocket.

Experience

Experience isn’t truly a limitation, but at the same time it is important to acknowledge it as such. How much experience do you have running a business? Leading a team? Managing finances? Working with legal authorities? Experience with the business of esports as a whole?

Understanding where you stand is important because you will need to know where you can compensate for your weaknesses. The reason why experience isn’t a limitation is because you can gain experience as you go, or substitute other’s experiences for your own via books, courses, mentors and lectures.

For example, if you don’t atone to working in the esports industry but have done a fair amount of work in business in general, I’d recommend you listen to esports business podcasts, read books like Good Luck Have Fun and The Book of Esports and learn from business connections to strengthen that weakness.

 

Or you can hire someone who is strong in that field. I’d recommend you at least learn the fundamentals of your weakness instead of ignorantly completely outsourcing it to an employee/volunteer (it’s a recipe for disaster).

Hiring a mentor or coach is always a great idea. Having someone who actually has the experience and that can tailor it for you without any bias or self-invests will accelerate your growth if you have the money to do so.

If you are looking for one, feel free to reach out to me at uzair.hasan@esporthow.com and we can arrange something.

Putting Your Goals and Limitations Together

Now that you know what you want to do and what you are limited by, you have a much better idea of how you can project the next 5 years of your business, which will be step 3.

One thing to note is that the scope of your goals should be relative to your limitations (as we much discussed in the world of project management). Don’t expect to make millions in year 3 if you are running a company with 2 other volunteers, 10k startup revenue and 2 esports teams.

Be realistic with your limitations and look at every opportunity to reduce your limitations and expand your goals.

2. Studying Business And The Business Of Esports

If you are looking to run an esports team just for fun, skip this section!

Studying will be your greatest antidote to the lack of experience, and even if you are/become experience, reading will be your competitive edge. In business, knowledge is power and any question you may ever have was already thought about by someone before you and is likely answered in a book.

Books aren’t the only way to study business or esports, but they are certainly one of the better ways and an amazing starting point.

Esports and Business Studying Material

Although there aren’t a lot of books about esports, I recommended my top esports books on the resources page. The biggest entry point book, everyone needs to read is Good Luck Have Fun: The Rise of eSports.

Also on the resources page, I recommend my top business books. If you want a good starting point in terms of productivity, Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World is by far one of the best books on the subject (and #1 ranked for Time Management on Amazon).

But not only should you be reading, you should also be listening to CEO interviews and business podcasts. I’d highly recommend specifically looking at esports podcasts on the subject. Again, all my top recommendations are on the resources page so you don’t have to spend time looking.

Invest Time into Your Competitive Edge

Face it, most people believe they don’t have enough time for learning while they waste time watching TV or playing video games (especially in this industry).

The reality is 57% of businesses with 1-4 employees fail within 10 years (at least in Canada, I’m sure the number is much greater in the US). You don’t have time to mess around, because it’s not uncommon for esports businesses (considering how competitive they are) to fall within that 60% failure rate.

But you won’t be able to work all day. Hell, even 70 hour weeks is just 10 hours of your available 17-19 hours you can use (and I’m not suggesting you work 70 hours, the book recommended above Deep Work explains exactly why).

So what does one do with that time? They learn! Why? Because as a famous author from the 1900s once said (I cannot find the actual author, but the following statement within itself is true) that the brain doesn’t tire, it simply tires from the same type of work. As a result, when a successful CEO tires from mental work, he transitions into learning and networking.

People can work 10 hour days, become completely exhausted but have no issues spending the remaining 8 hours watching TV, endlessly chatting with friends or playing video games (I should know, I was one of them).

It’s partly because of the difference of dopamine released that causes your brain to be more inclined to enact the examples above, but more so because it leverages different aspects of your brain that aren’t already fatigued.

Likewise, you could spend your remaining day being wasteful or you can invest it into the success of your business and develop yourself. Investing at least 1 hour a day to learning can result in a significant amount of time saved and opportunities opening in the future (not only in this business but also in your professional career and life in general).

The last point, I don’t know a single successful entrepreneur who isn’t always investing time into studying and learning more about their industry and optimal business practices. Do you? Let that sink in.

3. Creating A Business Strategy And Long-term Plan

If you are looking to run an esports team just for fun, skip this section!

This one is definitely a longer section of this article but exceptionally important. Once I go through it here, I’d also recommend doing a bit of your own research on the subject as I’m only so limited to breaking down business strategy development within an article about esports teams.

With that said, this will be good enough for 80% of the readers who aren’t really looking for investors.

A business’s primary objective is to generate the most amount of gross profit possible. Being in the reds (informally to mean you are earning less than you spend) will result in the downfall of the company, forcing the company to fold and die.

But, almost all companies are unable to break the even point (of leaving the reds into the greens) within their first 1 to 4 years. That’s where investors, fundraisers and seeding comes into play as your source of early year 1-4 funds (or if you have money saved up prior).

Do You Need Money?

Before I dive into the section directly below, I wanted to answer a common question I was receiving saying “Do I need money to start an esports team?”

The answer is no, you don’t need money to start an esports team. Similar to most digital companies, there are no limitations in the usage of free digital tools to build out your company.

That said, you will be putting yourself at a significant disadvantage if you don’t have any money to work with. From acquiring players to building assets, to marketing, to paid staff and being able to work on the company full-time.

There are always companies that succeed off free, such as when Esport How was a consultancy, we didn’t need to spend any money to make money.

Because running an esports team is exceptionally competitive and requires strong players, personalities, branding and awareness, funds really make all the difference. You will need to make up with extra sweat equity and time (don’t expect to make the same year 4 progress as someone who had a strong financial base if you started with nothing).

That said, if you aren’t working with funds it’s not the end-all-be-all. You are just gonna have some terrible early traction unless you have committed high-ranked players willing to play for you for free. Committed enough to not leave you when they get 3k-7k per month deals (it’s a hard ask).

Understanding Your Access to Funds

You and your founders can be your own investors if you have money that you want to put into the company in exchange for a portion of the ownership (if you are entering it solo, you’ll have 100% regardless unless you bring in third-party investors).

Determine how much money you are starting off with as we discussed in step 1 (Understanding Your Goals and Current Limitations).

How much money can you get potentially loaned from the bank? You can make a better estimate on the matter from sites like Credit Karma without having to make a hard ask.

Additionally, with that information do a bit of research to see in your specific situation a potential range. You just want an idea of what you can work with if you needed to.

See if it would make sense to have a crowdfunding campaign and build a marketing campaign around it. Or see if you have any business or personal connections with people who can invest in your company.

The Rogue Esports founders, Frank Villarreal and Sean Mulryan, actually started a small consulting company called Royal Town to build business connections with wealthy hotel chain owners. They leveraged these interactions to continually pitch their esports team idea and hope to get an investor who ended up signing on as a co-founder, bring his capital portfolio and pre-existing assets with him.

Note that if you are looking for investors, a significant amount of work will need to go into building an investor pitch deck and/or a very detailed and confident plan (which is out of the scope of this article, additional research required).

Lastly, using your projected metrics, you’d want to do research into how much revenue you can potentially coming in from sponsorships with how much metrics with your target audience, branding and geographic location.

Some other sources of revenue to consider, although lacklustre, are merch sales (sweaters, shirts, hats, gloves, custom hardware, etc), PPA and PPC revenue, and tournament winnings (rev-split with players).

All that work and research should help you really better understand what proximity are you at in terms of your financial goals.

Understanding Your Potential Expenses

If only business was limited to revenue. But the reality is you have to know your expenses too. If you wanted to make a strong detailed plan (as one to be pitched to investors), I’d recommend you build a proforma (but that’s out of the scope for this article).

Instead, for this article we will just make 3 imaginary containers for our expenses. The Must Haves, the Wants and the Future Haves. They are self-explanatory, the Must Haves are all items you really must get upon starting up your company.

This could include, but not limited to, staffing payrolls, travelling budgets and entry fee budgets. Could be smaller things too such as accounting fees, business registration fees, website costs, etc.

The Wants are anything you’d like to have but don’t have to. These could include equipment, a gaming venue, player jerseys and merchandise.

The Future Haves are anything that would probably make a lot of sense to get as a must, but not at this very moment. That could include player payrolls, streamer payrolls, a high-end promotional video and a sponsorship recruitment agency.

Putting it All Together

With an understanding of your starting funds, revenue and expenses, you need to now understand your potential scalability. You want to map out different key checkpoints in terms of viewership, impressions or traffic metrics along with eyeballs from the game.

Using that, project your sponsorships revenue and other revenues to get you some ball-park estimates on total revenue. Throw those numbers into a sheet and graph it to get a good idea of your next 5 years.

The details I haven’t gone into is how to project what will happen when. Well, plan out what you want to do when and how it’ll take off. What tournaments do you plan to join when? What are the max and min outcomes from those? What kind of events and/or tournaments will you host yourself?

What kind of promotional strategy will you enact? Planning is all about thinking ahead and outlining it now to see what results you may yield 5 years from now.

This part is exceptionally important to build morale, have a clear path and help you move forward. This is also the hardest part of everything. If you want any investor, this needs to be made and detailed (going too much in-depth on this is, again, out of the scope of this article).

It doesn’t have to be perfect or completely accurate. This is gonna be your biggest selling point to at least your admin team and players if nothing else. But it also shows you aren’t just running into it with a random passion, instead you are thinking it through and planning it out.

Note: Don’t try to do this business strategy building all at once. Do it over time and as you start building other aspects. This is a more traditional waterfall approach to business, and for investors, that’s what they want. You can also go more agile, but you still need upfront planning on the matter.

4. Selecting Only One Game To Begin With

At this point, you have an idea of where you want to go and where you may want to take this. Good!

As you can see, starting up an esports team is a lot of work. Even if you skipped steps 2 and 3, you’ll soon see esports teams are a lot of work.

Too many people I see on the grassroots level underestimate it at the start when they are motivated to get something started. Once the motivation fades and the ball starts moving, you’ll realize that if you picked up too much on your plate, your dreams will crash before they got started.

Too many grassroots teams decide on doing too many games at once, get overwhelmed and fold before they even really started their company.

So what should you do? Well just start with 1 game, learn the ropes around that, at the same time leverage that ease of work in terms of managing the team to build out everything else in your company.

Decide something ideally you or another leader is proficient in. A game that has some scalability in tiered tournaments would be nice to (not like OW or LoL where Tier 1 and tier 2 are locked down while there is a very big gap between tier 1 and everything else).

Fighting games are always a good selection due to their very grassroots nature.

But scalability isn’t a must-have, as you will be bringing more games likely in the future in which you may have more success in once you establish the basics.

If there are newer games that you can see blowing up and/or if you already have players who may be proficient enough in a game to potentially win, go for those. Remember, an esports team only succeeds with eyeballs, and the best way in esports to garner eyeballs is winning.

You can leverage branding, marketing and your story as well, but this is much more reliant on capital and is difficult to pull off, especially with lacklustre players.

Exceptions would be like 100Thieves, but they started off with an icon as CEO, started off strictly as a fashion brand and make the transition. Faze also done well as more of a lifestyle brand. But both brands still have decent teams, although in their cases wasn’t exceptionally necessary.

What was necessary and the biggest factor to help them make it as such is their massive amount of capital to play with, their pre-existing esports business sense and business connections.

You likely aren’t starting with that going in, so getting the right teams after everything is established is the way to go.

5. Developing The Team Branding And Story

Generally speaking, in business building a strong brand and story feels kind of wasteful. I know so many people who spend way too much time thinking about and changing their branding and logos.

However, in esports, your branding and story is literally your lifeline. As esports teams have become more lifestyle brands, it requires your branding and story to symbolize with that lifestyle.

You cannot afford to just push aside and pick up something random. Well, you could at the very start if you really wanted to and rebrand later, but that’s always the undesirable option for the company owners, the players and the community.

Branding

A Really Good Resource on the Topic: 7 Steps to Making an Esports Logo For Teams, Steams & Orgs

The resource I linked above will tell you all you will want to know and think about when branding.

Just click on the title, or click here, to forward yourself to that page. Although it’s focused on building a logo, your branding is truly just an extraction of the content from your logo.

Story

Your story is how you conduct yourselves, how you got here or where you are going. Any one or multiple of these is what would persist under “story”. The most used and favourable element, as it furthers the growth of your org, is building your story in how you conduct yourselves in the now (or leveraging the future/past to determine your now).

For example, G2 Esports are warriors. Samurais to be exact. Samurais live by “the way of the warrior”, and G2 tries to embody that in both their gameplay and how they conduct themselves.

Another example is Unicorns of Love in the way that they act odd, fun-loving and not afraid to be weird. Or even Faze, they are kind of wild, beer and fun loving people, but can also make an impact and should be watched out for.

Figure out what your story is and how you can use it to build life-long consumers and fans of your esports team as a whole.

One caveat is to not center your story around a player or select players, as when those players leave your team, the audience will leave as well.

Note, from the link above (click here), section 4 talks about your story a bit in terms of the logo.

6. Building Up Your Remaining Business Infrastructure

If you are looking to run an esports team just for fun, skip this section!

Before we want to look to acquiring actual people, we want to make sure all remaining systems and actual business infrastructure is in place.

Below we will talk about only a handful of things I thought were worth discussing (both the importance of why you should build them up and how to do so).

That said, if you got anything else you want to set up before getting people, obviously do so. This isn’t by any means an exhaustive list.

Business Registration

With the start of any business comes the requirement of registering it. By registering a business, you can file taxes, remove personal liability (as long as you go LLC, LLP or corp) and create credibility.

This isn’t legal advice, I’m not a lawyer and I also likely don’t reside in your country (although this advice applies pretty fairly to US, Canada and many European countries). Consulting a legal advisor when making legal decisions is advised.

With that disclaimer out of the way, I wouldn’t worry about registering an actual business until you make money where you have to pay taxes on it or if you aren’t working with third parties where liability may be an issue.

In the end, to my knowledge, it’s not illegal (I may be wrong to that point, and it’s probably different per country), but in the end the biggest reason you register a business is to not commit tax fraud.

Well if you aren’t making money, why spend the time, money and effort registering a business anyway.

There is no intrinsic value to registering a business unless you are looking to secure grants, crowdfunding, investor money, or limit your liability under an LLC, LLP or corporation.

If you don’t care too much about the time or money about setting up an LLC (it doesn’t take too much time, just costs a few hundred), then you can just go for it.

You will have to file taxes annually after that point, even if you make no money, which is a pain but just another day of owning a company (that fact may differ per country).

Building Systems

Although this isn’t a step most businesses start out with, nor does it have to be fleshed out from the start, but your business systems will be your bread and butter is helping you free up your time to focus on more important things as your employees and volunteers run through the system.

Building a system is useless unless you expect to have employees or committed volunteer staff. If you do have either, it’s valuable to set up with some form of systems to set a frame and atmosphere of getting work done proficiently beforehand.

I’ve seen too many volunteer groups (including ones I’ve run myself on multiple occasions) fail to set the proper atmosphere beforehand and most of the volunteers join the esports org to have fun and resist doing work.

This is not what you want if you are serious. You want to sell them on the idea of getting paid for their work and using your charisma you’d want to encourage them to work hard for a chance of being a guaranteed employee.

That is assuming they aren’t paid staff already, in which case charisma is important but you have a lot more leverage for them to get work done.

How to build specific systems is out of the scope of this article, but if this is a skill you must develop as a business owner and aspiring entrepreneur.

I’d recommend you read the following books (don’t have to read all at once, but at least start off with the first):

*Note, all hyperlinks above are Amazon affiliates that generate my company a bit of revenue per sale. Purchases using those links are very appreciated as it allows me to create more transparent content like this that you wouldn’t find other business professionals providing elsewhere!

There are a number of other books you could read on the subject, but if you just read the select above, you’ll be pretty grounded in the art of building systems.

If you aren’t a reader but want to be an entrepreneur, get the audiobooks and listen as you go for a walk or exercise. Regardless, you’ll need to put in the work for success!

Self-Commitment and Accountability

This one is definitely the most important before moving forward, taking action and getting other humans involved. If you are seriously looking to grow a business venture, you need to look at it as a business venture.

Acknowledge that it will be hard, there will be a lot of learning needed and there is a lot more work to do. If you are currently in school or unemployed, you should be spending at least 40 hour weeks, although most full-time CEOs spend 50 – 80 hours.

This may mean a significant drop in time spent gaming, or quitting it altogether (I had to choose the latter). This may mean not going out with your friends to work on the business. It’s just the price you have to pay to make something amazing.

Decide if you seriously want to commit and decide how much time that will be. Determine when it the day you will actually invest that time.

I had a colleague of mine once call most esports startups by students as “passion projects” instead of “businesses” because they would work about 10 to 20 hour weeks and think they can actually succeed.

Once you’ve committed, make an accountability group. Masterminds are, in my opinion, always the way to go. I’ve started and run 2 of my own Masterminds. They not only help the members from the Esport How Discord server who joined, but it also helps me get feedback on my business and keep me accountable!

Essentially a Mastermind is a group of people all working on either self-improvement or business as a network to provide feedback on otherwise secret internal problems and to keep each other accountable.

Where masterminds shine is when people had a terrible week and aren’t sure if they want to still commit to their business. For me, Masterminds was a game-changer and continues to be.

If you are interested in joining a mastermind, feel free to shoot me an email at uzair.hasan@esporthow.com as I may look to start a few more in the near future.

7. Selecting Administrative Members

When it comes to getting staff, as Peter Nunez said, is very important to be selective. The saying is hire slow but fire fast. Your business and your own personal mental health will ride on how much you can trust and rely on your members to get their stuff together.

Characteristics to Watch For in Volunteering Staff

Too many times in the past did I misselect my members for different business ventures and passion projects and it always stung me (not to disregard the fact that I had a lot of work on myself as a leader).

Obviously, if you have funds to work with, you have a lot of leverage that to really hire slow and fire fast, but each fire will cost your company good money, especially as a small business. Not to mention that as a volunteer-based organization, firing could be the difference between losing a whole member spot, since it’s difficult to replace.

That’s why you have to ideally select right the first time. Doing so is out of the scope of the article (😊) but a few quick tips I can provide:

  • Soft skills are king. Someone can be an expert programmer, but if they are too lazy or undisciplined to write you any code, they are useless. If they can’t show up for meetings, they will be useless. I’d rather take a committed lacklustre programmer than a pro-programmer who plays video games all day long
  • Evaluate his portfolio of prior work and volunteer commitments. If he has none or minimal, learn why. That’s usually a red flag
  • Learn about what he does in his free time and what games he likes to play. If you can, look up his gaming profile and see how much time he spends on that game per day (works well with public games like LoL)
  • Learn about his other prior commitments. Doing too much will make him less committed to your project
  • If you can get him hyped during an interview about the project, that’s a checkbox marked off
  • Ask him about his long-term goals. Where he sees himself in 1, 3, 5 years from now. If he wants to run his own project in 1-3 years, he may still be willing to work hard for you during his time with you (depending on other answers), but don’t expect him in an exceptionally important role because once he decides to leave, you will have lose the experience that another long-term staff could have been gaining

The Importance of Leadership and Improving Your Leading Skills

It’s important that once you do get a strong team of people that you can trust, that you actually trust them to do things. I say this because I, just like many other novice leaders, used to micromanage to the point where I was basically doing everything (which where systems would come into play).

Regardless of if you aren’t a micromanager or are just a novice in your approach, once you get the right people you want to be the right leader. A strong leader. That will only come from experience, but you can 10x accelerate that with courses, classes, videos and (my fav) books!

Some excellent leadership books I’d recommend (and some of these were major game changers for me):

*Note, all hyperlinks above are Amazon affiliates that generate my company a bit of revenue per sale. Purchases using those links are very appreciated as it allows me to create more transparent content like this that you wouldn’t find other business professionals providing elsewhere!

8. Securing Necessary Assets

Once you have your needed members, your systems in place and an actual company established, it’s time to get to work. At this point, after step 3, you should know your direction and where you should be going.

As a result, this step is hard for me to define as you yourself should know exactly what assets you need to build out and/or acquire.

To give some examples, you may want to build out and/or acquire the following items:

  • Scrimming servers (specifically for games like Fortnite and Apex Legends)
  • Equipment such as PCs, strong internet, etc.
  • Community communications channel (typically Discord)
  • Social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, eFuse)
  • Player, staff and/or streamer contracts

This process isn’t something that will necessarily stop but you must build out at least your foundation before you consider going for players or streamers.

The reason being is that it provides you with a lot more credibility and can show players/streamers that your organization is serious. Too many team startups rush to acquire players, and once they do not only does their load of work increase, but the players quickly realize this org is a mess with nothing to offer.

It’s important you show you are on top of everything and are the person to rely on, but we will get into more detail on that in the next step.

9. Securing Team Players/Streamers And Controlling Social Frame

If you are looking to run an esports team just for fun, skip this section! You will still need to find players/streamers, but for you I’m sure you already have friends who will fill that role.

Securing team players and streamers is really one of the most important and keystone parts of an esports team and likely a big reason for people wanting to run an esports team.

It’s important for you to acquire the best players and streamers possible. As a business owner, when we say best players and streamers, we aren’t talking about the most skillful or the best overlays. Instead, we need the best personalities and who can bring the highest views to the table.

What Esports Teams Look for in Players/Streamers

The reason why skillful players tend to be taken up by an esports team is 2-fold. Firstly, a skillful esports player will tend to do well in tournaments resulting in more eyeballs from that tournament (which is a much greater metric for business owners to look for instead of prize money or skill for the sake of skill).

Secondly, being skillful tends to result in a large stream following since people want to watch skillful people play.

Now if you see a player who is very skillful but doesn’t stream or have much of a social presence, that player’s value in esports significantly plummets. He may go from a $5k per month contract to a $300 per month contract just because he brings significantly less value to the esports team.

When picking up players, you need to think like a business owner. The only reason you want to acquire players (which in your eyes are just another business asset), is to acquire sponsorships. To acquire larger sponsorships, you need the most amount of eyeballs on your team as possible.

So, a player or streamer’s complete value is strictly based on the number of eyeballs they can bring to the table. That’s it! If a streamer is terrible at a game but can bring 20k concurrent viewers per stream, he will be significantly more valuable than the top player for an esports title that no one watches.

Our goal with the business is to make money, don’t forget that. Everyone and everything is just a means to get you there, don’t get attached to shiny objects (not saying be inhuman, but don’t make emotional decisions when numbers are saying no).

Attributes to Watch For and Avoid in Players/Streamers

Sadly numbers aren’t the end-all-be-all because, unlike most assets, players/streamers are humans. But not only humans, but many of them are also irresponsible humans with complicated lives. I’m not bashing streamers as a stereotype, as they themselves are running that as a business, but especially when you come to the lower end of the barrel, irresponsibility is rampant because they have less to lose.

Just like your staff, soft skills are king. It’s useless to have someone you pay a ton of money for his 10k concurrent viewers if he A) can’t show up for his call with sponsors and B) if he can’t activate sponsorships properly on stream.

Watch out for people who are very unconfident (unlikely in the streamer world but will struggle to activate on sponsorships), lazy, exposed as a liar, not having his heart in his streaming/playing career or get’s into conflicts often. All of those elements are a recipe for disaster.

You also want to watch how they conduct themselves in comparison to the values of your business. Such as being exceptionally rude, a racist, etc. Especially if you have to remove them and terminate the contract early, that will cost you money.

Where to Recruit Players/Streamers

The ideal method for recruiting players is through scouting them at events and tournaments. There is no significantly better way to do it than the classic method, especially as a lower-tiered esports team.

Interacting with them in person will also allow you to efficiently establish the social frame quickly, which we will get to in the last part of this step.

But for most of you starting off, that isn’t the most financially reasonable approach and will consume a good amount of time to do. Especially as someone who isn’t skilled or traded in the craft of scouting already.

Thankfully, a lot of esports is based online. Your issue is searching and reaching players/streamers. For players, you can go to online tournament streams and scout from there. Find players who aren’t in an official team and that seem at the skill level you want to snag.

Usually, on their social media you’d find business emails. Some common places it’s located is on their Twitch “About Me” page, YouTube’s “About” section’s details tab (must be signed into your Google account to see it. Example below), their Twitter bio or their Instagram bio.

They may also have a link tree that may have it as well.

Alternatively, if for whatever reason you don’t want to scout at all (which in my opinion is a terrible business decision but you do you), you can post on general usage platforms that you are looking for players.

Honestly, if you can’t scout or aren’t even willing to try, perhaps professionally creating an esports team as a functioning business isn’t the right move for you. That said, there are actually good opportunities or reasons you occasionally do want to enact a widespread search.

To do so, you can obviously post about it on your social media. Additionally, you can use sites like Hitmarker, eFuse and Reddit about the opportunity. That said, your response rate will be exceptionally low through any other means besides your social media unless you are a credible organization and/or make it clear that it’s paid.

For streamers, you strictly have to scout. Scouting for streamers is much easier as it’s restricted to a few hubs (Twitch, YouTube Gaming, Facebook Gaming), you know all the rules to the game and the streamers publically show their team if they are in one.

Not to mention you can do a decent soft-skills check prior to even reaching out (saving you a fair bit of time versus players who you will mostly vet during the interviewing process).

For streamers, it’s really good for you if you can build relationships with streamer agencies that manage a large portfolio of streamers as it will make it much easier for you to start the conversation and quickly transition to negotiating a price at your pace (we will get to networking in step 11).

Setting Social Frame

I won’t go into too much depth here since it’s out of the scope of this already very long article, but it was important to touch on it since so many novices play this wrong.

You do want to sell your esports team as a group that is like a family and that cares for their players (even though remember not to get emotionally attached for when you need to make business decisions).

That said, the players can even see you as friendly, but you aren’t their friends. They need to understand that there is a level of authority between you and them, and a bit of respect is required. Not to mention they need to acknowledge your organization as a business and something all staff are endlessly working to make it exceptionally successful.

This doesn’t come through force, but strictly from you conducting yourself in a manner that breeds authority and respect. Yes, this is 100% on you. You can’t say it in words “you have to respect me”, because no one respects the guy asking for respect.

If you struggle with this, learn about social dynamics and social structures. Because books are so powerful, I’ll recommend 2 more below on this topic:

*Note, all hyperlinks above are Amazon affiliates that generate my company a bit of revenue per sale. Purchases using those links are very appreciated as it allows me to create more transparent content like this that you wouldn’t find other business professionals providing elsewhere!

10. Launching Team Publically

Hurray! 🎉You did it! 🎉🎉You are public and on the board.

Not much to say in this step. Obviously if you have capital, you MUST do a business launch marketing campaign as this is a massive opportunity for your business to make waves.

But if you are going on this business out of pure sweat equity, a business launch marketing campaign is pretty pointless because you don’t have the steam or support to really it push it anywhere.

That said, at this point things will really start to slow down, normalize and become routine. You want to make sure you don’t just work in your business, but you work on your business.

Meaning you don’t get drowned by the work that your staff should be doing in terms of maintaining things, but you continually look to increase your bottom line and develop fruitful business opportunities.

The next 4 steps will fall under things that will start to become routine to you and your staff. Obviously what is beyond this is pretty important, but those elements are out of the scope of this article.

11. Establishing Business Relationships

If you are looking to run an esports team just for fun, skip this section!

NETWORK, NETWORK, NETWORK. Have you heard of the saying “your network is your net worth”? Well it’s quite true, especially in business.

As the owner and leader of your own company, it’s your job to endlessly build out your network of business relationships. This gives you greater opportunities to expand your business and your bottom line.

How will you network in esports? The best ways to network in esports are by being very active on LinkedIn, join esports networking events and attending esports business conferences.

What kind of connections do you want? Well, all sorts of connections. Primarily you want connections to employees of prospective sponsors, legal experts, marketing agencies, game publishers, connections to business owners in esports and business owners in other industries.

You won’t know which connections will take you where. You also want to keep your connections warm by continuously following up and also discussing events, ideas and opportunities.

12. Gathering And Analyzing Metrics

This step could be an article on its own (and I may actually make it a standalone article if there is interest. If you are interested in it, let me know at uzair.hasan@esporthow.com).

In essence, you want to gather monthly reports of everything from impressions to watch time to concurrents, etc. You want to separate it for each player/streamer you have, allowing you to see how some may be growing or declining.

Additionally, you want to be able to project where it’s going and conclusively evaluate the worth of your company as a whole.

13. Revising Business Strategy Routinely

If you are looking to run an esports team just for fun, skip this section!

When looking at your business strategy, you want to have an idea of what you will be focusing on each quarter. Consequently, quarterly reports for your results, projections for coming months and the focus for the next quarter are quite important.

You want to continuously determine what actions can you take to best align with your objectives. Do you need to expand your player count? Do you need to engage more with your fans (via tournaments, giveaways, team streams, etc)? Do you need to reach out to more sponsors?

Always look to revise your plans. As the owner, YOU are completely responsible for this task. That’s why you need to embed systems so your staff can work in the company as you work on expanding the company.

You also want to ensure when problems are pinpointed or inefficiencies are identified, you or an expert you bring on (usually a consultant) will create a solution to create further resilience within your company.

14. Reaching Out To Prospective Sponsors

Doesn’t matter if you are running a team for fun or as an actual business, sponsorships are important.

They at the very least will cover your basic travel and entry fee costs, but at most will pay your bills and make you a 6-to-7 figure income. They will be your main source of income, between 60% to 80% of it.

I wish I could go into detail here as it’s so important but this article is just wayyy too long at this point.

Luckily for you, getting sponsorships is something I continuously see so many esports orgs getting it wrong.

As someone who has gone through and knows the process well, I’m planning on creating a course on the subject which will be out hopefully by early 2022.

If you are interested in being notified about the course once it’s out, email me at uzair.hasan@esporthow.com and I’ll add you to our list to be notified upon launch.

Conclusion

If you made it this far, truly pat yourself on your back. You clearly are serious about building this esports team and I’m excited to see where it goes. Totally send me an email (uzair.hasan@esporthow.com) just to let me know you are building it out and what your plans/pain points are.

This is going to be a life-changing experience, even if it fails because you will learn so much, build valuable connections and grow as a proficient and hard-working individual.

At least I know that was really the shift for me when I worked on my first business idea.

I wish you the best of luck, and I’ll leave you with the statement of my friend who started this whole article.

Quote from Peter from Ardens Esports

Ill put this as detailed and as short as I can. Owning an Org is work ALOT of work. Before recently I was doign everything myself, social media, gfx, minor video editing, leading the team, making the teams, coaching them all and doing sponsorship opportunities. I have put in my fair amount of money and in the past year have learned alot and lost alot of people and friends. It is tough but it showed also some really great people. I now have a staff that believe in the vision I have of making an org that is both competitive and a fun casual side as well.

It takes alot of passion and commitment. When you start it there is alot against you I will not lie. Social media, other teams, other esports orgs, sponsors wont look your way alot of the time and alot of people come to you with their hands held out. You will need to spend time building your foundation.

Start with a 1 or 2 teams MAX. Find a great staff (this will take alot of time in the beginning). This is not your friends unless they are well versed or will work with you and wrok their ass off at their task. Based on starting up depends the amount of exp you will be expecting your players to have as well unless you either get lucky or know people.

Starting out in siege terms of team tiers (T4 is just starting-semi exp, T3 is highly experienced individually and can possbly go against challenger tier players at higher levels, T2 is challenger, T1 is pro). So expect T4 starting out. Finding teams already made is better than individual players for reasons. However there are pros and cons with this as well. But if they aren’t experienced be ready to coach them like they are brand new because comp is different. Even if they are experienced be ready to teach them how to play as a team.

They may think they know but they don’t at a t4 level. This is just a long and short about comp teams theres so much more to go into this. Starting out dont expect sponsors at all. ImmenZ has great talent decent exposure and we still have issues trying to find anything not affiliate.

Honestly affiliate sponsorships do not do unless its a really well well known name. There is no point its 95% you doing the work for 10% reward. Again long and short. Theres staffing, managing, knowing designers, what to expect , negotiating etc. If you are afraid of failure then back out now I will be honest with you because I’d rahter this now than you do it later it will hurt more. If not then proceed. I can make time later if you still read this and want to know more. – Peter Nunez, 2020