With considerably less infrastructure required compared to a sports training ground, esports team offices often act as dual headquarters for management, and a place for players to practice. Carlos “Ocelote” Rodriguez, a former esports player, founder and CEO of G2 Esports , has taken his Berlin-based company to a new dedicated office space. The result is a 50-50 working environment, allowing the constant creation of social media and other content, and practice for players—with every table, monitor, and viewing screen to tournament specification.
“This is going to be the go-to place, the best possible place for our teams to train in,” he said. “Having this semi-open space makes it so easy to collaborate with each other and increase the level of communication between areas in the company that, for the majority of teams, they simply don’t have it.”
Even in its early stage, this image is clear to visitors. Two racing sim units stand with a Red Bull fridge in between. Rodriguez himself sits in an open space with management and content staff a few feet away; separated only by a collection of trophies. The company is still building a decorative framework that will embody the brand ‘G2 Esports,’ including, according to Rodriguez, a large samurai statue, complete with a “confident pose.”
“The moment you enter, you will know this is the G2 Esports headquarters.”
Such details are a priority for the often flamboyant Spanish esports icon, who wants every step in these offices to embody his brand. “The moment you enter, you will know this is the G2 Esports headquarters,” he said. “Get first-hand the feeling of ‘OK, I know what these guys stand for.’ What kind of personalities. You will see the CEO is coming in shorts, with his funky styles, the latest Jordans…he’s going to be consistent.”
Being an industry where teams often practice in hotel rooms before an event, there’s no hard and fast rule on what counts as a “training facility” in esports. “Training facilities, as people envisioned them in their minds, may not be where esports is going to,” said Rodriguez, who’s ultimate vision for such a space focuses more on “viewing days” and bonding experiences for fans. “We are an entertainment company, and the place we operate has to give the feeling of us being an entertainment company, of us being ahead of the curve in terms of how to make people happy.”
In early 2020, G2 Esports will also open a public facility in Checkpoint Charlie, one of Berlin’s most well-known tourist attractions. Rodriguez envisions a first-contact zone for non-esports gamers; combining elements of both a LAN cafe and Topgolf. “The intention of that facility is to increase the level of interaction with our fans, the community, and people who don’t know what esports is.”
Credit: G2 Esports
Asked about sponsorship rights to the venue, the company wants to see first how many events, and resources, will be needed to keep the venue filled, with G2 fans or otherwise. “We are also figuring out, at the same time, the amount of inventory available for them,” said Rodriguez. “What is unbranded, what is branded, what kind of events are we going to host for ourselves, for partners, non-partners. It’s something very new for us.”
In the co-working ruled world of Berlin, the blowback from Brexit has already pushed many British talents to Germany. When asked about the risks and rewards of holding dedicated spaces in the city, Rodriguez noted that this influx has made life easier. “The talent wants to join you, you can pay that talent and keep them happy, and that’s something that, thankfully, we’re in a position to do right now.”
Rodriguez also emphasized that a central office space is essential for a front-facing industry like esports. As has been echoed by countless esports CEOs, recruiters, and managers, this business requires a level of familiarity rarely seen in other parts of entertainment and tech. While a social media or content team needs nothing short of experts, even legal staff require bare-bones familiarity.
“Otherwise, they will lack the context,” said Rodriguez, who notes that one of the company’s best ever decisions was appointing Peter Mucha as COO; a former executive from Adidas, Microsoft , and Activision Blizzard . This high-profile hire for the sake of stability and structure, offered a layer of security for investors, the company’s finances, and legal affairs. “Any time we look to hire somebody that may not be incredibly well versed in esports, Peter can come in an provide that context.”
All of this recent expansion falls on the back of a recent $17.3M USD growth funding round, led by a number of New York City-based investment groups, including Seal Rock Partners, Parkwood Corporation, and Everblue Management . “The moment we went to the market, we already got good feedback,” said Rodriguez. “We went out with terms that we consider fair, the market accepted them, nobody fought against the terms, just each other to get in the round!”
“You can’t fix issues with money. You can just patch the problems.”
The flow of venture capital into esports has remained high over the last twelve months. Fnatic , a rival of G2 in League of Legends , raised $19M in a series A funding, while top North American organizations Cloud9 and Team Liquid each completed funding rounds that individually exceeded $20M. “I think that as time goes by, everybody’s placed fairly, where they deserve to be,” said Rodriguez. “There’s a lot of positive in the craze that went together with all these teams raising money.”
Negative is what happens if everything goes south. We will see, and we have seen teams going belly up,’ he continued, reiterating again that the most important thing for an entertainment asset to grow is its management team. “You can’t fix issues with money. You can just patch the problems.”
On the potential downturn in the esports market, Rodriguez said he is conflicted. Job losses are inevitable as companies begin cutting costs, or go bankrupt, but this leaves space in the arena only for companies that know how to do good business.
“Market corrections are always a good opportunity to acquire assets at lower value than they’re really worth, that’s just how it is,” he said. “Access to talent, to pick up these potential assets, and overall increasing the credibility of your own company if you remain alive after such a downturn.”
Then the people, the fans, will be like ‘I can be a G2 fan, because 20 years from now they will still be there.’ That’s something I consider to be very important, to create that legacy that withstands losses and bad moments.”