Esports has become a global phenomenon that has created a new class of super star celebrity and plenty of healthy competition between world-class professional esports teams. In 2019 approximately 32% of Internet users aged between 16 and 24 watched esports. Then came the lockdowns of 2020, and viewership skyrocketed. Twitch saw an increase of 17% in hours watched and League of Legends reported record viewing figures.
Esports is now a rapidly growing part of the global video games and esports sector, which is expected to be worth $162 billion by 2023. Like Premiership soccer or the NFL, esports is not just a pastime and a passion any longer, but a major industry. Driving the esports industry is a cohort of entrepreneurs and leaders. Here we present some of the biggest names who are focused on the business and investment side of the booming sector…
Jens Hilgers – Co-founder of BITKRAFT
We cannot start this thread without mentioning Jen Hilgers, a ‘veteran’ within the esports industry. Based in Berlin, Germany, Jens organized the first online tournaments and public-LAN parties in 1997, making him one of the true pioneers of European esports. In 2000 he founded Turtle Entertainment, also known as ESL. Hilgers also co-founded DOJO Madness in 2015 and was also one of the co-founders of the popular esports organization G2 Esports. His latest success is the creation of BITKRAFT Esports Ventures, a venture capital firm entirely dedicated to esports and gaming.
John Robinson – President & COO of 100 Thieves
With his professional background and expertise in gaming and business development, it was no surprise when John Robinson became the President and COO of 100 Thieves, one of the most respected esports organizations in the world. Before his position with 100 Thieves, John Robinson worked at Electronic Arts, Kexon and Bessemer Venture Partners.
Hector “H3CZ” Rodriguez – Owner and CEO of Optic Gaming
Before becoming the owner and CEO of Optic Gaming, Hector “H3CZ” Rodriguez was a well-known Call of Duty player who decided to transform his passion into a career when he founded the company in 2006. After selling his shares to Immortal Gaming Club in 2017, Rodriguez joined NRG Esports as co-Owner and co-Chief Executive. He made headlines again in 2020 by reacquiring Optic Gaming and becoming, once again, the owner of the company.
Robbie Douek – CEO of Blast
Robbie Douek, coming from the World of Digital Partnerships Managing and technology thanks to his role as Vice President Digital for the Walt Disney Company and as Head of Branding/Mobile at Google, was just the right person to organise esports tournaments. Since 2018, Robbie has been the CEO of BLAST, a leading global esports entertainment company that organizes world-class esports tournaments around the world.
Naz Aletaha – Head of Global Esports Partnerships & Business, Riot Games
Naz Aletaha has had a very dynamic journey in the esports and gaming industry. Before her role as Head of Global Esport Partnerships at League of Legends publisher Riot Games, Aletaha started her career at Sony Motion as a Financial Analyst before moving into Retail Marketing at Activision. Her analysis and marketing strengths have helped her to secure unique sponsorship agreements with some of the world’s most valuable brands.
Fabien “Neo” Devide – Co-Founder and President of Team Vitality
Fabien “Neo” Devide is co-Founder and president of Team Vitality, a world-class esports organization. With his excellent expertise and innovative vision on the future of esports, Fabien co-founded Team Vitality in 2013 with just €10,000 and has since grown it into a global brand and secured a €34 million investment from Rewired. His recent recruitment of Guillaume de Monplanet as Co-CEO and Bruno Martini as Esports General Manager show Devide’s relentless drive.