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"You have to create content, you have to be gaming all the time": ReKT Global investor Nick Gross on youth Esports

Image Via Goldin Solutions/Nick Gross
Image Via Goldin Solutions/Nick Gross
CONTRIBUTOR
Modified 13 Feb 2021
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The esports market continues to grow year after year, from a $694.2 million market in 2017 it is projected to breach the $2 billion dollar mark by 2023. This growth is quite sustainable as more people are involved in competitive gaming now than ever before.

While many young people struggle to find direction, esports has become a viable profession for many, but the road to turning it into a profession can look foggy. Nick Gross, a musician and entrepreneur, has been leading the way and helping make that path clearer for young people.

As an investor in ReKT Global, an esports conglomerate, he’s spearheaded many projects that give young gamers the tools to pursue a career in esports. On top of the Junior Rogue program in collaboration with Rogue esports, Nick has enabled young gamers with his own career path tools platform called Find Your Grind.


Nick Gross from ReKT Global tells us about the Find Your Grind project

Q: What made you move into Esports in general?

I originally got introduced to the founders of ReKT Global back in 2016 believe it or not. At that point, I was starting to build my music label, and I was doing a ton of touring in the band that I was in. and over the past couple of years I have been making these kinds of Angel Investments and you know, different kinds of early-stage company opportunities that I would just see living in Los Angeles.

I get to have an entertainment media holding company called Gross Labs, and really esports was one of the industries and sectors that we didn’t really have a foothold in and we start talking to the ReKT guys, we really looked at them as interesting founders who started this whole idea around how they wanted to build an esports organization not only around professional teams, but also kind of having a marketing and services division, and they had a strong idea of how they wanted to go after acquisitions that made sense in order to fuel the ecosystem of their teams.

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So I looked at them as smart and interesting founders taking a different approach towards how they wanted to build their esports organization. I just jumped into it. I was like, man I’m kind of the first investor in the company and I believed in what they were doing and for me it was kind of a chance to bring esports into a lot of the things that I had going on. With the music stuff I was doing and other investments I had made and how we could find synergies there.

Or my company Find Your Grind, which I started around the same time, just around helping young kids find career paths. So there were just a lot of tie-ins on how the esports industry is still even today emerging right. I think people are just starting to come around and be like this is actually a thing now. So yeah, it was all of those things just kind of combining to just pull the trigger on something.

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Q: I was going to ask next what made you choose ReKT Global, but it sounds like they offer a lot more I guess in general, or assets than most other esports orgs or conglomerates.

Yeah I would say so. For me it was their vision to go after real franchises in the space. I think at first we were looking at the Overwatch League. That didn’t work out for us. And then the opportunity for League of Legends in the LEC came about to get a Rogue a spot on our franchise, So we all kind of came together and made that happen in 2019. And then obviously with the Call of Duty franchise in London. So yeah that was a huge reason, ok these guys want to build real assets and build real teams.

Then obviously everything that they’re doing within their Conglomerate of ReKT Global really feeds off of their team organizations which I think is smart. It’s not like they’re just going to create like a side marketing service or business to go after brands and service based things within the industry. The core nucleus of the company really comes from the two esports organizations, the players, the teams and that just speaks to the authenticity of what the company is about. And being able to build different silos of businesses around that to create an organization I think is just a really smart approach.

So you know, they acquired a company called Full Cube which really helps with a lot of fan to fan interaction. They have a really cool technology that helps fans engage with other fans. They acquired a media company that does a lot of digital write ups and PR around the industry. They’ve acquired some interesting companies to help serve the teams I guess. And to build just a wider business. Like, building teams takes time, they’re expensive, finding the right players, building the organization.

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It’s pretty capital intensive, so I think that the fact that they’re kind of working with brands, acquiring companies that have existing revenue, all that type of stuff just made it a cool opportunity to be like, oh shit these guys could actually get to their goal, which is to be a billion dollar company, so hopefully we can get in there.

Q: This is an offhand question stemming from that, because you guys have so much more to offer, especially with your label. As esports players become more entertainment focused. Not all of them, but with Twitch and everything, is offering them licenses to music something that you guys might be able to offer in the future that other orgs couldn’t?

Yeah, we’ve looked at doing that. I mean ReKT doesn’t have a direct link outside of just investors. We’ve talked about using my label as a resource to do that for sure. I think those are definitely the type of arms and opportunities that I’m trying to bring to the table to the entire ReKT equation. That would make a ton of sense, for sure.

Q: Find Your Grind - How soon after ReKT Global did you go into that, or was it before? And what sparked the motivation behind it?

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It was actually before. I started Find Your Grind, actually through my recording studio, initially. And the idea behind it was introducing young kids who don’t have access to what it’s like to be in the music industry. You know, there’s a lot of aspiring musicians and producers and artists obviously in Los Angeles. I’m sure not all of them have the right music equipment, the right knowledge on how to get started in certain areas, and things like that.

I just started these mini activations, and called them Find Your Grind. We had like 15 kids who recorded in my studio and immersed them with these superstar music producers who are already in the industry. We would shoot music videos, and allowed kids to record and just learn all about it really.

So, from that I wondered how I could do that across hundreds of emerging careers that are evolving, and what are the unique industries and things that are popping up, that kids just don’t know exist. Esports being one that a lot of kids know exist, but a lot of them think that they have to be the number one gamer to be successful in esports, when in reality there’s hundreds of careers and opportunities to work in the esports industry.

So, for me I was like how do I build on what we’ve done in the studio across multiple careers and thousands of kids. And we actually created a tour in 2017 called the Find Your Grind Tour where we got to go speak to hundreds and thousands of kids in schools across the country. And before that tour happened I filmed dozens of my friends working in this exciting industry.

You know, entrepreneurs who started their own businesses, just kind of getting a day in the life of what it’s like to be in their shoes. Kind of like the mistakes they’ve made, and the things they’ve learned and just key advice about how to get into their industry. We packaged a lot of that content into a curriculum that we built and took that out onto the road, and we got to speak to a lot of kids and deliver that curriculum in 2017.

It was around the same time I had met the ReKT guys. So the first thing we did with ReKT was create a program called Junior Rogue, and Junior Rogue was an 11-week accelerator program for young kids looking to get into the esports industry. Dr Lupo was a part of that program, and he was giving up his time to help with it. We just built this pretty cool and really immersive experience for young kids to get into what it’s like to be on Team Rogue and what it’s like to be in esports.

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So that just kind of went hand in hand with what we were doing at Find Your Grind, just trying to foster this real world opportunity for young people. Encouraging self discovery, career exploration, and just getting kids into new opportunities. So that was kind of how it all came together.

Q: I looked through the website and I was thinking back to high school when they show you those sites of what kind of careers you want, and I just thought about all the people I know who wished they could have had something like that. And I was looking through the esports section and it gives you a lot of info, and potential salaries and like you said, it’s not just the player position.

A lot of kids think they can’t be the number one player or think they can’t do it. So management positions and stuff like that are really cool to see. Beyond just looking at those careers, does Find Your Grind tailor a certain path to each person, or does it give them a base path to enter that they might not have known about before?

Yeah, so we really take a different kind of approach. Instead of career first, which a lot of schools and parents force pressures on young kids, like what do you want to be when you grow up. We kind of take this purpose first approach. What’s the type of life you want to live, what are your values, who are you as a person first, to then align with careers and mentors who kind of humanize those careers on our platform.

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But aligning careers with people that make sense with who you are as a person. So we really send those students through this first thing called a lifestyle assessment which we branded through Find Your Grind and created. The lifestyle assessment kind of kicks off the journey with the product.

So for example for me, I’m an entertainer, creator, entrepreneur. So I might get a healer, humanitarians, and explorer. So based on those lifestyle assessments, we start to match up those careers with people that make sense based on that initial assessment. The idea for what we’re building now is just trying to create personalized learning journeys through data.

The more you interact with Find Your Grind, the more activities you do through our learning, the better we’re able to use that and pair you with careers and mentors that make sense. So for us it’s all about creating personalized learning journeys and personalized information for people to go through to get the most accurate sense of who they are and what direction they want to go in.

Q: How necessary is college in those esports sections that were on the site?

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Personally, I would say it’s not necessary at all. I’m not an anti-college person whatsoever, I’m more of a self awareness kind of person. I’m passionate about self awareness, I like helping young people be able to make the decisions, and have the information they need to make proper decisions. Most people either go to college because it’s what their school tells them it’s what they have to go to next, or it’s what their parents want them to go do. And unfortunately we see the aftermath of what that causes for a lot of young people. So I’m just a proponent of self awareness.

If you’re into esports and you’re killing it, you love the industry and you’re a 15 year old kid. Ok. Do you want to go four years, spending the money in college to study something irrelevant. Or do you want to try getting into esports, and start making connections, and learning in other ways. I think college is a pretty manufactured way of thinking and we’re definitely not trying to be in that mentality.

Q: Fortnite’s recent prize pool announcement made me think of this. When kids are looking through different esports industry positions, is there a way for them to kind of figure out which games are best to stick with, or which ones are the best to pursue. Either through Find Your Grind or the industry in general. Starting as a young kid, deciding where you want your career path to go. What do you think would be the best way to decide on which game to double down on?

It’s all about getting noticed and putting in the hours, and putting in the time. I think a lot of the stories when I ask those questions, when I go stream with some of the people from Rogue to make content. A lot of them it was just about putting in a ton of hours and getting noticed in the right pockets of people. When they were streaming, or when they were gaming, and using that as sort of a leap off point.

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You have to be great at the game, you have to be passionate about it, and it will naturally come to you. It’s not about exact expectation of what you think you should have or what you think you should be doing. I’m more of a doer, and letting the world show you which way to go.

Q: What’s the best way for a younger player to stand out, especially when things are so competitive right now?

Personality. Sometimes that’s hard, especially to be the number one and stand out. What are you doing that’s different from everybody else? The same thing goes for any industry like this. What do you have to say, what’s your story, why should people be interested in following you. It’s that, as well as thinking of business in a different sense, in knowing that there are multiple ways to creating success. You have to create content, you have to be gaming all the time.

It’s like everyone sort of has to be their own media company today, and just having that business sense in knowing I’m not just going to sit in front of a computer and game for 15 hours a day when I know I could be expanding on that.

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Think about how you can grow your personal brand, and also what type of personality and characteristics you are bringing to the table that will help stand out amongst the millions of gamers that are out there. It really also depends on what sector you want to go in. Do you want to be on a team, do you want to be a streamer, do you want to be more of a personality.

Q: I know you talked a little bit about Junior Rogue, and that’s mainly in Fortnite right?

Junior Rogue is all Fortnite based, yup.

Q: Will it branch into any other games at all?

Yeah, we’ve had that question a couple of times. We’re looking to launch the fourth Junior Rogue semester. So that’s a conversation I’ll have to have with the ReKT guys and we’re definitely open to ideas. But I think that would be smart.

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Q: How successful has the program been?

It’s been great. We’ve had thousands and thousands of applicants. There’s a ton of excitement around the program and no other esports organization has really done anything like it. We were kind of the first in the space to launch something like that. It’s just a special thing. There’s 18 or so participants every semester that get selected.

Some of them are streaming while Lupo announces the news and you see their families just break down in excitement. It’s just a good opportunity. You get your own Junior Rogue jersey, you kind of get shepherded in alongside a real professional esports team. It’s definitely an exciting program that I feel like people love. So, we want to keep it moving forward.

Q: The program seems like something great for kids who want to get into esports, and I was wondering if that’s something that’s going to become more common in esports, or will it remain unique to ReKT Global and Rogue?

Yeah, I think It’d be nice if more of those types of programs pop up. But it’s one thing to kind of just hand out scholarships, but it’s also one thing to have 11-weeks of real tangible shit with the team, with Lupo, with superstar personalities, It’s just such a difference. I would love to see more organizations do it. It’s just about doing it the right way.

Q: Could esports players branch into something like management if they choose to change course or retire competitively?

Most young people today are going to be shifting careers every five years. They say adaptability now is the number one skill for young people to have just because of how quickly they might need to shift, me included. It just depends on the person and how much they enjoy being in the industry and how long they want to stick around, versus trying other things. But it would be interesting to see how people could potentially take professional skills from an esports game and get more into the business.

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Nadeshot does a great job of that with 100 Thieves. Being a player who took his gaming and built a business empire around it. It’s few and far between for people in this space, but it can be done. You’d love to see more of that.

Q: I’ve noticed esports time signing younger kids a lot more recently. Should there be a cap on when teams can sign younger players?

What is the exact age right now? Do you know?

Q: It’s varied a lot. I know recently Team 33 signed a player that’s eight years old. GenG had Moqii who was let go recently but is 14 years old. And there was a League of Legends player recently signed but needed to wait a year until he could play professionally.

You know, it’s awesome seeing these young kids who are even eight years old, which I would say might be a little young, but for a teenager I think it’s cool. If you’re young and you’re great at something, it’s just like anything else. I mean look at Tiger Woods when he was four years old on the course just killing it. The earlier we can encourage young people to get into what they’re skilled at, what they’re talented at, I think is what it’s all about.

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Q: What advice would you give to young players if you could only give them one pointer, or one piece of advice?

My key piece of advice would be to stay open. Stay open to new ideas, new potential games, new pathways, other parts of the industry that you thought you wouldn’t be interested in. I think it’s so key to stay open, but at the same time stay focused. It’s all about focus to get to your goals.

Extreme focus, but then also staying open to the process. If the perfect thing that you set out to do doesn’t work out, It’s for a larger reason. Stay positive. Stay open towards whatever that may be. I think that’s a huge piece of life in general

Published 13 Feb 2021, 11:40 IST
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