UP067: eFuse // connecting gamers to professional opportunities & esports scholarships (from CES 2020)

In All Episodes, CES-2020, esports & gaming, upside by jayclouseLeave a Comment

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Matthew Benson 0:00
So if I’m playing multiple games, or I have multiple social channels that I’m putting my information out on, there’s not a consolidated portfolio for all of that. So if I go on and play League of Legends and log on to League of Legends, it’s very easy for me to see my stats, obviously. But if I’m playing League of Legends and also, just for the sake of the argument, Call of Duty, you’re probably not doing that. But if you are, you can’t put those two portfolio items together in one place. Gamers today are not going to LinkedIn because it’s too professional. It doesn’t meet their culture. How can we find a middle ground that has a professionalism but also that culture?

Jay Clouse 0:31
The startup investment landscape is changing, and world class companies are being built outside of Silicon Valley. We find them, talk with them, and discuss the upside of investing in them. Welcome to upside.

Eric Hornung 0:58
Hello, hello, hello, and welcome to the upside podcast, the first podcast finding upside outside of Silicon Valley. I’m Eric Hornung, and I’m accompanied by my co-host, Mr. Puzzle-Pro himself, Jay Clouse.

Jay Clouse 1:11
Do love a puzzle.

Eric Hornung 1:12
Oh, yeah. You’ve been talking about puzzles a lot this trip.

Jay Clouse 1:14
Love puzzles. Well, after Mallory and I went to Joshua Tree…there’s not a lot to do in the desert.

Eric Hornung 1:20
Right. That’s the whole point of the desert.

Jay Clouse 1:22
That’s right. So the one that we did find was a puzzle in our Airbnb. And while I wrote a lot, Mal dug it out, started doing puzzles. Then we both got into it now. It’s kind of a fun team activity.

Eric Hornung 1:32
Are you like a 75? piece puzzle guy? That’s how I’d imagine you.

Jay Clouse 1:35
No, although my niece’s are.

Eric Hornung 1:37
And they beat you in Bowling, so I assum that they would beat you in puzzles.

Jay Clouse 1:40
Have you ever tried to do like a 75 piece–Actually, it’s a 25 piece puzzle that I did with a child.

Eric Hornung 1:46
And did you? Did you like have to take it slow or like what did you do? Did you just dominate?

Jay Clouse 1:50
Well, it’s not a contest. It’s a team activity.

Eric Hornung 1:53
Everything’s a contest, Jay.

Jay Clouse 1:55
And yeah, I watched as my niece Lucy did this puzzle Mickey and Minnie Mouse. And it’s simultaneously very gratifying and so frustrating to watch a child do a puzzle. One, it’s just like amazing to see her do it. And, two, oh my gosh, I could have crushed that puzzle in like, what? 15 seconds? Maybe?

Eric Hornung 2:19
You think 15 seconds for a 25 piece puzzle?

Jay Clouse 2:21
Yeah, I mean…

Eric Hornung 2:22
Fifteen seconds for a 25 piece puzzle.

Jay Clouse 2:23
I’m willing to be timed on it.

Eric Hornung 2:25
Fifteen seconds.

Jay Clouse 2:26

Eric Hornung 2:27
For 25 piece puzzle.

Jay Clouse 2:28
Yeah, well, I mean, look, you got, you got…

Eric Hornung 2:29
How much would you bet on that?

Jay Clouse 2:31

Eric Hornung 2:33
Would you double down $149?

Jay Clouse 2:37
This is where we’re going now. Yeah, I would. I would say that i i would bet on it. 15 seconds, 25 piece puzzle. I’d bet 200 bucks on it.

Eric Hornung 2:47
Okay, so you wouldn’t double down $149 is what I’m hearing here.

Jay Clouse 2:50
Okay. 300 bucks on it. That’s,

Eric Hornung 2:52
That’s, okay.

Jay Clouse 2:53
That’s close to double.

Eric Hornung 2:54

Jay Clouse 2:55
Yeah. Yeah. So I could do it.

Eric Hornung 2:57
Listeners this, for all of you watching…Look at that, We have never been able to say that, we’ve never recorded anything with video.

Jay Clouse 3:03
The lighting in here so bad.

Eric Hornung 3:04
Yeah, it’s terrible. But last night–We’re recording this in January at CES. Last night, Jay and I decided to play a little bit of blackjack.

Jay Clouse 3:13
A lot a bit of blackjack.

Eric Hornung 3:14
About two and a half hours of blackjack.

Jay Clouse 3:16
Almost four hours of blackjack.

Eric Hornung 3:17
Sometimes I’m not good with time. And Jay was on a heater.

Jay Clouse 3:23
I was crushing it. I was doing so well.

Eric Hornung 3:25
You were playing all kinds of games.

Jay Clouse 3:26
I won most hands.

Eric Hornung 3:28
Yeah, you were on fire. I got dealt every 15 in the deck. And as his last hand, Jay had a–for those of you don’t play blackjack,you can just fast forward 15 seconds here–but Jay had 11, which is what you want, that’s good. So he doubled down because he had pushed his whole pile and thinking, you know what if I win this one, great; if I don’t, also great, not expecting he was gonna double down. So he doubles down and the dealer showing, I think was a 6, maybe a 5.

Jay Clouse 3:53
I think it was an eight. I think he had an eight and you turned over a three.

Eric Hornung 3:56
Ah, well, whatever it was, Jay was in a pretty good position and ended up losing that double down.

Jay Clouse 4:02
All of it.

Eric Hornung 4:02
But you broke even.

Jay Clouse 4:04
I broke even. I walked away.

Eric Hornung 4:05
That’s the important part.

Jay Clouse 4:05
I walked away and it was fine. But that’s just you know the nature of the game.

Eric Hornung 4:08
Right. And you know, this whole intro has been predicated on games because today, Jay, we’re getting game-i-fied., is that the word? gamified?

Jay Clouse 4:17
Probably a better word. But today we are talking with Matthew Benson, the founder and CEO of eFuse. eFuse is a web and mobile software as a service company that provides validated opportunities and candidates for the Esports and video game industry. eFuse acts as a central hub for Esports and video game collaborators in all areas, including player talent recruitment, traditional job ,the sourcing of sponsorship deals. Eric, we got connected to Matt, man, many, many months ago, maybe even a year ago.

Eric Hornung 4:46
Through my cousin.

Jay Clouse 4:47
Yeah, it’s been a while we connected with the eFuse team. It was very early on. He had just left the Ohio Innovation Fund. We had talked to the Ohio Innovation Fund on the podcast. We decided it was a little too early there, pre-product. Since that time, we talked with Josh Chapman at Convoy Ventures learned a little bit about Esports and gaming, but really dipping our toes back in it for the first time in a while because it seems to be a core part of CES 2020.

Eric Hornung 5:14
When we did a lot of research on what was coming to CES this year, gaming seemed to be one of the big platforms. eFuse you happened to be here. It’s great timing to have a conversation with Matt and them. And it’s an interest point for, I think you and I, we’ve talked about it a lot off the air.

Jay Clouse 5:29
That’s right. So we’ll talk to Matt, we’ll learn a bit about eFuse, which has also been anecdotally described to me as LinkedIn for gaming, and hopefully won’t go out of our depth here, Eric.

Eric Hornung 5:39
We most likely will.

Jay Clouse 5:41
We most likely well. So we’d love to hear your thoughts as we go through this interview with Matt. You can tweet at us as always @upsideFM or email us hello@upside.fm, and we’ll get to that conversation with Matt right after this. Eric, what is your favorite kind of pie?

Eric Hornung 5:58
Apple pie all day. Also, I’m kind of on the fence between apple pie and apple crumble. And are they the same thing? Or are they different? Either way, they’re both delicious. Little scoop of vanilla ice cream, carmel. I bet you didn’t think you were going to get that much of an answer from me on that one.

Jay Clouse 6:13
A lot of detail. So I want you to imagine a pie chart and we’ll even make it an apple pie chart. Let’s cut that apple pie in half. 50% of it is technical recruiting, 25% of it is executive search, and 25% of it is sales, marketing and product. That is the breakdown of the different types of searches done by our friends over at Integrity Power Search, the number one, full stack, high growth startup recruiting firm between the coasts. They partner with venture capitalists, private equity groups, and CEOs to build amazing teams for the world’s most disrupting companies. 50% of their searches are technical recruiting, 25% executive search, and 25% sales, marketing and product. So if you are hiring, dear listener, I would get a hold of Integrity Power Search.

Eric Hornung 6:55
How would you do that?

Jay Clouse 6:56
Just go to upside.fm/integrity to learn more about what they do and how you can get involved. That’s upside.fm/integrity.

Eric Hornung 7:05
It seems to me like you lead with pie and I don’t get any pie. Am I, am I losing on this one?

Jay Clouse 7:11
You are getting no real pie. It was simply a visualization.

Eric Hornung 7:22
On upside we like to start with a background of the guest. So can you tell us about the history of Matt?

Matthew Benson 7:27
Yeah, so my name is Matthew Benson, grew up in Chillicothe, Ohio. So about an hour south of Columbus. Had a great childhood, was always like the lemonade entrepreneur, if you will. Did a bunch of different things ranging from selling glow sticks on the Fourth of July, would mobilize a team to go and sell across the count Did a number of film things with my cousin who went to film school. We would go and record dance recitals, sell those DVDs. Great experience just had that itch to sell and…

Jay Clouse 7:52
Dance recitals?

Matthew Benson 7:53
Dance recitals. You wouldn’t, you would not guess it, but moms are willing to pay a lot for DVDs on dance recitals. So we had a great, great experience doing that and really had an opportunity to learn a lot. So have that entrepreneurial bug, go to Athens at OU, study entrepreneurship and finance, have a great experience there. Was I think the first class to actually go through and have the entrepreneurship major. So that was super interesting for me. Great development, great relationships, and really what I took out of Athens was, was the relationships. Enjoyed my experience there a lot. And then after graduation, I actually had an internship prior to graduation at The Ohio Innovation Fund, which is a venture cap–

Eric Hornung 8:27
They’ve been on the podcast, episode…Insert episode here, Jay.

Jay Clouse 8:32
I’m gonna guess…

Matthew Benson 8:33
Was it Jill?

Jay Clouse 8:34
It was Jill and Bill.

Matthew Benson 8:36
Oh nice.

Jay Clouse 8:36
We did a live recording at the Columbus Idea Foundry.

Matthew Benson 8:39
That’s right.

Jay Clouse 8:40
Gosh, I don’t know. I’m gonna guess it was like coffee chat…

Eric Hornung 8:42

Jay Clouse 8:42
Seven or eight.

Eric Hornung 8:43
That’s my guess.

Jay Clouse 8:43

Matthew Benson 8:44
That’s awesome. I love those two, had a great opportunity to work for both of them when I was a junior in school. Unbelievable exposure to venture capital. I mean, there’s just things you can’t learn in the classroom that I had the opportunity to learn from those two, not only about mindset, but the actual nuances of raising and the conversations and sort of the, the underlying nuances of venture capital. So loved that experience, was an analyst there. And then after doing that for a summer, fortunate enough to have them bring me on full time or part time actually, so I commuted my senior year at OU. And then ultimately jumped on full time. After that, decided I always knew again that I wanted to jump ship and do my own thing. So after doing that for a few months, decided to jump ship in August of 2018 to found eFuse. And eFuse was a culmination of a couple things. Not only that passion for tech in entrepreneurship, but also gaming. I grew up a gamer, played casually, never any good enough to go anywhere competitively, but absolutely loved it. And while I was at OU, I took a class that we actually developed 180 page report on all things Esports and video games. So for me growing up, the community side was really instilled, had been playing the games, understanding how I brought people together, how the community communicated with one another. But when it came to the business of games and the layout of the industry, it was that class that really opened my eyes to that.

Jay Clouse 10:00
What class is that?

Matthew Benson 10:01
It’s called cluster. So the College of Business at OU has this really cool program called cluster. And essentially, it’s a semester long class where you get with a group of four people that usually you don’t know or have any relationship with. And over the course of that, you develop a business in a specific industry that you’re assigned. And I was super fortunate that Esports and video games was the industry that we were assigned, and through that saw a unique opportunity in not only the growth of the industry, but in the fragmentation. What we saw was you have all these different pieces that are growing, but they’re not necessarily growing together. And they’re not communicating and collaborating in ways that you would maybe see in traditional business. So the initial idea, was let’s build a platform or network that brings all of those together. But as we dove further into that, it’s like trying to boil the ocean. So kind of zoomed out. And when I jumped ship in August, basically went six months with trying to figure that out, testing it, learning, talking to a bunch of people in the industry. And ultimately found a unique opportunity and specifically the professional collaboration and recruitment of talent to fulfill opportunities. So the initial, I guess, avenue or use case was really in the collegiate scene. That was a scene I was familiar with, and that’s where I saw opportunities with colleges creating Esports programs. So with these new scholarships, these new openings, we would go and basically create a recruitment platform that verified, validated the talent on one end, and then connected them to the opportunity on the other.

Jay Clouse 11:23
I’m going to go back a little bit. There’s lots to dive down there. I want to hear about, you said you grew up a gamer.

Matthew Benson 11:28

Jay Clouse 11:28
So talk to me about Matt Benson, the gamer, and your evolution of like, tastes and things that you’re playing.

Matthew Benson 11:34
Yeah. So I mean, I grew up playing on Xbox 360. I mean, I played GameCube all the time, my brothers and I always played Smash Bros. And that was sort of, anything Mario was our thing. But as time went on, really got into first person shooters, started playing a lot of Call of Duty, ultimately, over the last few years that turned into Fornte, Apex, Pub G. Really, I mean, it was just for me, eye opening to learn about the different communities within gaming. I mean, you think of gaming and it, you just kind of think of, I mean, the guy in the basement eat Doritos all over himself. And you think that’s the one personality that’s in the industry. But if you’re really in, you understand that it’s much broader than that, and maybe more so than traditional sports, the diversity of gaming is unbelievable. So I really appreciated the ability for gaming and tech more broadly, and how it brings people together. So that’s where I was really drawn into gaming is, I’m talking to people across the world, people that I’ve never met and getting exposed to, to cultures that I never been exposed to before, especially living in rural Appalachia and Chillicothe, you don’t really get that if you’re not traveling a whole lot. So it was really valuable in that sense for me.

Eric Hornung 12:33
You also don’t really get the center of innovation out in Chillicothe. How did entrepreneurship come into your life? You said lemonade stands, but like, was your dad an entrepreneur? Was your mom an entrepreneur? Like, how did you even know that was a path?

Matthew Benson 12:44
So I come from a family of lawyers. So being an entrepreneur is quite the opposite. So it was a lot of formality growing up, my dad was an attorney for 30 years in Chillicothe when I graduated high school, went on to become the judge, the juvenile probate judge in Chillicothe. My mom and him met through the law firm and actually jumped ship to start their own together. So they practice for 15 years. My mom was basically the office manager.

Eric Hornung 13:05
Talk about a mom and pop shop.

Matthew Benson 13:06
I know, right? And they were just an incredible duo growing up. My mom and dad both have an extremely great work ethic. So being an entrepreneur in that sense, I got that work ethic early on, focusing on the details. But as far as the the career, nobody in my family really had done that aside from them jumping ship to start their own law firm. My brother went on to be an attorney. I’ve got two younger brothers that are not anything, not looking at entrepreneurship or business at all, really. So for me, I think it was just a fascination with tech early on. And then that translated into reading about the traditional, like Steve Jobs, I mean, Jeff Bezos, I mean, those were, those were idols to me growing up. Started exploring that and then sort of dabbling and entrepreneurship myself, and then just caught the bug and fell in love with it.

Jay Clouse 13:50
Eric, would you believe that I was doing competitive gaming when I was 11 years old?

Matthew Benson 13:55
No way.

Eric Hornung 13:56
Would I believe it?

Jay Clouse 13:57

Eric Hornung 13:58
I would believe anything about you, Jay.

Jay Clouse 13:59
I was really into Medal of Honor Allied Assault. It was on PC, I was literally dialing in on dial up. And I was in a clan with a bunch of guys that were like, from their 30s to 40s. And I’m like, 12, sitting in my basement with my mom on the sewing machine next to me, like shooting bazookas.

Eric Hornung 14:17
How good were you?

Jay Clouse 14:18
Bad, but the problem was my connection was terrible. I was on dial up,

Eric Hornung 14:22
I was expecting you were gonna come out with the fact that was like, Yeah, I was top 10 in the world.

Jay Clouse 14:26
No, terrible.

Eric Hornung 14:26
That’s what we were hoping for.

Jay Clouse 14:27
I was literally like, the frustrating member of the team that they just put me on when they had a spot to fill. But like my connection was so bad that I would lag across people’s screens and they couldn’t like sharp shoot me. And then I would just shoot a bazooka in their general direction, and you know, get like one kill for every five deaths or something.

Eric Hornung 14:46
That’s terrible.

Jay Clouse 14:47
It’s bad. So you’re in this class, you’re in this class.

Eric Hornung 14:51
Yeah, let’s get this off Jay.

Jay Clouse 14:52
You get assigned eSports and gaming. What is your in your team’s initial reaction to that?

Matthew Benson 14:58
I was excited about it. My team, not gamers at all, they were like, What the hell are we gonna do? What is this? And I think by the end of it, they really grew to appreciate it. I don’t know that they would say that they were passionate about it by any means. But I think kind of selfishly in a lot of ways. Our professors wanted us to do that. So they would have to do the research themselves. I mean, they they knew this was, this was a bustling, growing opportunity in the industries. They wanted us to do the research to figure out what it looked like so they could better train their students and a lot of ways. So overall, it’d been a great experience for me, I think, a great experience and learning from my, my peers, but definitely not something they we’re passionate about.

Jay Clouse 15:34
So you’re in the class. Is there any point while you’re taking that class that you’re thinking there’s a business opportunity that I’m interested in here?

Matthew Benson 15:41
I think absolutely. Absolutely, from that class, I think, this is something that could really be big. I didn’t have the exposure to understand how big gaming was from a business standpoint. I just didn’t. I knew what the community looked like. But from business standpoint, I had a big moment. This is going to be massive. And this doesn’t have to just be a passion on the side. This can something bigger. And as this industry grows, opportunities are going to grow. And what if, what if we are the ones that can be the solidified infrastructure that helps to connect individuals to those opportunities? So yeah, there was absolutely a moment there.

Jay Clouse 16:13
Unless I’m misunderstanding timelines, because you weren’t in the cluster at the same time that you’re at OIF, right? Or was that internship happening concurrently?

Matthew Benson 16:18
I was not.

Jay Clouse 16:19
Okay. So, you go through, you submit this paper, you have it kind of on your mind, did you get a good grade on this?

Matthew Benson 16:25
We did. So the way Cluster is structure, structured is the first half is developing that research, you do a huge presentation on it, it’s like 60 pages or 60 slides with your 4 teammates. And then the next half of the semester is building the business around it and then doing another presentation.

Eric Hornung 16:40
What were some of the facts that came out of that research and analysis, and you can merge this in with the things you learned about at OIF, but, like, what are some of the stats metrics…You said it’s a huge opportunity, it’s bustling. But like, give us some data behind that, help us understand what this actually looks like.

Matthew Benson 16:55
This was 2017, I believe. So a couple of the big trends that we saw coming were Esports we’re just arising. So as far as money being poured into leagues, Esports has always been around, there was always playing competitively. But there wasn’t the the push behind it that could really almost in a lot of ways challenge traditional sports. The League of Legends stat had come out that year, I believe where it’s League of Legends had more viewership than the NBA Finals, MLB and I think MLS combined, their championship series. So that stat kind of blew my mind. Mobile gaming in Asia was something that we were really looking at, really, really interesting there. And then the overall industry growth, I believe, in 2017, it was like $128 billion dollars globally, video games, and Esports was a proud 9$00 million. So it was getting ready to pass a billion dollars in total value. So we’re really interested and we were seeing the growth rates of keggers of that they were just exploding. And that was really what caught my eye with the correlation of Esports and mobile gaming also being really unique trends that were interesting.

Eric Hornung 17:52
What other areas of this growing space were underutilized? So we talked about kind of what eFuse is, but where else did you see opportunity, and where was all the competition going?

Matthew Benson 18:03
I think, for me, people wanted to be involved, from, from our viewpoint, people want to be involved in the, the sexy things around gaming, which at the time, and I think still are true to this day, are teams, or streamers or things in that nature, and they’re absolutely profitable if you do them right, but I don’t think anybody’s cracked the code that is repeatable to do that right. The closest is probably like 100 Thieves or a Team Liquid. What I saw where the opportunities were, were more so on the infrastructure side. And I think this is where you see another Columbus company Esports engine with an industry OG of Adam Apicella running the the ship of providing…they were basically doing event production. So again, being on infrastructure side, as these events grow, as these organizations grow, opportunities like that, to to host events on our, on our front to connect individuals to opportunities and to meet one another, those infrastructure pieces didn’t exist, and those are going to be the biggest opportunities in my mind that would survive the consolidation of the industry.

Jay Clouse 18:57
So talk about the pain points related to infrastructure that eFuse is addressing, like, What does someone come up against where they’re saying, I just wish this thing existed? And then that’s where they find eFuse.

Matthew Benson 19:08
Yeah, I think there’s there’s two, two alleyways here. So one is the exposure to opportunities in the the aggregation of opportunity. So, again, as this industry is growing, more jobs are being created, new events are being hosted and more scholarships, more dollars and sponsorships are being poured into the industry, but they’re being spread throughout the wild, wild west right now. What we’re trying to do is with our partnerships and our relationships, bring those opportunities to one centralized place to be a place of truth, and then to connect individuals to those opportunities. So one is a centralized place for you to have exposure to those opportunities. Number two, is really focused around the connection and the recruitment of that. So the way we look at eFuse is a two sided marketplace of opportunity. On one end, you have those opportunities I just talked about aggregating those, but on the other end, you have the talent. And what’s missing currently in the scheme of talent, and to liken it to traditional sports for ease of understanding, in traditional sports. It’s very easy Say a guy’s running or a girl’s running 4.3 40 or has a certain vertical. In Esports and video games, it’s really hard to do that because it’s online, and there’s not one consolidated portfolio, if you will, for validation. So what we focus on doing is creating partnerships and relationships that allow us to validate and link to those different portfolio items into one centralized place. And then because we have that, that talent or that asset of truth, we can then facilitate the recruitment process that currently doesn’t exist. So eFuse, in short, is making the recruitment process easier, because we have validated information and the channels of communication that are actually important to the gaming world, and then also have the relationships in the partnership to centralize that opportunity.

Eric Hornung 20:41
If I’m a new team, and I’m currently recruiting people, how do I find them?

Matthew Benson 20:46
It’s kind of shocking. Most of that is happening on social traditional social media. They’re going to see a clip on Twitter, and they’re going to say, wow, this is a really good clip. I’m gonna dm this person. But here’s the issues with that. Not only could it not be that person’s clip, it could be just be ninjas clip and then they, they put it on their their feed. But also you don’t have a professional and validated chain of communication. And one of the things that’s really important to these colleges and these organizations is the demographic information around it. It’s more than just the talent. It’s also about where they’re located, how old they are. There’s some gamers around 10 years old that are killing me on games really easily. So it’s important for them to also the demographic data. So to answer your question directly, it’s all over the place. It’s informal. It’s on social media, finding and trying to navigate to find talent. There’s no chain of communication that’s really professional.

Jay Clouse 21:31
If I’m Duke basketball, I have dedicated scouts finding players all over the place. I’m going to games, I’m going to JJ huddle. Are there dedicated scouts for talent for Esports teams at a collegiate level right now.

Matthew Benson 21:42
There’s not. The bigger teams that professional teams have the money to have scouts. They’ll put people on Twitch all day, and they’ll literally watch clips and try to find the next best thing. But there is not the equivalent of Huddle or Be Recruited or, I think it’s HSCA, on, in Esports. So that’s the gap we’re trying to fill there. There are a couple companies trying to do it. But I think because of the relationships…The companies have failed for two reasons trying to do this. One is, it’s the chicken before the egg. One is they have the opportunities and they don’t have the talent, or they have the talent and they don’t have the opportunity. So before we even launched, our focus was we have, to some extent, build both sides of the marketplace so that the relationships and the collaborations can occur. And then we can continue to compound and grow those as time goes on.

Eric Hornung 22:23
When I think about, you mentioned this for 4.3 40, you can look at it. In gaming, it seems to me like everything’s digital, so everything should be being recorded, and there should be data behind it, so you could tell how close you cluster headshots or how, whatever you your response time, it feels like all that data should be available on your profile where there are some key metrics that people look at, is that not the case?

Matthew Benson 22:46
So it’s the case within games, but it’s not when you’re talking about the broader portfolio. So if I’m playing multiple games, or I have multiple social channels that I’m putting my information out on, there’s not a consolidated portfolio for all of that. So if I go on and play League of Legends and log on to League of Legends, it’s very easy for me to see my stats, obviously. But if I’m playing League of Legends and also just for the sake of the argument Call of Duty, you’re probably not doing that, but if you are you can’t put those two portfolio items together in one place.

Jay Clouse 23:13
Are you trying to connect people to professional opportunities more so, or collegiate opportunities?

Matthew Benson 23:20
So our focus as a company, and this is what I tell our team every day, is we’re not focused on the 1%, we’re focused on the top tier playing at the professional level. Again, those scout, those teams have the ability to pay for scouts and bring in talent. They don’t need us at this point. We could be an asset to them, but they don’t need us. Who needs us is the collegiate, the amateur scene, sponsors coming into the non-endemic sponsors coming in in the industry. We look at ourselves as serving that other 98, 99%. And our goal is no matter where you are in the industry, whether you’re an aspiring gamer trying to get to the next level or an aspiring business professional, if you come to eFuse, you build out your portfolio, we’ll have the the asset necessary to then connect you with an opportunity that furthers your passionate career.

Jay Clouse 24:01
You mentioned scholarships and I assumed college scholarships. Is that correct?

Matthew Benson 24:05
Yeah. So there’s a number of scholarships. So a couple things. One is colleges are have full ride scholarships. They have partial scholarships that are now available. I believe it’s around 50 schools to date have actual scholarships, and 140 have Esports programs, which is awesome. Because I think, if you, if you go back three years ago, it’s very minimal. I think it’s like 20 schools and maybe two or three scholarships. So absolutely crazy growth there. But then there are also scholarships with–and this is where we’re coming in and actually helping to provide some of these–with high level influencers in the industry wanting to give back and invest in the future of gaming. So one of the things we just announced was our For the Gamer Scholarship campaign, where we are sponsoring a scholarship on behalf of a large profile influencer in the industry, and then allowing them to give that out and actually communicate and give back to their community in a unique way. So for example, Teamstar, who’s one of one of our bigger influencers, did a promotion a few weeks ago, will be giving away a $10,000 scholarship on eFuse to a gamer so they can either go to college and get a degree in gaming or event production or whatever it is. Or maybe it’s giving them the ability to buy equipment that furthers their gaming capacity. So things like that are also occurring.

Jay Clouse 25:15
At a collegiate level, and what was that stat? How many colleges did you say have teams now?

Matthew Benson 25:20
I believe it’s 140 teams.

Jay Clouse 25:21
Hundred and 40 teams at a collegiate level. You mentioned like 10 year olds that are just crushing things. Can colleges recruit students that young? Are they doing that? Because I know even like the lifespan of, you know, response time in some games is almost below college age. So how does that work?

Matthew Benson 25:39
So college sports is the wild, wild west as is the industry, and in large part because there’s no one single governing body. So athletics, you have the NCAA,. You don’t have that in eSports. And there are a couple organizations trying to do that. To name a few, you’ve got High School Sports League that’s really focusing on the college demographic, you’ve got Play Versus out of California, you’ve got the Electronic Gaming Federation out in New York that are all trying to play, NACE is another one that are all trying to play and create this organization. But there’s not one that’s been consolidated into. So that’s provided some issues because they’re trying to build these different rule sets, and they’re, they’re all different across the board depending on the college you speak to. So to be determined.

Eric Hornung 26:20
This is a random question, but something I’ve thought about. I think I’ve seen some stats where like, your best reflex times to like be the best Esports players peak somewhere between like 16 and 19, could be wrong on the actual stat there. And when you look at like, the major sports, the peak performance is somewhere between 24 and 34. So how does that play in to eFuse and the industry as a whole as people are getting worse over time?

Matthew Benson 26:52
Yeah. So eFuse’s stance on it is we’re basically, no matter where you are in that, in that level, trying to connect you with an opportunity. So if you’re a 16 year old, you’re, you’re not looking to go to college yet probably. Maybe you’re connecting to, you want to connect with a tournament. So maybe it’s how can I connect you there. A great example of that, and not, not from eFuse, but in general, is the 16 year old that won $3 million, Booga. I mean, that was kind of the stat that ignited a lot of the conversation in the industry. I can’t remember how many emails I got that day from investors like, oh, did you see this? Yeah, I’ve seen it for the 20th. But, I mean, it’s events like that, that really pushed Esports in video games into the forefront. But it’s a great problem to have in a lot of ways because it provides a new opportunity to redefine what amateurism means in this industry. And I think that’s what a lot of these college organizations are going to have to come up with. And I think they all have different stances at this point. But again, it goes towards what the NCAA announced a few months ago, a few weeks ago, at this point, what does amateurism look like and can people make money when they’re in this industry?

Jay Clouse 27:46
So you guys…Were sitting here at CES 2020 in early January. You guys just launched the platform beta, correct?

Matthew Benson 27:54

Jay Clouse 27:55
And what has that been like so far?

Matthew Benson 27:57
Yeah. So I guess I kind of cut off when I was talking about the timeline of things. So we finished raising our seed round of funding in August of this year. So we raised one five on a convertible note, have great investors ranging from angels to xtech entrepreneurs to people that are in gaming to traditional VC firms like the Ohio Innovation Fund and Smart Growth Ventures out of Cincinnati. So a great group of investors. We started building our beta list for launch in December 10th of 2019. So we had set out to get a goal of 10,000 people on our beta list, and we ended up getting 23,000 people on, which was awesome for us. So over the course of December, we let in people on our web platform, ranging, started with like 500 a day and then ended up getting a couple thousand a day. So it’s really cool. And January 2 of 2020, we felt confident and actually opened our beta to the world. So now you can join eFuse by simply going to eFuse.gg and signing up. So we’ve seen great growth so far. Our metrics are looking super healthy. We’re growing at a rapid rate day over day. We’ve been very fortunate to get some great coverage, to have great partners who’ve bought into what we’re doing. And really, it’s been the industry of G’s saying this is the platform that we’re trusting and want to be on that has pushed us to the next level. So for, I just talked about our scholarship campaign, our very first scholarship was announced last week, Sundance de Giovanni, who was the co founder of MLG, one of the godfathers of gaming, just to have his stamp of approval kind of warmed my heart because he was a mentor and sort of here to me growing up, but also a validation of what we’re doing in the industry.

Jay Clouse 29:25
How are you building those relationships, because there are a lot of people who listen to the show who, whatever their industry is, they would love the blessing of the godfather of whatever their industry is? So how did you go about finding those people? Are you guys in a unique point in time? Do you have a unique spin? Are you just first to market, like, how do you get that stamp from someone so well known?

Matthew Benson 29:46
Yeah. So I tell our team that every day that we should be focused on building genuine relationships. And, I mean that, Sundance was a seed that we planted six months ago, and we go into every conversation trying to provide value first. So I think that’s how approach it. And that’s really my skill set. I, I came in as a non-technical founder. I had an engineer that has been with me from the very beginning. But it wasn’t until around June of this year when we started having conversations to bring on a CTO that we really had experience on the technical front. So for us to fundraise, a lot of it was we’ve got to build partnerships and show traction to justify some of the numbers that we’re bringing and raising on for our convertible note. So that’s sort of my bread and butter is going out there, hustling, building relationships, sliding into DMs, working the network, and just building the genuine relationships.

Eric Hornung 30:31
Who’s on your reach list? Like who do you really want to partner with?

Matthew Benson 30:35
It’s a great question. I have a lot of respect for Ryan Wyatt, who’s the head of YouTube gaming. We’ve had, we had a conversation with him a few months ago when we were just starting up. He was great, gave a lot of praise. He’s a Columbus guy, or not Columbus guy, Cincinnati, no, not even since that Cleveland, sorry, Cleveland guy and makes it back every so often. But really admire what he’s been able to do and the way he carries himself. Would love to have a conversation in, or further conversations with him. And I think he would if you ask him about eFuse, today, he’d be in our corner simply because we, we’ve tried to build genuine relationships. But he’s a guy that long term would love to continue to build with. Hector Rodriguez, Hex as known in the industry, he’s now with Energy, Call of Duty OG, great person really, again appreciate how he’s carried himself not only as a gamer, but as a business professional. He’s another person we’d love to get involved to.

Jay Clouse 31:20
Let’s invent a fake person real quick. So you, you had 23…

Eric Hornung 31:25
Call him May Blouse.

Jay Clouse 31:27
We’ll call in May Blouse. You had 23,000 people on your beta list, a bunch of people came in the door and now they’re on the website. What is a prototypical eFuse user, describe that person and what their aspirations are.

Matthew Benson 31:39
It’s really hard because of the the ecosystem that we’re trying to…

Jay Clouse 31:42
And you can make a couple.

Matthew Benson 31:42
So, so one of them is that aspiring gamer, it’s the high schooler coming out of, coming out of high school, obviously, that is trying to aspire to be in the industry. And a lot of them realize that they don’t have the best talent. I mean, it’s just like professional sports, the 1% are going to make it to the top. So what is my career look like in that post me playing? So what we’re trying to accomplish is for them to come on the site, learn about the opportunities and then be able to connect them to those. So great example is a guy we just give a scholarship to named Pablo. Pablo, 18 years old coming out of high school wants to go and be involved in the professional scene as far as the business side but doesn’t know how to get involved. He came to eFuse, has been posting great content and is now networking in our community and is looking now to go major in eSports and video game production at any college, which is awesome. So that’s the kind of nurturing that we want to provide as a place to learn and then connect once you’re ready to take that next step in the industry if you’re coming out of high school/

Jay Clouse 32:35
For, I want to start with Pablo real quick.

Matthew Benson 32:37

Jay Clouse 32:37
For eFuse and for Pablo to be successful in this, you know, journey on the platfor, how often is he engaging and in what way over what period of time?

Matthew Benson 32:48
Yeah, so Pablo is on there every day. Pablo’s the, the great early adopter that we love to have. I mean, he provides feedback all the time. He’s been great. He’s coming back every day. I would say most of our users are coming back weekly at this point. So we’ve had great retention, people are engaging really well. And what’s been one of our concerns going in truthfully was how do we craft this professionalism in Esports and video games? Because I don’t want to say it doesn’t exist, but all the sites that are currently out there are much more focused on the community aspect, not the business aspect. So how do we build a LinkedIn culture of sorts that’s professional but not lose a touch of gaming that turns people off so that they’re not going–Gamers today are not going to LinkedIn because it’s too professional. It doesn’t match their culture. How can we find a middle ground that has that professionalism but also that culture?

Jay Clouse 33:32
So are they dropping like tweets? Are they updating their stats, like when they come back weekly, what are they doing?

Matthew Benson 33:37
Yeah, so so they’re posting on a fuse, they’re, they’re basically putting out professional posts. So here’s what I did this week, here’s some of my stats, here’s opportunities that I’m looking to pursue, here’s a knowledge bomb that I learned this week that I’d love to drop. And it’s about hyping each other up commenting, engaging like you would on LinkedIn. Additionally, they have the ability to apply for new opportunities. We’re really focusing, especially over the next two weeks, three weeks on putting in a bunch of some new opportunities for them to further their career. So it’s coming and applying for those. The third thing is, and this is the first thing they do when they come to the site, is building out their portfolio. And Jay actually provided some great feedback on coming to the site for the first time. How do I build out my portfolio? We have these these great additions where you can really create a holistic portfolio for yourself. But what are the steps actually look like it? It could be intimidating when you come for the first time. So we really focused on making that transition really smooth and easy for when you come to the site. You build out your portfolio, then you engage with the community. And then once you have that stature, it’s connecting with an opportunity to further your career and your passion.

Eric Hornung 34:33
How does eFuse make money?

Matthew Benson 34:35
Great question. So eFuse today does not have a revenue model in place. We have a three, three business plans, essentially or business models that we’ll be implementing over the next two months. So first is digital advertisement. We’re not foolish to know that that doesn’t really take effect overhead scale, but it’ll be implemented fairly early on. The second is a premium subscription model. So in essence, you pay a monthly subscription fee, and depending on what side of the marketplace you’re on, if you’re on the talent side of the gamer side, that subscription is really going towards exposure, towards exclusive opportunities, to getting in front of coaches, getting in front of organizational leads, to get your portfolio out there and to help you connect in a more efficient manner. On the side of the recruiter, it’s having enhanced tools to make that recruitment possible. So you have all this data in front of you, but how do I analyze and compare side by side with the talent that’s currently on eFuse. So there’s that monthly subscription model that will be implemented over the next two months. And then thirdly, this is one that has come up as as we’ve dove further into the industry. There’s a lot of non-endemic brands and endemic brands that want to be involved, but don’t necessarily know how to take the next step, whether that’s sponsoring a streamer or sponsoring an event. What does that look like? So because we have this unique makeup and ecosystem of professionalism on effuse, we think we have an opportunity to become that marketplace for brands to come to the table and actually sponsor streamers and events on the site. So we would actually facilitate that transaction, in a large part eliminate the need for an agent for some of these streamers and take a cut of that.

Jay Clouse 36:01
As time passes, and you kind of get out of this beta phase, you mentioned earlier that you’re building up two sides of a marketplace, how do you guys measure the health of that marketplace? And what will continue to help it grow?

Matthew Benson 36:13
It’s a great question. So we really look at the ecosystem health in the sense that we have to have a great ratio of opportunities to talent. So if one side gets too fluctuated, or if they’re not enough opportunities to go around, there’s always gonna be less opportunities than there is talent, that’s just the nature of it. But making sure that that ratio is consistent is something that we’re really looking at, obviously, activity on eFuse, we really measure application to opportunities. So if that’s going to be our core, that should be one of the biggest metrics is on there. People should be going to eFuse to apply to opportunities. Yeah, those are those are probably the two main metrics that we’re looking at.

Jay Clouse 36:44
Do you have any data into, you know, LinkedIn is this, it’s known as like a jobs platform. They make so much money because they connect people to jobs. Do you have any idea what the ratio is of like people on the platform towards new jobs and how that compares to what you guys are striving for?

Matthew Benson 36:59
I don’t I don’t I know that their premium users have around 30% their activity rates off the charts, but I don’t have any insight into the job side of it.

Jay Clouse 37:09
If I’m a Pablo, or–and I think there was like a second user you wanted to get to also–but if I’m a Pablo, and I’m showing up every day, every week, and for whatever the reason, I just don’t get one of these opportunities, do I stick around? Why would I stick around? Like what do you think about that type of churn?

Matthew Benson 37:25
I think it’s important to note that there are going to be opportunities on eFuse always for you to apply on eFuse. But the opportunity to network with individuals in the community, the Ryan Wyatts of the world, the Sundance’s of the world, doesn’t exist on traditional social media. I mean, traditional social media, it’s, it’s fandom, it’s you want to, you want to, there God’s to you. I mean, their idols. You want, you really want to go after them and communicate with them in that front. What we want to do on us and the way we’re building our tools and our platform is making sure that this is a professional landscape. So you have the opportunity to network with Sundance, but it’s going to be, it’s not going to be in the fandom way. It’s going to be hey Sundance, I have this idea, I want to run it by you. So there’s that opportunity there. So opportunities that could potentially happen outside eFuse. But the relationships that you’re building here can’t be built on other platforms today.

Eric Hornung 38:10
How do you think about game distribution on the platform? So you could see a world where you just become the go to place for League of Legends, or the other side where you’re the go to place for every game and every gamer. How do you think about, when we think about the health of the marketplace, the health of the distribution of types of games and gamers that are on?

Matthew Benson 38:30
Yeah, one of the things that we thought about very early on, and we realized, is there going to be very few titles that stand the test of time. I mean, it’s unlike traditional sports, football is gonna be around for a long time. I mean, Call of Duty could come out–Call of Duty’s not a great example. But Pub G comes out, they may have a five year lifespan, and then they’re going to be gone. And just realizing that and understanding that we have to build a system that allows for new games to basically be plugged into eFuse so those gamers that are translating into those new games can still have value on our site. So we absolutely think about it. The way we want it to be portrayed and the way we’ve tried to build eFuse is it’s truly for the gamers, and it’s a centralized place of truth. So if you come to us, no matter if you’re a Smash player or your Call of Duty, you know that you’re going to get value and you’re gonna have the ability to network with those communities in one centralized place.

Eric Hornung 39:17
What is the breakdown of games that are on eFuse right now?

Matthew Benson 39:20
So right now we have we have three implemented, we’re trying to implement one a week, which is Shuff, our CTO is, is trying very hard to do that. And I’m pushing him hard to do that. And it’s a great conversation for us to have because one of the things that’s cool, just a side note, is trying to identify what’s the most important game and trying to basically make a decision on what’s the next evolution or what’s the next momentum swing. So just a side there. But yeah, so current breakdown of the games on the platform, we have three currently League of Legends, CS Go, and Fortnite.

Jay Clouse 39:47
You mentioned earlier this problem of, Yeah, you might have your League of Legends stats, you might have your Fortnite stats, you don’t have kind of a centralized place to show those things off. If I am looking to connect a gamer to an opportunity where I am a team, sort of like a amateur team or a professional team, how many of them are looking for a portfolio of games, I don’t understand the landscape versus just saying, like, we do League of Legends and we crush that.

Matthew Benson 40:10
When you’re talking about competitively, it’s absolutely that I mean, they want, you could, you could maybe back up a little bit and say outside of Call of Duty, you want to do first person shooters, but it’s usually silent into a specific game when they’re recruiting for teams or things like that. I think it’ll become more and more important to be really good at first person shooters. So as those games rotate, you’ll be able to translate into new games. And same with other genres. But I think the big value add, as far as eFuse goes, is we’re creating that holistic portfolio that’s not just the games itself, but it’s also your socials. It’s also the demographic data. It’s also the education data. So putting those four pieces together in one holistic portfolio, that’s what’s important.

Eric Hornung 40:47
How open are like Twitch and Mixer and YouTube to actually collaborating with you guys?

Matthew Benson 40:53
So I would say they’re fairly open because we’re not trying to step on their toes in the sense we don’t want to be the entertainment platform. That’s, again, we want to be, we don’t want to be the sexy side of Esports maybe;; we want to be more on the, the infrastructure side actually facilitating those collaborations. So for them having their profiles and their accounts linked on, on eFuse is important because it’s showcasing that okay, this streame’rs on Twitch, this streamer’s on Mixer. They want to have that that prowess in the industry and represented across the board.

Eric Hornung 41:19
I watched my brother’s stream when I was back for Christmas and like the quickness which with you can just like share a clip is wild on Twitch. Just like a couple keystrokes, and all of a sudden, he shared it to a bunch of socials and stuff. Is that, is eFuse that like in workflow for all three of those? In workflow’s a very corporate term for a gaming site, I’m aware.

Matthew Benson 41:40
Yeah, so we don’t have that ability to share directly from Twitch yet. We do plug in with them. So if you are streaming live on Twitch, you can see that live stream on eFuse. If you have clips on Twitch, you can represent those on eFuse. So basically, we’re creating that account linking, and then it’s up to you to dependent, you should come to us to pull on what you’d like. Eventually we’d love to get to that point where you’re sharing on eFuse us as well. Again, we’re not about making that content, like we don’t want to, we don’t to take users away from Twitch and have them create content on eFand then share that out. We’re happy to have twitch content display on eFuse, because that’s part of the portfolio.

Jay Clouse 42:12
I know this is early. So this data is probably a little skewed. But how easy has it been to find opportunities or recruiters and get them on the platform? And do you anticipate long sales cycles for that type of thing?

Matthew Benson 42:25
Yeah, so we have been extremely fortunate to have really quick turnarounds on conversations like that and partnerships like that, primarily because I believe we have a superior product to everything that’s out there, and this is a problem that they’re currently having. So it’s something that they’re wanting to take a shot on. And again, the way we’re approaching our conversations is so value at first, we’re not, we’re not charging people to come on the site, we want them to create this ecosystem. And then when that monetization comes, it’ll come. But yeah, I mean, we’ve, we’ve had a lot of success in just building relationships with teams, with organizations, with publishers, with gamers all across the board. It’s been really great.

Jay Clouse 42:58
You mentioned that the these opportunities right now are so disparate, and it’s hard to find where they are, whether it’s scholarships or jobs. Existing in the marketplace right now, are there enough opportunities to sustain an eFuse if you brought everything together? Or do you need to start creating more opportunities to match the demand of the users on the platform?

Matthew Benson 43:16
No, I think there are absolutely enough opportunities in the industry today to fulfill that supply need, or that demand need, rather. So obviously, we would love for the industry to continue to grow, we think it will grow, and more and more opportunities are going to be developed because of that, whether it’s on the event production and jobs or developing games or even playing. Those opportunities going to, are going to continue arise as long as the industry rises as well. We like to say rising tide raises all ships.

Jay Clouse 43:39
One last question from me. Over the next six months, you know, as you’re going through this beta phase, what is the most crucial element to go right for you guys to emerge out of this beta phase and feel like okay, we’ve got a healthy marketplace on both sides now?

Matthew Benson 43:54
I think it is our ability to listen extremely intently. And then act as quickly as possible. Our iteration from a tech standpoint–where we’re at today is not where we want to be in two months. It’s not if we want to be long term. We have to iterate quickly, we have to build more features and functions, we’ve got to add more games, we’ve got to do a lot. But what we’ve been very fortunate to have is an extremely talented engineering team. A lot of young, talented engineers, but also our CTO, Patrick Shuff, comes from Facebook and Netflix, has great experience and can lead us in that direction and build out a team that’s really strong. So for us, it’s iterating quickly, and then more so falling on me is we’ve got to get user acquisition. So through our partnerships with influencers, with these corporations, it’s got to be eFise is the centralized ecosystem point. And they have to buy into that. So it’s user acquisition and iterating quickly on tech.

Eric Hornung 44:43
If people want to find out more about you or eFuse, where should they go?

Matthew Benson 44:46
We are eFuse official on all socials. My social is Matthew J. Benson everywhere. Follow us on eFuse. MJB eFuse verified account. Be sure to check us out there obviously. A lot of our content is going to be pushed there first, and then we’ll display all of our other socials. But really appreciate you guys having me on. I’ve been listening for a while now and wanted to get this done, but it’s been great. And we’re really excited about 2020 and excited to continue to grow.

Jay Clouse 45:11
Yeah, enjoy the rest of your CES.

Matthew Benson 45:13
Thank you, sir.

Jay Clouse 45:18
All right, Eric. Good game. We just spoke with Matt Benson of eFuse. Not funny? Not even a titter.

Eric Hornung 45:24
I wanted to chuckle but at the same time, like, come on, man, it’s a little early for upon in the outro.

Jay Clouse 45:30
Yeah, you’re right. That should have been a sign off. Anyway, we talked to Matt Benson, the founder and CEO of eFuse. Where do you want to start this deal memo?

Eric Hornung 45:37
Let’s talk about the founder. When we look at Matt, he, obviously he’s very driven. He’s younger than a lot of the founders we’ve had on recently. I don’t think that’s a negative thing by any means. But usually, in these interviews, we have a little bit more depth to the background, versus I went to college, did this thing with an internship, and now I have a company. Again, nothing wrong with that. It’s just a different kind of founder than we’ve had on probably in the last six to eight months here

Jay Clouse 46:05
Some bullet point very impressive characteristics about Matt to me. He had a little bit of entrepreneurship in his childhood, which is always a good sign.

Eric Hornung 46:13
You love that.

Jay Clouse 46:14
Love that. But what really impressed me even more, sure, he had an internship and then a job with a venture firm out of college. That’s also uncharacteristic. But in starting this company, he is a non-technical founder who raised a million and a half dollars for a gaming company in Ohio without a technical founder on the team. Since their launch, they have built these relationships that Matt spoke to several times the interview, which really to me, more than anything else, speaks to going out and selling, like selling the idea, selling the vision of this thing, and talking to, you know, as he referred to, sort of gods and godfathers of this industry. That’s an intimidating thing to do for any founder, let alone a young first time founder who is not technical in a world that is full of tech. You know? So all of those things speak really well to me. Not to mention he pulled in a CTO with a background in Facebook and Netflix. Like, there are few people that could come in and have the experience that Shuff, is the CTO’s name, could have. He’s built it from the ground up. He’s raised money in the Midwest. He has gotten the product now into the market. Still early days. But those things were very impressive characteristics to me about Matt.

Eric Hornung 47:32
Yeah. And looking past the founder, I think when we talk about things that are impressive. I was on Twitter, I was one of the first people to sign up for us. So I was in that kind of initial beta launch, because I wanted to see what the product was like, I wanted to see what it was all about. And on Twitter, there were a lot of people saying, Man, you can’t get into eFuse, I want to get in, I’m on the waitlist, I want to get in, I’m pissed off that they wanted to get into eFuse. And that’s the, I know that it’s not great when people aren’t happy right away. But that’s the kind of demand that is out there for this. And that’s the kind of, kind of sentiment I was seeing on Twitter. I think that’s a really good thing.

Jay Clouse 48:07
Yeah. And, you know, full disclosure, I got into the beta too, early. Shuff sent me a link, and he was like, let me know the feedback. Be brutal. And I said, All right, I’ll be brutal. So I literally did a loom video recording of my entire, like, entry experience. And as you know, Matt noted, I got in there, and I’m facing my profile. I’m just like, Okay, what do I do next? You know, like it was, it was clearly a first swipe at this. And like, if you filled everything out, it looks beautiful. But coming in, I was a little intimidated, like, what do I do with this platform? What’s the most important action for me to take? How will I like have this magic moment of saying like, Damn, because I’m on this platform, this thing happened. How do you get there? And so it’s really encouraging to hear, you know, he noted specifically, listening intently and iterating on the technology quickly. For me as a user that would have been, or is, very important because, you know, I got Internet said so now what? But I like that they’re getting out there sooner rather than later, I like they’re building this anticipation that you’re talking about. And they’re doing it, their their go to market is pretty unique, too, it seems. You know, it’s, it’s definitely in the circles they need to be in because I’m not seeing these tweets because frankly, I’m just not really in their target audience. But you know, to see some of the gamers coming on and putting it into their feeds that I’ve seen him put on Instagram because that’s where I’m at, they’re probably on TickTock, and I just don’t know how to TickTock. Yeah, it seems promising, their go to market. The shadow that I have is, it’s a marketplace. It’s tough to build both sides of the marketplace. I don’t know what the magic moment is to being connected with opportunity. Is it just enough to engage with other people on the platform? Maybe if it’s being connected to a job or a scholarship, that’s going to be a tough side of the marketplace to build up and get people to stick around.

Eric Hornung 49:53
So I think that there’s a lot of opportunity here, and that seems like the first kind of product of the marketplace. I see it more as like a, you can call it a vertical marketplace, you can call it a vertical social network or whatever you want to call it. It’s a vertical. And that seems to be one of the trends that’s emerging in at least like VC thought leadership right now. And when I think about like this vertical, and I think about the numbers that we got from Josh, from Convoy, I believe it was, there’s 2 billion gamers in the world. And not all of them are going to have a professional network or whatever, that they want to be on eFuse. A lot of them are just playing Candy Crush on their phone or whatever. But there is…

Jay Clouse 50:33
3 billion.

Eric Hornung 50:34
3 billion gamers. So it’s a very large vertical and growing.

Jay Clouse 50:39
And he had the same number in, in our conversation as well as 140 is, 140 colleges offering Esports programs. Yeah, it’s, it’s definitely a wild west to me, and we’re starting get some more data points. I’m starting to understand it more. But intuitively, it makes sense that if there are opportunities, and there’s no way to access them that simple, I mean, even going all the way back to our time. versation with Greg of Kaleidoscope, you know, when he was building this common app for scholarships, this common app idea, this place where it’s like, All right, we’ve aggregated the opportunities here, come here and get it. It makes intuitive sense. There’s precedent, it exists. It sounds like they’re a first mover in the space, and they’re getting a lot of support from people that matter. To me, that’s, that’s huge. That is something that because there’s precedent, because it makes intuitive sense that there will be an aggregator here and because the aggregator that does win will have inherent network effect, it sounds like a bet that I’m not surprised people are taking, even if it is a company in the Midwest in a space that’s dominated on the coasts.

Eric Hornung 51:38
Less interesting than the opportunity for the talent pipeline to me is the third business model that he mentioned. Sorry, did I say less interesting? This business models more interesting to me. So I’m not sure if I said that right. And that’s the idea of essentially playing agent for everybody who is on eFuse to connect them with brands and taking a cut of that. I think that is potentially a massive revenue market, because if you look at…there wasn’t a platform like this for YouTubers. But every YouTuber had to negotiate with the different people that wanted to place products, that wanted to put banner ads, that wanted to do all of this stuff. Same with goes with podcasting, there’s no, there’s no eFuse for podcaster, there’s no use for YouTubers, but there is an eFuse for gamers. And eventually when brands do want to go find the targeted audience, the superstars, the streamers, the Esports players that they want to sponsor, that can be a massive, massive market.

Jay Clouse 52:34
Well, the interesting thing is, the insight that is kind of, I guess, presumed, and maybe it’s worth looking at, is that LinkedIn can’t be the eFuse of gaming, or that LinkedIn is in eFuse of podcasting. It could be, but the insight that Matt said was gamers are not going on LinkedIn because it doesn’t fit their culture. So that’s, that’s an assumption or at least a theory that probably holds some weight. I certainly don’t have anything to combat that. But that’s a key insight that exists in gaming that probably doesn’t exist in podcasting. Like podcasters are probably using just LinkedIn for a similar capacity. And if that’s the case, you know, really toeing the line to creating a LinkedIn-like experience that’s not a LinkedIn-like experience is probably pretty difficult. And again, that’s why, you know, it’s awesome to hear that he’s rooted in customer and user feedback, iterating quickly, building the technology to support it. Yeah, I would just guess that, at this point, you know, if this is a real need, they’re going to be other eFuse attempts, and there probably are right now. So they’ve got to take their first, first mover advantage and really build quickly, or build and not even just the technology, but these relationships that he’s building that’s going to be really, really key for you know, getting people on the platform and being that de facto aggregator for this opportunity.

Eric Hornung 53:55
Do you believe that eSports is going to be as big as people think it’s going to be?

Jay Clouse 53:59
Man, hard to say, what’s the most recent sport that got huge? You know, he talked about football, basketball, these things have been around for a long time. What’s like the most modern, non Esport?

Eric Hornung 54:15
Probably lacrosse.

Jay Clouse 54:16
And even that isn’t like really mainstream. Yeah. Like you don’t watch that live. But the numbers that he shared with us, you know, the stat of that League of Legends championship had more viewership than the NBA Finals, Major League Baseball, MLS. It expands borders, you know, like we talked about with Josh on his episode with Convoy. It’s interesting because there isn’t like this natural geographic tribalism you build around it. So long non-answer to your question, the answer that I would say is, I do think it’ll be that big because I think you’re already seeing those numbers. I think it has to cross a little bit of a chasm yet to be accessible to people who don’t play, like there are people who have never played football who watched the NFL now. When do you get me excited about watching League of Legends even though I’ve never played it? It doesn’t matter, it probably doesn’t even matter, because if they’re already hitting these numbers, there’s already an audience there that’s going to support it. It seems like the answer is like it already is as big. What do you think?

Eric Hornung 55:11
I think it’s going to take a lot longer than people make it seem right now to be as big as people think it’s going to be.

Jay Clouse 55:20
Well, what is big mean? Is it viewership, is it dollars that the players are making? Like what?

Eric Hornung 55:25
Mindshare of culture? I think in the tech VC space, Esports has a pretty big mindshare, but if you talk to 1,000 everyday Americans, I would say most of them think Esports is a complete joke. So that mindshare is going to come with all those other numbers. And I think that’s the thing that really pushes it. When you say, okay, Jay, you’ve never played Fortnite, but would you watch the Wornite World Championships? Yyou might because you are in this podcast, and we talked about gaming, but would your dad? Would your mom? So I think that is just gonna take a while because there’s a lot of people who just never come up with this experience. Like even when I was in college, online gaming was like, new when we were in college. Modern Warfare 2, like playing online, that was like, cool and awesome. But it wasn’t like it is now where it’s competitive, and there’s streaming, and there’s this whole kind of entertainment aspect around it.

Jay Clouse 56:17
But you know, in this context of what each of us is trying to do, it almost doesn’t matter because they’re doing an infrastructure play.

Eric Hornung 56:22
I agree.

Jay Clouse 56:23
And so the numbers that already exists for the hardcore fans that are the early adopters and really care about the space and know about the space already, like, it may not need to get big for this opportunity big. If you’re betting on like, a professional Esports team, that’s a different story, you know, or if you’re building a stadium that’s going to like showcase Esports, that’s a different story. But it sounds like, you know, I asked a very pointed question to Matt of is there enough opportunity in this space on the supply side to make this a successful venture bankable business right now. And he said right now I think yes, it’s just disparate. So if that is true, then, in the context of this opportunity, it doesn’t matter.

Eric Hornung 57:02
Awesome. Well, I think we both see this as a big opportunity. Great founder, great team. And regardless of what we think or would watch or wouldn’t watch, there are thousands of people signing up for their beta. So there’s definitely some momentum here. Jay, our last question, what do you want to see from us in the next 6 to 18 months?

Jay Clouse 57:23
I want to see user retention. And I want to better understand what creates that retention. You know, I don’t doubt that they’ll continue to get users, first time users onto the platform, because it seems like they have a really good approach rooted in partnerships and people that have that audience. But to me, I’m curious if retention will come down to these opportunities or if it is enough just to have these social interactions. There’s precedent on things like Twitter that, or TickTock, or Instagram, all these things that maybe that interaction is enough, but I feel like that’s also kind of assuming that you can have the interaction there and nowhere else. Could be true. I want to see it play out. Yeah, so retention, understanding what’s driving that, and understanding what needs to be true of the opportunity side of the marketplace to keep that healthy. How about you?

Eric Hornung 58:09
I want to see growth, I just want to see user growth. Retention is going to come with time as they iterate and learn and AV test and they get more people sending them brutal loom videos. But the growth side of things, I think, is the most important in these next, probably 6 to 18 months. You want more and more people coming on, being aware of it. Obviously, you want them to have a good experience the first time they’re on. But if there is only a small core, and the growth slows in these next 6 to 18 months, then that’s less interesting from a indication of the opportunity perspective. So I think they have a lot of really interesting things that they can do that a lot of businesses don’t have the opportunity to do. They can go on to people’s Twitch streams, they can…a lot of the things that are native to Esports gaming and streaming, they have very different go to market and marketing channels than maybe your traditional business does. So I think that that growth can happen fast, and it can happen in a way that is explosive. And then they can work out their retention stuff as as that growth kind of happens. So.

Jay Clouse 59:11
All right, well, we’d love to hear what you think about this episode. You can tweet at us as always @upsideFM or email us hello@upside.fm. We want to talk to some more gaming companies and maybe even just some more gamers. So if someone comes to mind that’s deep in the industry that we should talk to, reach out, send us an email hello@upside.fm. Otherwise, we’ll talk to you next week.

Interview starts: 7:22
Debrief starts: 45:18

Matthew Benson is the founder and CEO of eFuse, a new platform used to connect anyone in or interested in the gaming world to other opportunities, talent, and people in the Esports community. Sort of like a LinkedIn for gamers, eFuse allows members to compile their stats into one portfolio and create connections as they search for professional and collegiate gaming possibilities.

Prior to founding eFuse, Matthew worked for the Ohio Innovation Fund shortly after college. He had the idea for eFuse while in school and is now celebrating the company’s two-month beta launch.

We discuss:

  • AD: Finding experienced employees for your new business with Integrity Power Search (5:54)
  • Matt’s background (7:22,11:23)
  • Cluster class at OU and idea for eFuse (9:28, 14:52)
  • Problems eFuse is solving (18:57)
  • Talent scouts for eFuse (21:31)
  • Professional vs. collegiate opportunities (23:13)
  • Aging gaming demographics (26:20)
  • Beta launch (27:46)
  • Building relationships (29:25)
  • Potential users (31:20)
  • Measuring the marketplace and game distribution (36:00)
  • Interactions with Twitch, Mixer, and YouTube (40:47)
  • Will opportunities in gaming always exist? (42:58)

Learn more about eFuse: https://efuse.gg/
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This episode is sponsored by Integrity Power Search, the #1 full stack high growth startup recruiting firm between the coasts. They partner with venture capitalists, private equity groups and CEOs to build amazing teams for the world’s most disrupting companies.

Learn more about or get in touch with Integrity Power Search: https://upside.fm/integrity