Chicago Esports Spotlight: GGLeagues
Written By: Hauk Nelson
In Chicago Esports Spotlight, KemperLesnik interviews a leader of the Chicago-based esports startup community. This issue features Erich Bao, Founder and CEO of GGLeagues, a competitive platform for esports players of all skill levels.
Hi Erich! Thanks for taking the time to chat with us today. Tell us more about GGLeagues.
Thanks so much! GGLeagues is an esports management platform that specializes in working with organizations such as cities, park districts and schools to set up and run their community based esports leagues. We run leagues for thousands of players that are focused on allowing players to compete with their local community members. We love being able to use esports as a way of connecting players and building relationships.
Currently we are working with over 50 park districts and cities to run their local esports leagues, from youth to adult, and working with over 30 schools to run their intramural esports leagues.
What inspired you to come up with this idea? What pain point does your business solve?
I’ve been playing video games since I was 10 years old but realized that I have made remarkably few friends through gaming. At the same time, I’ve played in a lot of sports leagues and the best experiences were always with other people. It was such a great way to connect with other people and I thought, why can’t gaming accomplish that? So we set out to find a way to use gaming to help bring the community together and allow people to actually connect with one another through gaming.
As we have grown, we have realized that there are many partners in these cities, parks, and universities with a similar goal but they don’t necessarily know how to run an esports league. So now we are working with many of them to help them set up and run their esports leagues.
Would you mind sharing more about your background? What led you to esports and what kind of work were you doing previously?
I have been a gamer my whole life but never imagined my career would take me into esports. I actually started my career working in private equity but realized that I just wasn’t excited about the businesses that we were investing in. Due to that, I applied to go back to business school but before I could do that, I spent a year confounding a digital marketing startup and from there I was bit by the entrepreneurial bug. After that, I knew that building a business was what I was truly passionate about and began thinking about the major problems that I felt I could help solve. That is what led me to GGLeagues and esports as I felt that this was an area that I could really make a difference in. So once I arrived at Chicago Booth business school, I focused on how to get GGLeagues off the ground and start turning my vision into a reality.
How has it been working in the Chicago esports environment? How do you think it’s different than working in “esports hubs” such as Los Angeles or Dallas?
The Chicago esports environment has been amazing! We have met so many other people that are helping to establish and grow esports here. Sure we don’t have any of the name brand publishers, pro teams, or other infrastructure as some of the other hubs. But that has created an incredibly collaborative environment here where I think everyone recognizes that we are all working together to put Chicago on the map and build up esports here to rival anywhere else. There are some amazing schools, teams, and players here and with that spirit – we may not be an esports hub yet, but we will be soon!
On your website, GGLeagues has offered free 6 week intramural leagues for schools as a response to the pandemic. How has the response to that been?
We have been so humbled by the response to that. As you can imagine, so many people had their lives disrupted by the pandemic and we were just trying to do something that could help esports clubs and teams offer something for their communities. Not only did schools love the opportunity to have that, but we also were excited to see the interest from the players themselves as we had some schools with over 100 players signing up for their intramural esports leagues.
This has extended to the park districts that we have worked with as well. We have been lucky enough to work with some incredible communities and are working with more every day! Overall, the response and interest in these leagues has far exceeded what we could have imagined and we are glad that we are able to provide something that players have been able to enjoy and look forward to during the pandemic.
I get asked frequently, the pandemic has led to more people playing games right? And I don’t think that is necessarily accurate. I think those players and the community has been there all along, but now just happens to be the time for esports to shine!
What has it been like running a startup during the pandemic?
Luckily for us, esports is virtual and allows us to be less affected than many other businesses during the pandemic. On top of that, we have a fantastic team that has been able to do an incredible job despite the challenging circumstances.
Anything else you’d like to add?
We are looking to raise a seed round this summer and interested investors can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Finally, I would like to thank Hauk for allowing us to share our story about GGLeagues!
Thank you to Erich Bao for sharing his entrepreneurial story! For more information, you can visit GGLeagues at their website. Be sure to support esports in Chicago!