How to Start an Esports Team
Written By: Hauk Nelson
An Interview with Disrupt Gaming Founder Mark Flood
Mark Flood is a serial entrepreneur based in Austin, Texas. A lifelong gamer, his latest project is Disrupt Gaming, a leading esports organization. Disrupt Gaming fields teams in Rainbow Six: Siege and Tekken, and also features multiple streamers. This interview covers his start in esports and what it’s like to be the owner of an esports organization. To read more of Mark’s writing, you can visit his Substack page.
Hi Mark! Thank you for being here with us today. Could you introduce yourself and Disrupt Gaming?
I’m Mark Flood, AKA “cashflo.” I’m a 90’s kid…we used to have a messaging platform called AIM…the handles were always ridiculous like “volleyballchick95”…I just never got rid of mine.
I’m the CEO of Disrupt Gaming, an esports organization. We incorporated in 2018 and have been primarily focused on Rainbow Six Siege. We create loads of content and drive killer results for our brand partners.
How did your career bring you to esports?
In 2016, I left Yodle after it was acquired by web.com. I was the CTO and co-Founder for a sports betting start up called WagerWall. It was basically a peer-to-peer betting platform. The legal hassle of all the different state regulations was too much for us to deal with. We asked ourselves “what could we take this software to?” Gaming! We swapped out the name “Wager” for “Gamer” and we were off to the races. GamerWall had a few iterations from peer-to-peer betting platform all the way to a white labeled tournament hosting service. In late 2017-early 2018 we were acquired by Mainline.GG.
No joke, the same day, I had already started my next project, which was OriginGG. A website builder for esports teams…think Shopify but SPECIFICALLY for esports. Through OriginGG I interacted with a TON of esports teams and got to peek under the hood of their business operations. It didn’t take long for me to realize that the vast majority of esports teams are run by, shall we say, inexperienced people. I had kept in touch with a co-worker from GamerWall and long time college friend, Cliff, and I told him, “Dude, I think we’d have an immediate advantage over 99% of these teams.” A few days later we rounded up some capital and Disrupt Gaming was born.
What does a typical day look like for you as the founder of an esports team?
Oh man. One thing I’ll probably mention again is that esports is really young, especially in terms of how to run a business in it. Because of this, I do a ton of different things. On any given day I may be:
- Sending 20-30 outreaches to potential brand partners
- Sending 20-30 outreaches to potential principle investors
- Optimizing analytics for our social media channels
- Editing videos
- Editing photos
- Working with editors who are also making videos
- Making sure our creators and players are on top of their obligations
- Writing long form newsletters or updates
- Doing a VOD review of a competitive match
- Working with our coaches on gameplans
Sheesh – I’m tired just reading this….there is never nothing to do.
What are some of the challenges you face as an esports organization?
In regards to Disrupt Gaming specifically, our challenges are really the same as any other start up. Can we generate more revenue than we burn and can we do it before we run out of cash? We are incredibly efficient. Some of our immediate competitors have outspent us by 10-20x but only output a fraction of the results.
We know what our product is and who we sell it to. We’ve got incredible testimonials from our brand partners and will continue to build solid case-studies.
How has running an esports team changed since you started Disrupt Gaming?
A lot. I’d say one of the largest errors our competitors make is investing too many dollars into being cool. Surprise…that’s not really a business model. We used to be like that too. You want to spend your cash (oxygen) to generate publicity. This can be from signing folks to the organization, adding new competitive teams, spending a ton on content, etc. However none of those things are “dollar in/dollar out”. Most things aren’t, but trying to “be cool” is really far away from it and the esports graveyard is completely covered with teams who blew through too much cash trying to keep up with the Jones’.
To tie that back to the question, we are much more focused now. At the beginning we had so many people and were trying to do too many things. Fighting games, Call of Duty, Gears of War… we thought we were “doing what esports teams are supposed to do” but..surprise again… following what a crowd does generally isn’t a great practice.
What’s your next big goal for Disrupt Gaming?
Turning this into a sustainable and profitable business. I could tell you that our goal is to win a Siege championship (it is) but what people don’t understand is that does not necessarily create a real business. Winning championships will be a function of us running a successful business. You can’t win championships if your team disappears.
We’d also like to find solid brand partners (our customers) to build long term relationships with who want to grow in the gaming space with us.
What are the biggest problems facing the esports industry today?
On the macro level, even though esports feels like it’s fully mainstream and widely adopted – that’s not really the case. I’ve been hearing “people watch other people play video games?” for five years now. Until this hits a point of inflection, it will be a bit of a headwind. In addition to that, as an ecosystem, there is no set way to monetize. Despite tons of people watching and engaging with esports, the ways in which teams monetize have not been optimized. I’ve got some ideas on how that will play out but there is no paved path.
Any closing thoughts?
Gaming isn’t what it used to be. Internet infrastructure has allowed for a level of collaboration that did not exist previously. This means that a kid in small town Nebraska who is too small to play football, can gain access to communities and skill building that would be nearly impossible for him to get in his hometown. Teamwork, communication, EQ…all of these are necessary to excel at the highest level of today’s competitive games. Add to this that you can make a pretty cool career for yourself and it’s obvious that the old stigmas of gamers need to be put to bed. Playing a competitive game is a FAR BETTER brain exercise than sitting on the couch watching Real Housewives. If you’ve got kids who are gamers, do your job as a parent and make sure it’s not a bad habit (same signals as any other bad habit) and instead of fighting against the current, maybe join them!
Be sure to cheer on Disrupt Gaming as they compete in the Rainbow Six Siege: US Division, the top American league for Rainbow Six. You can also read more of Mark’s writing here. To learn more about Rainbow Six, you can read our primer here.