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Esports to surpass traditional sports, 500 Startups invests in ESPL

A grassroots approach to nurturing a new generation of gamers.

Credit: ESPL

Esports has moved on from buzzword to mainstream — the segment has been forecasted to surpass all popular traditional sports but the NFL in the U.S. by 2021, according to a study by Syracuse University.

Credit: Syracuse University

On the viewership front, last year’s ‘League of Legends’ Championship drew in more than 100 million viewers, including a peak of 44 million concurrent viewers, during the competition’s final round on November 10.

The Super Bowl, synonymous with star-studded half-time shows and sold-out stadiums, had just over 98 million viewers last year, the smallest viewership number for the event since 2008.

What about its revenue? Numbers have exceeded $1 billion and if the incline persists, it could total $2.3 billion by the end of 2022, surpassing big players like Formula One and the UEFA Champions League, Green Man Gaming points out.

Credit: Green Man Gaming

Much of what contributes to this growth is believed to be the amateur leagues across countries. Like most sports, they serve to help the local talent pool thrive, equipping gamers with adequate tools, and resources before promoting them to an international stage.

Esports Players League (ESPL) thinks the future of esports lies at the grassroots level and the Singapore-headquartered company plans to tackle it head-on through a structured ecosystem.

Michael Broda (L) and Lau Kin Wai (R) /Credit: Dean Takahashi

ESPL is founded by Michael Broda and Lau Kin Wai. Michael was previously the CEO of eSports.com, a German esports content website. Under Michael’s leadership, the site forged partnerships with German soccer clubs Borussia Dortmund and FC Köln.

Kin Wai is a serial entrepreneur who has built companies across internet media, software, and biotech. He’s also the chairman of iCandy Interactive, an Australia-listed games publishing company.

While headquartered in Singapore, ESPL has 14 team members across locations in the US, Europe, and Asia.

Their approach: Equipping amateur gamers with the right tools and opportunities for success. One of which is creating an open, online environment where gamers can train and compete on a micro-level before they graduate to a grander offline setting.

Photo by Sean Do on Unsplash

According to ESPL, it doubles down on hyper-local tournaments, adopting a licensing model where it works exclusively with one partner in the country it plans to enter. The partners will then receive help in the form of branding, proprietary technological tools, and entry to global competitions. They’ve already yielded franchise partnership agreements in Southeast Asia and Latin America.

Photo by Stem List on Unsplash

ESPL has also secured its first media partnership with eGG Network, the largest esports TV network in Southeast Asia and Australia boasting a reach of 100 million TV audiences. More tie-ups are in the works.

The first ESPL season is planned to run from April to November 2020, with official details about the tournaments and locations to be announced soon.

Follow ESPL on Facebook, Twitter, and its official website for future updates.


500 Startups is a venture capital firm on a mission to discover and back the world’s most talented entrepreneurs, help them create successful companies at scale, and build thriving global ecosystems. In Southeast Asia, 500 Startups invests through the pioneering 500 Durians family of funds. The 500 Durians funds have backed over 200 companies across multiple sectors from internet to consumer to deep technology. It continues to connect founders with capital, expertise and powerful regional and global networks to help them succeed.

This post is intended solely for general informational or educational purposes only. 500 Startups Management Company, L.L.C. and its affiliates (collectively “500 Startups”) makes no representation as to the accuracy or information in this post and while reasonable steps have been taken to ensure that the information herein is accurate and up-to-date, no liability can be accepted for any error or omissions. All third party links in this post have not been independently verified by 500 Startups and the inclusion of such links should not be interpreted as an endorsement or confirmation of the content within. Information about portfolio companies’ markets, competitors, performance, and fundraising has been provided by those companies’ founders and has not been independently verified.

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