I started an esports organization, Team Elemental, with my co-founder Bao Lam this month. Team Elemental is the parent company to four teams, each focusing on a different esports game. Our first team, Ember is focused on League of Legends.
As we started to think about the culture we wanted to instill in our team, we thought a lot about what we believe in and what we don’t. One story that really resonated with us was the rehabilitation of Michael Phelps.
The story arc of Phelps goes from prodigy to brilliance to legend. He won 18 gold medals and 22 medals overall from 2004 to 2012. The story then turns from celebrity to negative lifestyle choices (excessive drinking and gambling) to a wake up moment, when Phelps received a DUI.
The story ends with Phelps being stronger than ever after gaining the discipline to train smart and hard and getting his personal life in order. In essence — better humans become better athletes.
Here are our core values:
#1 — We believe that better humans become better athletes.
It is widely acknowledged that the best players in League of Legends are from South Korea. Therefore, it came as no surprise when one of our players requested that we bring the team to bootcamp in Korea. His logic: play against the best players in the world to get better. You can only compete against others or against yourself. While both have value, we prefer to focus on competing against ourselves.
This is why we spend a lot of our time analyzing gameplay footage, reviewing our mistakes and successes, and challenging our players to understand the why rather than the what. Using a sports analogy, we think our players’ time is better spent getting incrementally better by playing against opponents with similar skill levels and understanding the context of the match rather than playing against and getting lit up by Serena Williams for two weeks straight.
DHH sums it up best:
Competition with others is the direct cultivation of stress and paranoia. The only competition I’ve come to love is the one against myself, and that’s not really a competition, now is it? The progress of betterment. Playing your part to the best of your abilities in a beautiful whole.
Some time later, I interviewed a candidate for our head coach position and I asked him why we should hire him. He answered because he will dedicate his entire life to our team, including not spending time with his girlfriend. Unfortunately, this is not a joke, it is quite prevalent in esports.
Why? Because esports has become yet another industry where winning is the only thing that matters, at the expense of everything else. We want to win too, but we disagree with that approach. We think that by living a fulfilling life, which includes having loving relationships, will enable — not hinder — our players and staff in becoming better athletes, coaches, leaders, and above all, humans.
What makes a good life? According to a 75-year-old study on that very topic, it is good, close relationships that keep us happier and healthier. It is easy to think fame, wealth, or high achievement will make us happy. Of course I believed in that as well. Yet, when I look back on my own life, it is my close relationships that protected me during my trials and tribulations. And my triumphs and successes were never complete without my close relationships.
We believe in family, friends, lovers, and community.
#2 — We believe in fostering regional talent.
And regional to us means North America. Part of developing a sport is to invest in youth development. Who is responsible for that in esports? The leagues? The teams? The game developers? Nobody really knows. What we do know is that we are going to be a part of the solution.
That is why we decided against purchasing a LCS slot directly. We would rather invest in the challenger scene and work with regional players who want the opportunity to compete at the highest level of esports.
Why? Because we have pride in our region, in our countries, and in our talent. Made in NA 🇺🇸 🇨🇦. That’s something we believe in and we are putting our money on it.
#3 — We believe in transparency.
In every other sport, we know how much players make. Stephen Curry signed a four-year deal worth $44 million with the Golden State Warriors. Tom Brady signed a three-year deal worth $27 million with the New England Patriots. Clayton Kershaw signed a seven-year deal worth $215 million with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Why are esports salaries so secretive?
The same reason why start-up employees don’t get to know company valuation or ownership percentage along with number of options or shares received. The same reason Jennifer Lawrence was underpaid compared to her male colleagues.
Companies have more leverage when there is information asymmetry. And that’s wrong. Last night, we shared our players’ salaries with each other. Today, we are going to share this information with the rest of the esports world so that players in CS and LCS are armed with some facts before their next negotiation.
It’s already working. This morning, one of our players called us to ask why he was being paid a certain amount versus another player. He listed some statistics about him, his win percent ratio, his KDA, etc. All great points and we are having an open discussion with him rather than keeping him in the dark.
It is especially important for esports players to have more information about salaries because they are putting their education on hold for an uncertain future.
Bonuses include sign-on and performance.
- Gleeb — $57,500 base, $15,000 in bonuses, total comp $72,500
- Contractz — $60,000 base, $10,000 in bonuses, total comp $70,000
- Goldenglue — $65,000 base, $27,000 in bonuses, total comp $92,000
- Solo — $65,000 base, $21,000 in bonuses, total comp $86,000
- Benjamin— $60,000 base, $15,000 in bonuses, total comp $75,000
We also provide housing, an office space, health care, and the comfort of receiving a steady, legitimate paycheck through payroll rather than getting money sent through Paypal and the player having to deal with the taxes themselves.
And we are transparent with our team beyond compensation. We share our Google Drive folders with all of our players, besides documents which have personally identifiable information (SSN).
Things are heating up at Ember 🔥🔥🔥
And we need your help, especially if you believe in what we believe in:
- that better humans become better athletes
- that an NA team will kiss the Summoner’s Cup within two years
- that radical transparency helps our team and the whole industry succeed
You agree? Awesome! Here are some roles we are trying to fill:
- We are always looking for help in the front office. If you have experience in coaching and youth development, please contact Bao via twitter @MBRBao.
- We are also looking for a videographer with experience creating engaging content on Snapchat and Vine based in LA.
- Finally, we are looking for someone with experience in designing women’s apparel and accessories. For these two roles, please contact me via twitter @notvert.
Last but not least, Merry Christmas 🎄🎄 from the Ember team! We invite you to enter our fan art contest for an all-expense paid day-trip to San Francisco to watch the 49ers game with our team at Levi’s Stadium on January 3rd, 2016. More details here.