Ever wondered how some of the most prolific esports organizations got their start? KontrolFreek had the opportunity to speak with Atle Stehouwer, CEO and founder of Copenhagen-based organization Team Singularity. Founded in 2016 with a modest investment, the team has gone on to grow into an esports powerhouse over the last five years, having secured many championships and accolades throughout the esports field.
What motivated you to start an esports organization? What were some of Team Singularity’s initial goals?
The fuel for the start of Team Singularity was a dream of starting and co-owning a sports club of the future, and creating a space full of potential where I could make the most of my skill set and time.
The decision to go into a new industry like esports in 2015 was made with a nice blend of calculated and reasonable dreams, hopes, ambitions and hard work.
I’ve always been intrigued by sports organizations, but also been well aware that it was a money game that I couldn’t and never would be able to afford playing.
I’ve been a gamer and active sports guy for as far as I can remember, and back in the last half of 2015 I could see that esports started making some small waves in the ocean. As I’ve been an entrepreneur in various industries, ever since starting my first company on my 18th’s birthday,, I’m always looking for timing and potential, and back in the end of 2015, after having done due diligence, I started a test organization to test various thesis I had in regard to the industry and the people operating in it. Half a year later, I founded Team Singularity together with three partners.
The goal in Team Singularity has always been the same, which is to prove that it’s possible to make a good and sustainable business centered around being the global leading esports talent incubator.
What are some challenges you were up against when starting out? Are there any you continue to experience even many years into your tenure?
The company has had a colorful rollercoaster ride of ups and downs since the start, and I feel that we’ve been through most of the startup challenges that you will always face when starting something from the grassroots with a humble start capital. The company was founded on a $20,000 initial investment: this has, without a doubt, been the biggest challenge throughout the period as there’s been a need to have various investment rounds, and the knights around the board table have been changed multiple times to keep putting the company in a better position to reach its potential.
Esport never sleeps, as it’s ever-changing, and the industry is one big wild west to operate still. Even though the industry has matured heavily over the last five years, there are still many things in need of structure before there will be a transparent playing field.
Why is content creation such a big part of Team Singularity, and was it always your vision to create a team that did both content and competition?
To be honest, I feel like we still have a long way to go in regard to our content creators and streamers, but we are slowly but surely developing day after day and structuring better.
Content creation has always been a part of the ‘game’ as esports is an entertainment industry in many aspects, but it wasn’t part of our business plan or thoughts as we founded the company.
What is the meaning behind the name Singularity?
Choosing the name for your organization/ club has many aspects involved and when I decided the name I had the following checklist:
- The name need to sound futuristic/ digital
- The name should be widely available throughout social media and web
- Potential relevance in future society by meaning
I was inspired by an Elon Musk interview where he was talking about the future and his worries/ fears, where he mentioned “the singularity,” which I thought had just the right sexy futuristic ring to it that I had been looking for.
There are various meanings of the word, but from the inspiration I took from Mr. Musk, the meaning is basically a term used to describe ‘the end of the world’ as AI surpasses human beings as the smartest and most capable life forms on the planet.
What was the first esport Team Singularity competed in and why?
Our DNA started in CS:GO as it’s without a doubt the biggest game title in the country of our origin, Denmark.
What experience in esports did you have before creating Team Singularity? Did your past experience help?
I had zero experience in esports prior to starting Team Singularity, other than the experience I had gained throughout the 5 months of operating a test organization prior to the launch of Team Singularity.
But before entering esports I had been running my own companies, and had been a part of many other startups for about 10 years which allowed me to develop a unique skill set that now helps me navigate matters where I don’t necessarily have a solid footing or deep, extensive knowledge.
Did you have investors from the start or did you have to go out and secure funding? What was that process like, and did you have any help finding investors?
Yes, I had passive investors sitting with me around the funding table back in 2016, but I used my own private funds to run the test organization prior to the launch of Team Singularity.
The investors were part of my personal network, and as Team Singularity had a very humble beginning then I believe both the passive investors saw the potential and decided that it was a fun ‘lottery ticket’ as a hobby investment.
What is your advice to anyone looking to start an esports team?
- Make a clear business plan before start
- Be realistic not optimistic
- Be ready for an ever changing and developing market that never sleep
- Work hard > play hard
- Expect the unexpected
Anything you would like to highlight?
Shortly before Christmas, Team Singularity officially launched our academy, which is open to everyone and gives a clear path to pro for aspiring talents. Anyone can join our academy program here: https://sng.pluck.gg/
Our official academy was developed together with tech company Pluck.gg throughout 2020. The academy is currently only offering a possibility for Fortnite players to join and grind, but within the first quarter of 2021 we will open our academy doors for: FIFA, Rocket League, CS:GO, League of Legends, Call of Duty Warzone, APEX Legends, PUBG, Valorant, Rainbow Six Siege, Dota 2, Overwatch, Hearthstone and Starcraft 2.
The intention of launching the Team Singularity academy is to offer aspiring talents a very clear path from being unknown talent to get offered a PRO contract purely on behalf of their skills and not because of their social media metrics.
The launch of our academy is the first milestone on our new talent development roadmap, and we at Team Singularity are super excited for 2021 to start, so we can show the world why Team Singularity is one of the leading talent incubators in the world of esports and gaming.
Together with Pluck we have been able to create an academy structure never seen before in the world of esports as AI and ML is well integrated to give both players and Team Singularity detailed stats not normally accessible, and to measure player skill level on a new unique performance metric, while highlighting good and bad gaming habits in real-time for the user through live notifications and with comparison between professional players and academy members gaming habits.
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