Ray Rath of Globalview Advisors attended Caltech Entrepreneurs Forum Event on e-Gaming and e-Sports: The Opportunities Abound held at Caltech’s Cahill Center for Astronomy and Astrophysics in Pasadena on Saturday, January 20, 2018. Speakers included Chris Heatherly, Executive Vice President of Worldwide Games and Digital Platforms for NBCUniversal Brand Development; Michael Brand, Director of e-Gaming at GameWorks Entertainment, LLC; Steve Viner, Co-Founder and CEO of Liquid Animation and Spunge Games; and David Mok, Director of Developer Partnerships at Skillz Inc.

Nothing in history has changed the way we live, work and play like the Internet. The rise in reliability of streaming video and access to high-speed internet has created a powerful new class of media consumers whose disruptive viewing habits are driving an innovative new market in the field of e-Gaming and e-Sports. Once dismissed as a fringe phenomenon, e-Gaming and e-Sports has quickly evolved and exploded in popularity through amateur online games and professional competitions where thousands of fans attend live events in arena-sized venues as millions of people watch online. A powerful and growing audience has emerged, signaling big changes for the Video Game and Sports Media industries, creating new opportunities for brand sponsorship, media rights, location-based entertainment, advertising and marketing. Caltech’s panel discussion provided the opportunity to hear from four e-gaming and e-sports pioneers and entrepreneurs for an insider’s look at this wildly expanding industry, how they started in the business, where are the current industry trends, and what opportunities are out there for game developers and entrepreneurs to enter the e-gaming and e-sports industry.

It was a great event. The speakers put forth clean, polished presentations, and the audience was genuinely engaged by asking all sorts of interesting questions, with typical curiosities about the scale of operations and the speaker’s leadership positions, as well as inquiring about cryptocurrency, fantasy sports, and how those might fit into the business model.

The panel was brought together with the diverse group of speakers from several different areas of the gaming industry. Michael Brand from GameWorks spoke about their experience in offline entertainment and arcades, while NBCUniversal’s Chris Heatherly mentioned how they’re looking to bring more of their existing creative material to the gaming and e-Sports industry—including iconic IP such as Jurassic Park and Minions. David Mok presented the world of e-Sports from the Skillz perspective, explaining why mobile will drive the future of competitive gaming. David explained that “Mobile is the next big opportunity in e-Sports,” and “most importantly, it’s a platform nearly everyone already has access to, with a great market presence. Furthermore, mobile truly provides everyone with the opportunity to become involved—as a developer, casual player, hardcore competitor, or even as an employee within the industry.” David also assured any aspiring gamemakers that there has never been a better time to become an indie game developer. David assured the audience that “the amount of support, resources, and infrastructure out there for new developers is substantial,” and “Skillz is also a big part of that support infrastructure—empowering smaller, independent developers to experiment with various software and tools that otherwise would be largely unavailable to them. We provide the resources which enable the very ecosystem to flourish.”

The Caltech Entrepreneurs Forum was formed in 1984, and is an entrepreneurship resource of Caltech’s Office of Technology Transfer and Corporate Partnerships. Through its monthly programs, the Forum provides advice, support, education and networking opportunities to technology-based ventures in the Southern California area. Programs address a range of key entrepreneurial issues from financing, marketing and business planning to executive leadership and staffing. Case presentations feature companies in emerging technology areas reviewing their business plans with expert panelists. Special sessions examine new entrepreneurial opportunities, in such areas as life sciences, medical technologies, energy, software, communications and entertainment technologies.