The sports world is a competitive and very lucrative business, so it should come as no surprise that competitive gaming has become one of the emerging new technology platforms in the world. NFL soccer player Rodger Saffold of the Tennessee Titans understood this concept and showed a passion for it. He founded his esports company RISE in 2014.
As a minority owned team, RISE’s mission is to bring organic diversity to the esports world while creating unique opportunities for minorities. RISE has a new company, FIFA Esports, which was recently launched to expand its global reach.
BLACK COMPANY spoke to Saffold about his business in esports and how COVID-19 has helped his business.
You have been in the competitive gaming world for several years and started your own esports company, Rise. What drew your attention to this world and what led to your decision to start your business?
I’ve always been really fascinated by the gaming world. Growing up as a kid, it was something that could help me escape, and it just kept growing over the years. As a young NFL player, they always tell you to invest in what you are passionate about.
The game industry got really easy. You look at the effort when I started my team and it was very little. So it was an easy decision to start Rise and watch it grow and blossom into what it is today. I am very proud of the results.
Since the coronavirus pandemic, we have changed the way we live, work and communicate. How has COVID-19 affected you and your gaming business experience?
It was a blessing indeed. With COVID, you are forcing everyone to be home, which means everyone is watching a TV screen or a computer screen.
If you look at a computer screen, you will likely see people streaming their games, which means more eyes and more viewers for Twitch. We run many of our games on Twitch and many of the competitions have been online due to the pandemic. So we’ve got more eyes than before, we’ve had more options than before, and the brand continues to thrive because everyone is forced to stay home and see what Rise does.
As a professional NFL soccer player, how can you do business as an entrepreneur – especially during the season?
It’s really tough. So I think it’s just great to have someone as passionate as I am in the gaming world at Kareem Horsley – business partner, friend, brother, mod – who does all day long while I’m away on my craft and my career.
We keep meeting and talking about our next steps. We both have the power to make changes and it’s always exciting to call him on the phone and see him excited about something new and upcoming to look into.
What suggestions would you give to those who want to become a successful entrepreneur?
To be a successful entrepreneur, make sure that you are doing something that you are passionate about. Make sure you do something that you believe in, no matter how many people think you are crazy. Eventually, you will be satisfied with the results.
After that there is only adjustment. You have to adapt to so many different changes. There was a point in my organization where the money it took to pay these players doubled because esports were growing rapidly. The franchising started to mix and now those investors have to come in and a venture capitalist has to get more capital so you can keep up with the Jones, if you will.
But the fact that I own 100% of Rise just makes so much of an impact that I can help in the long run and also involve people who are already thriving.