Dr. Alan Bunney – Panda Global – I saw a lot of behavior in esports that was just awful

Alan Bunney, Panda Global Co-Founder and CEO

There’s no doubt that esports is on the rise and with every new game release comes a new competitive atmosphere along with organisations popping up left and right. Some may assume it’s simple enough to put a team together, compete, and create an organisation from that. But if you want to be the best of the best you have to dedicate your life to it, which is why most organisations last barely months.

Panda Global is one of those success stories. Created in 2015 by college friends Dr. Alan Bunney and David Wu, Panda Global vets primarily Fighting game players like Plup, Wobbles, and MVD. 

We talked to Dr. Bunney about the struggles of creating an esports organisation from the ground up, along with juggling a career in the medical field.

Esports Insider: Take us through the history of Panda Global and how it was established to where it is today.

Dr. Alan Bunney: So if we look back on my gaming history, my tag is SamuraiPanda and I was a known player in Super Smash Bros. for some time. Fighting games growing up were just my thing because back then they were the only two player games. Fast forward to sophomore year of college, I actually met David playing Melee. When Brawl was coming out there was a blog site where the Super Smash Bros. game director Masahiro Sakruai was writing emails and since I also speak Japanese I translated it. The internet didn’t believe me and one guy suggested that I go to the smashboards website. So I went to it, discovered competitive Smash, and ever since then I’ve been a competitive gamer.

“I just saw a lot of behavior in esports that was just awful, specifically to people I was close to”

After Brawl came out I played it competitively with David and ended up somewhere in the top five in the Midwest. Then in my first year of medical school I ended up becoming top 30 in the world in season one of League of Legends. Eventually I had to quit absolutely everything to finish medical school and when I moved it was around the same time that Smash 4 was coming out. Since I was moving I thought it would be a good way to make some friends while doing my residency, so I picked up Smash 4 and got introduced to the concept of esports.

Some of my old friends became very well known in the competitive community but I saw a lot of them being mistreated by organisations. They were being treated like cattle and cash cows even though there wasn’t much cash to be made. I just saw a lot of behaviour in esports that was just awful, and specifically to people I was close to. So at one point I decided, after seeing a big blow up first hand, maybe I should just make my own esports team. At that point I had known David for 8 years or so and I asked him what he thought and he said yes. We both made a business plan together but it wasn’t enough to just be a team that treats players right we had to be professional and have goals, aspirations, and ideas so we ironed that out over the next two months. We ended up picking up MVD, ESAM and FilipinoChamp as our very first players and at CEO 2015 is where we discovered Plup and picked him up as well.

Esports Insider: It seems like organisations are popping up left and right. Some make it but others don’t. Panda Global has really blown up, especially in FGC in the past year. Why do you think your organisation has been one of the ones to “make it this far” in the last two years?

Dr. Bunney: I think a lot of it had to do with timing and luck in the very beginning. We were a little naive going into it and I feel like the vast majority of esports teams that pop up are naive in what they think. They think it’s going to be easy to get players and make money. No. You will not make money for a very long time. You will spend money if you want to be relevant.

“Every single game Panda Global has is played by either David or myself”

It’s not enough to just be a team, you have to be something more than a team. At Panda Global we always try to be a part of our communities and give back to them. Every single game Panda Global has is played by either David or myself. I think that passion and dedication really helped us. But at the same time if Panda Global started one month later we wouldn’t have survived. Esports is just blowing up a little too much. It’s a bubble and the bubble will burst.

Esports Insider: What advice would you give someone that is interested in starting an esports organisation or getting invested in one?

Dr. Bunney: Don’t do it. I’ll be honest; If I knew what I was getting into when I started Panda Global I don’t think I would have done it even though we’re this big now and even though we’ve done this much. I have more grey hairs from esports than I have from being a doctor, it’s not a joke, it’s stressful and it’s hard. If you are passionate and you really want to do it then you have to do it with capital and with players in mind that want to join in.

Esports Insider: Where do you hope to see Panda Global in say, 3-5 years?

Dr. Bunney: That is a loaded question [laughs]. A lot of it depends on where the markets go and what we think is a good fit. We’re pretty happy with our team but we have our eyes on one or two extra players and new games coming out. It’s tough to break into the new markets so we’re in a holding pattern just watching and waiting.

“Instead of growing horizontally we think it’s the time for a little vertical growth”

We’re happy with where Panda Global is right now and we’re actively growing our current roster and resources. We’re doing what we can to grow what Panda Global has, so I guess you could say instead of growing horizontally we think it’s time for a little vertical growth. Maybe when we get more sponsors and do a few other things we might decide it’s time to go into another title, but for now we’re pretty happy.

Esports Insider: You personally have a really interesting story. You were a competitive gamer, then ventured into the medical field, then came back to competitive gaming to create Panda Global. Tell me what that was like and what your thought process was? It has to be difficult to juggle both being a doctor and an esports owner at  the same time.

Dr. Bunney: Yeah it definitely is. I think that’s why I say I wouldn’t have done Panda Global if I knew what I was getting into. Residency is not easy. I’ll be done in two months but it’s been a rough ride. I work an 80 hour work week, I also do all the social media for Panda Global so literally between patients I’m tweeting about esports. I have friends who don’t know this side of me at all and I have friends that only know this side of me and don’t understand me as a doctor. That dichotomy is important in my life and gaming is just core to who I am. I have a bad habit of anything that I enjoy doing, I take it a little too far. When we decided to start this esports organisation it was actually a majority of David doing the legwork and that’s where the naivety came in. We thought that one person would be able to handle everything that came his way. There were so many things that needed to be done that David couldn’t catch up on so I had to pick up all these extra pieces and they just became my responsibilities. For me it’s a part time job but for him its a full time job. I’m pretty sure I put in hours that people would probably consider it a full time job.

Esports Insider: Thanks so much for your time do you have anything else to add or any shout outs?

Dr. Bunney: Shout outs to my team. We have not lost almost any of our players and even those that we did lose I still talk to them. I hate to say this because it’s so cliche, but I honestly feel like everyone in Panda Global is one big family and I don’t think I would be continuing this today if it wasn’t for them.