Valiance&Co has only been competing in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive for six months, but that didn’t stop the team from storming the European Qualifiers for DreamHack Marseille. Despite going 0-2 in the group stages of the main event, the organisation was in the same conversation as organisations such as Cloud9, Ninjas in Pyjamas, SK Gaming, FaZe Clan, and Fnatic.
With that in mind, we spoke to Valiance&Co Founder Antonio Meic to dig into his CS:GO team’s early success, and his experience as a small organisation owner.
Esports Insider: What made you want to delve into competing in tournaments, going beyond hosting them?
Antonio Meic: There was a fantastic team in the neighbouring country to Croatia, in Serbia. I noticed one of the players and started watching the team more closely. The idea was that we sign on the team and that we learn about tier 1 esports, so we can bring direct learning into the mobile esports scene to tournaments we are organising.
“I did not want to just sign-on a team and be hands-off”
More than that we wanted to bring our experience of managing the team to all mobile sports teams that are very young, and as the tournament organiser we were interacting with. It was all about the education. We learned a lot on the management side and now we are done with learning. With Valiance&Co, we are focusing on building a tier 1 esports team, with focus on creating a high valuation in the next 5 years.
ESI: Were there any challenges with Valiance’s entrance into competing that you didn’t foresee prior to getting started?
Antonio: There are lots of challenges. I did not want to just sign-on a team and be hands-off; we started everything with the premise we are going to build a real organisation. It’s like hiring seven individuals all with their specific challenges, wants, needs and problems. I overlooked this fundamental matter. I was just too excited about the fact we now had a CS:GO, team.
We are just people, and we did not prepare good enough to know what is ahead of us regarding HR. We immediately tackled this issue with a HR manager and psychologist and we had this colleague based in-house. This helped players and us significantly. I did not know at the beginning just how challenging building a CS:GO team is, and how much energy and effort it takes to reach the top 16.
ESI: Were there any reservations on your end to fund and manage the players you signed from Binary Dragons? It must be a tad scary to put resources into a team that hasn’t necessarily seen a huge amount of success, right?
Antonio: I agreed with our investors we would take €250,000 and invest in the team, make sure players have a stable environment regarding salaries, and that the team has what it need as basics for travel and boot camps, equipment etc. I explained to our investors that this money is our bet on esports, that there is a big potential with potential high return on investment. I knew it was a leap of faith and I explained it like that to everyone. There was no pressure – will we succeed or fail. Our investors are great, they allow me to break something along the way but learn from it. In this case, we made the right bet.
“$1,000,000 was on the table, but it did not feel right to take $800,000 profit and walk away”
My reservations into the team came after the Christmas break. The team came back from it, and we could not win, no results, I was very unhappy and could not reach them to wake up. The decision was made to change coach and let go of one player and replace it with a player that we thought could fit the role and has the skill to help us build again. From this perspective, this was a good decision. At Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, I started negotiating to sell all players to an LA org that wanted to go into esports.
$1,000,000 was on the table, but it did not feel right to take $800,000 profit and walk away. So I had my doubts about myself, where I want to to be and my focus, and now I know. My investor helped me to figure out in which orders my north stars should be aligned. I am very lucky and grateful for the support I have. I had my doubts just two months ago about everything but now things are looking really positive and I’m more motivated than ever to make this a success.
ESI: What were your expectations when going into an event as big as DreamHack Marseille? Are you all happy enough to just qualify for the main event, or do you remain hungry and motivated to achieve more and prove a point?
Antonio: We planned to win mous! Everyone witnessed what we can do, coming back from 13:2 back to 13:13. I was shaking and crying. That was a finals game for us; it was larger than life. Little details are missing if we got that two first rounds we would now have a different conversation. We came here to win, as every team here. The team is great, we need to work on more details, and we showed we are material that can play and almost win second-ranked team in the world. Diamonds are made under huge pressure!
“We are going to eat up every one of these open qualifiers until we get some recognition”
We are tier 1 material, but we are still rough around the edges. We have our event roadmap; we are focusing on qualifications for ESL One Cologne, qualification for minor, ESL Pro League is just one season away. Our biggest issue was we are not in tier 1, is because we are not perceived as the tier 1 team. I get it. And as an organisation we are new. For each event, we have to go through the hell of open qualifiers. This means it takes the triple amount of gameplay and work for us. This is so demanding on players, and this is why very few succeed to make it into the tier 1 club.
We are going to eat up every one of these open qualifiers until we get some recognition. Our players will not sleep, we will not stop, we will not back down, and we will get there no matter what it takes and what casualties we will have along the way. I have two months old baby, should be home helping my wife but she understands how much this means not only to me but to our players and all people employed. It’s a huge sacrifice to be this determined to make it. I think this answers the question how hungry we are.
ESI: Are there any major differences in managing teams in mobile esports over a PC esports title such as Counter-Strike: Global Offensive?
Antonio: Mobile sports demographics is 13-21 depending on the title. Dedicated mobile esports teams are young organisations but it’s the same I would say. Regardless of title, if you want to build a professional organisation, a team that is a winning team is the way to succeed. It’s the same level of complexity and difficulty for any game. Only the game is different, but all challenges are there.
ESI: What’s one piece of advice you’d give to a small organisation that was looking to enter a title and compete?
Antonio: Be smart and knowledgeable about esports. There are different ways into esports, understand game tiers and make sure that the game you are entering will have a future. For some games, developers are paying fees of $150,000-$250,0000 a year for teams to compete and create content like H1Z1 or VainGlory. There are games that organisations need to pay to compete in certain leagues like an EU LCS license will be $8,000,000. Understand these basic mechanics, and understand the money around the esports ecosystem and money flow.
There is lots of money flowing around, understand where you can build revenue streams and how so you can prove sustainability, this way you will not start something just to finish it one year later. Game developers are providing revenue, to teams, league organisers, streaming platforms. League organisers are providing revenue to teams. Streaming platforms are providing revenue to teams. If you don’t know this relationship and don’t have some inside contacts, the good team with great results will open some doors, and start building from there. Don’t give up. It’s high barrier to entry, but when you are there the reward is big.