Haodong Zhang & Matthew Woods – AFK Creators – Living off of live streaming

With the continual growth of the business surrounding live streaming, more and more esports athletes have become streamers to complement their esports career.  To help streamers kick off their careers smoothly, AFK Creators is dedicated to linking content creators to trustworthy companies in an attempt to make streaming a viable stream of income.

Esports Insider sat down with Haodong Zhang and Matthew Woods, Co-founders of AFK Creators about the processes and challenges of finding sponsorship opportunities for esports content creators.                       

Haodong Zhang, Co-founder & CFO of AFK Creators. Photo credit: AFK Creators

Esports Insider: How did you come up with the idea to establish an esports agency to help grassroots streamers monetise live streaming?

AFK Creators: Matt is a streamer and influencer but he found it difficult to be sustainable financially if he had to both approach companies for sponsorship opportunities himself whilst still keeping up a dedicated streaming and uploading schedule.

We felt that many people will have had similar struggles too and wanted to give them a hand. We are also gamers and we need other gamers in this industry to succeed so that it helps to grow the industry as a whole. Therefore we felt that because we understand their dilemmas and can speak their language, it would be much better for us to approach and help these gaming influencers, rather than some corporate person in a suit and tie.

ESI: What do you think of the current status of esports live streaming industry?

AFK: In my opinion, esports live streaming is the heart of esports since competitive gaming on a spectator level is where esports was born from. At the moment, I don’t think we’ve gotten near the ‘peak’ of it yet. I wouldn’t say it’s at the start of a standard ‘product cycle’, if you will, but it’s definitely at the growth stage, whereabouts on that stage, I can’t say for sure.  As a whole, the industry is reaching a healthier point than before as a lot of new competition has entered the market on the back of Twitch’s success.

It is also clear from the money involved in the advertising, in the deals signed and the investments pouring in as more and more people see the worth of live streaming and the audiences it can generate. This industry is growing fast and it has opened the doors for different kinds of live streaming not limited to gaming, which will attract more audiences and accelerate the development of the industry.

“Esports live streaming is the heart of esports since competitive gaming on a spectator level is where esports was born from”

ESI: As an esports startup, what are your company’s philosophy and goals?

AFK: Transparency, trustworthiness, and sustainability.

There has been a lot of recent talk regarding the ‘darker’ side of the esports industry and I have to agree, as someone with a finance background, a lot of the numbers are overoptimistic, inflated and looking at how large the expense side of the industry is, unsustainable. This may be a pipe dream as we are only a small company, but as someone who wants to see this industry have longevity and be sustainable, we need to start from the ground up to induce more trustworthiness into the industry. Hopefully, this helps improve the general ecosystem of the industry.

We’re not here to make some quick money and disappear, we specifically have not taken any investment money for that reason. We’re here for the long run because we’re passionate about the industry and its future.

At the end of the day, I’ve said it before, we want to help people, that is always the aim when this company was formed. We want to be there when someone starts out on their streaming career to the point where they become a household name. That growth is something we want to be a part of and something we want to make a difference in by teaming up with hard working influencers who want to achieve.

“Transparency, trustworthiness, and sustainability”

Matthew Woods, Co-founder & CEO of AFK Creators. Photo credit: AFK Creators

ESI: What do you think of the future is for esports streaming sponsorships?

AFK: There is a lot going on right now in terms of sponsorships for esports. The industry is still new and the landscape of sponsorships can quickly change. With a recent legal case, there could be a major shakeup in contract legislation for the industry. Large investments are coming in constantly from both endemic and non-endemic sponsors. I have seen that there are rises in available subscription based streaming content and adding in the attention esports is now receiving from more and more countries, it’s very difficult to see where the future trends will lead.

I do know one thing after all that though, it can only grow bigger. As mentioned, esports will reach other markets in the world, this is clear from the entries of a plethora of non-endemic sponsorships from across the globe. Esports is still growing at a fast pace as its scope expands across the world reaching new audiences, and only now have companies realized the value of that reach. Of course, when it comes to sponsorships, it’s not all about global reach but also niche reaches as influencer sponsorships are on a rise in general in many specialized areas and I think that esports is a growing success.

Twitch is the hotspot for live streaming. Image credit: Twitch

ESI: How would you advise a beginner to get started and, eventually, become successful in this field?

AFK: Keep going at it. This will sound corny, but it’s true, each opportunity you don’t try for is an opportunity you’ve missed. Even if you don’t think you will fit in or you’re not qualified, as long as you have the passion and drive, things like a lack of experience or qualifications can be trained, but that drive and passion can’t and that’s what’s valuable to an employer.

Always check back periodically as well, esports is growing around the world, sure it’s slow in the UK but there is still growing and there are new companies starting up who will eventually need staff. Bigger companies that are growing will always look to expand and there will be numerous opportunities available at any one point in time. Even if you can’t get in anywhere now, look for work experience or internships, having that valuable experience shows you’re keen and you can learn so much about the industry whilst you’re at it, and of course, make connections whilst you’re there.

Don’t worry if you are in another industry right now or doing something you don’t want to be doing for the rest of your life. That’s okay, all jobs have transferable skills and the experience gained in a working environment is still valuable. Never discount what you’ve gained working up to where you are now.