Sundance DiGiovanni explains Vindex’s position in esports

30 October 2019


A lot of new companies claim that they’re going to change the esports industry but when the co-founders of MLG say it, you tend to believe it. Vindex is a newly-announced esports infrastructure company from Sundance DiGiovanni and Mike Sepso, which already boasts Next Generation Esports and Esports Engine in its portfolio.

To get a better understanding about the inception of Vindex and how he believes it will benefit esports, we spoke with DiGiovanni.

Sundance DiGiovanni
Photo via: Lightstream

Esports Insider: The initial announcement was a little vague when it came to what exactly Vindex will do. Can you elaborate on this at all?

Sundance DiGiovanni: The announcement today is around the initial funding of the business, the acquisition of Next Generation Esports, and the start of Esports Engine with Adam Apicella.

We’ve retained all the senior leadership over at NGE and Adam’s team is a fully functioning version of what was embedded inside of Major League Gaming (MLG) for a number of years. We have a tremendous amount of resources and experience across those two businesses.

So, in terms of what Vindex as a company will do, production services is our first foray into this space. With those two businesses, we feel very strongly that we’re the preeminent provider of production services and broadcast technology for publishers, esports teams, and any brands that are looking to have authentic experiences created within the esports.

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We have additional plans that we’re not speaking to today for Vindex. In terms of other areas of opportunity within gaming and esports, today is really just a celebration of our heritage as an event producer and broadcaster of esports events. If you look at the teams that we’re combining with NGE and Esports Engine, you’ve got everything from the Fortnite World Cup, the most viewed esports event on record, and the team that did over 250 touring events for MLG. That’s a pretty impressive offering and the response has already been overwhelming and incredibly positive.

We’re also out looking for other opportunities, other teams, and other businesses that we can bring into the fold at Vindex – both in production services and some of the other verticals that we’ll be looking at in the future. We’re not done.

“We’ve put this together pretty quickly but very thoughtfully.”

ESI: When do you decide to pull the trigger and launch the company?

SD: After I finished up at Activision Blizzard, I took some time to look around the space to see what the big opportunities could be for us and to find the partners to work with on this. Obviously Mike and I go back quite some time, I’ve worked with Adam for well over a decade, and the addition of Brian and Jason really rounded out the team and made this a no-brainer from my point of view.

Their experience, their network of people, and their access to capital was a key decision maker for us. We went from having discussions about this in the beginning of the year to forming a partnership within just a few short months. We finished this initial fundraising in no time at all. It was a very short window but it was incredible.

So we’ve put this together pretty quickly but very thoughtfully. We did the NGE acquisition because we have a tremendous amount of respect for the business. They’ve built a great leadership team and are really good on the execution side and broadcast side. Adam and his guys at Esports Engine are legends in this space as well.

We’re going to be collecting as much talent as we can to try to bring our experience and our expertise to the market in a way where any of the folks who are looking to activate within esports will have an obvious choice as to where to go.

Vindex launches
Image credit: Vindex

ESI: Please explain the positions that Mike and yourself will occupy within Vindex.

SD: Mike will be serving as the CEO and I’m going to serving as the Chief Strategy Officer. My day-to-day is going to be focusing on finding other opportunities for us to bring in quality companies and teams into the mix. We’re not done with acquisitions and we’re not done with looking for teams that we can bring in and amplify our offerings, that’s what my role is for.

“We’re really looking at this as surrounding ourselves with the best possible talent out there, and that goes for our investors as well.”

ESI: Can you tell us about the investors at Vindex?

SD: So we have a pretty amazing list of folks. Joel Greenblatt is a Wall Street legend. Stonecutter came in as a large institution for us. Essentially, a lot of this is individual’s money and it’s a network of very tightly-knit folks who are also going to be helpful for us on the execution and operations side. Joel is on our board which is fantastic. He probably forgets more about what’s happened than I’ll ever know in the Wall Street space so he’s a great resource for us.

We’re really looking at this as surrounding ourselves with the best possible talent out there, and that goes for our investors as well. We had a lot of people that we had to turn away initially because there was so much interest. We wound up with a list of investors that we think is top of class and I don’t think you’ve ever seen folks like this come into the esports space. These are people who have waited for the right opportunity and they see Vindex as that vehicle.

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ESI: Will your companies be able to do things it couldn’t before due to ties with Activision Blizzard?

SD: We have pretty interesting experience when you think about all the people we have around the table from a leadership point of view with Mike and I, the Esports Engine folks, and the NGE folks.

Mike and I have over a decade of experience building MLG into a hero brand as an independent company, having to navigate this space without being within a publisher. Then with the sale of MLG, we sold it in two chunks: one to Warner Bros., and one to Activision. Going inside of Activision and having first-hand experience inside of the largest independent publisher of video games was eye-opening for us, especially with the formation of Overwatch League and its franchise sales and the Call of Duty League and its franchise sales as well.

Old MLG Event
Photo credit: MLG

So we’ve seen both sides. We’ve been independent brands out there building and operating a league, and then we’ve helped put together pieces that have turned into the Overwatch League and Call of Duty League. Now, we can take all of that experience and really have a fully-formed point of view of how best to help a publisher, how best to help an esports team, and how to structure various engagements of different sizes.

Obviously not everything will be the size of Overwatch League or Call of Duty League or the LCS for Riot Games, it’s not a one-size-fits-all-industry. We’ve got some unique thoughts on how to service games of different sizes and how to create experiences for fans around games that don’t have the scale or scope yet to form a franchised league, for example.

We’re freed up from a lot of the things that were constraints when we were at MLG and we’re educated quite thoroughly by our time at Activision Blizzard, which we’re very thankful for and was transformative for us.

ESI: Esports Engine has already announced that it’ll be handling New York Subliners‘ home series events. How did that come about?

SD: Mike and I, full disclosure, are a minority investors in Andbox and its various teams in New York. Being very proud New Yorkers ourselves, we’re very excited to root for our New York-based esports teams. Adam and his team will be working with them for their home series events, there’s even a broadcast happening for a tournament that they’re doing Esports Engine will be powering.