ESI catches up with esports startups competition The Clutch winners

30 October 2020


From November 18th-19th, Esports Insider will host ESI Digital Winter, the third and final online conference event in the ESI Digital series of 2020.

Alongside the main agenda of engaging panels and brand showcases, ESI Digital Winter will feature the fourth edition of The Clutch, Esports Insider’s pitch investment competition that aims to support and showcase esports focused start-up companies.

Ahead of the next edition of The Clutch Digital, Esports Insider caught up with senior staff and CEOs from all three previous winners of the competition.

We spoke with the victors to find out more about how their success has affected their start-up journey, as well as the projects that they have worked on since The Clutch.


Led by Ryan Scollan, CEO and Co-founder of Gscience, this organisation is an esports performance company whose mission is to create happier, healthier and more successful esports athletes. Gscience finished first at the inaugural edition of The Clutch, and so we caught up with Scollan to learn more about his company’s recent activity.

“The biggest thing we have been preparing for is our funding round. We have been gearing up for that for a while now, spending a lot of time working with players, teams who have gone on to win championships, we have built-out our Optimal performance model and collected lots of data,” said Scollan. “We’re now at this point where we want to raise money to further build our community, our product and solidify ourselves as the number one esports performance company in the world.”

Whilst an impending funding round is on the top of the agenda for Scollan, he has also made a series of new hires over the last few months. Moreover, Gscience has unofficially launched its own Discord community – a new way for the frim to connect with industry stakeholders.

“We’re building the world’s fittest and healthiest gaming community – that’s our goal. Yes we’re going to be working with all these top people around the world and that’s great for our brand, but what we’re trying to do with this community is share our resources, knowledge and tools, we’re going to have challenges, leaderboards, our own practitioners organising round-tables and it’ll really be a place where people can come and learn,” Scollan explained.

“Honestly, I am incredibly grateful for the opportunities I got at The Clutch because if I hadn’t done that I wouldn’t have access to people who are supporting me on my journey today,” said Scollan. “I think for us, The Clutch really validated our idea and getting feedback from industry veterans who have been there, done it and understood the intricacies of esports is invaluable.”

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Victor of the first digital edition of The Clutch, TEAMS is a UK-based start-up that aims to quickly and easily connect amateur gamers with like-minded teammates. To find out more about what TEAMS has achieved since their win at the ESI Digital Summit in May, we spoke with James Duffield, Co-founder of TEAMS.

“Since May, we have been very busy building out the product and I think that a lot of the stuff we have focused on – especially in the last few months – comes off the back of feedback we received from advisors and investors specifically, and that is the kind of advice from investors we spoke to at The Clutch Digital,” said Duffield.

“In terms of our business model, we have considered what we need to do to make TEAMS a real business instead of just a product that brings a load of value to gamers. We have had to weigh up a lot of these things over the last few months and the feedback we received from investors like those on The Clutch Digital has been really valuable,” Duffield explained. “When it comes to interest, we have seen a lot of interest from investors and other stakeholders in the industry over the last few months. We have had a couple of instances where publishers have approached us and said, ‘Hey, we like what you’re doing, we think you should be building this for our game!’ These aren’t small publishers either, these are the biggest publishers on the planet coming to us so that’s a really amazing vote of confidence.”

Now, whilst most of the attention that TEAMS has received is consequential to its product and all the hard work that the company’s co-founders have invested, Duffield did recognise and appreciate the platform that a win at The Clutch Digital provided.

“I believe that the interest [from stakeholders and investors] can be attributed to the fact that we have been taking TEAMS out to market in the way that we did in The Clutch Digital. It was the promotion that we got from The Clutch Digital and others that allowed us to be front-of-mind for those brand managers and the people within the esports teams at these publishers.”

Duffield also explained that TEAMS underwent a change in focus when lockdown restrictions ramped up in May and the economic disruption of COVID-19 started to affect investors. “At the beginning of May more intense COVID-19 restrictions were imposed and fundraising became more difficult. This certainly changed our focus from fundraising to marketing and catering for the uptick of users because a load of players wanted to play more and started to search the idea of finding a teammate. It meant though that all the stuff we had learnt a few months ago has set us up really well for the Angel Pre-Seed round we’re doing right now.”

RELATED: Esports Insider and Esports Awards present Esports Assemble The Clutch Digital pitch during ESI Digital Summit
Credit: The Clutch Digital / James Duffield


Based in Berlin, programmatic in-game advertising company Anzu is the most recent winner of The Clutch Digital during ESI Digital Summer in August. Earlier this week, Natalia Vasilyeva, VP of Marketing at Anzu, told us more about how the competition affected Anzu, and what the company has been doing since.

“We have kept developing our esports partnerships and in most cases, we have extended our current partnerships with game publishers who are active in the esports space,” explained Vasilyeva. “We recently extended our partnership with Axis Football who have set-up their own esports league and we have brought the first programmatic esports in-game advertising campaign to live tournaments. Both The Clutch Digital and this programmatic campaign occurred one after the other and so the win helped strengthen us as the relevant esports advertising provider.”

“We hope to leverage and scale-up partnerships so we can bring in-game advertising further into the esports world. One of the technology capabilities we have is hyper-targeting which allows us to target the specific virtual arena where an esports competition is taking place. This gives advertisers who want to appear only in the esports event a lot of opportunities.”

Whilst Vasilyeva noted that a number of deals and developments neatly coincided with The Clutch Digital win, she also cemented the value of a first-place finish and confirmed that interest from stakeholders in the esports ecosystem followed after Anzu was announced as the winner.

“It was extremely important and exciting for us to win The Clutch Digital as it was another proof [statement] that this kind of technology is relevant to the esports space, and that Anzu specifically is relevant in the ad space. It was great to be recognised by leaders in the space.”

Applications close November 6th for 2020’s final edition of The Clutch Digital, held during ESI Digital Winter. Apply now before the deadline!

Click here for more information about the next edition of The Clutch Digital and ESI Digital Winter, Esports Insider’s third and final online conference of the year.