The sports world is a competitive and very lucrative business, so it should come as no surprise that competitive gaming has evolved into one of the world’s emerging new technology platforms. Understanding this concept and displaying a passion for it, NFL football player Rodger Saffold of the Tennessee Titans started his Esports company RISE back in 2014.
As a minority-owned team, the mission of RISE is to be able to add organic diversity to the Esports world while providing unique opportunities for minorities. RISE has a new venture, FIFA Esports, which was recently started to expand its global reach.
BLACK ENTERPRISE spoke to Saffold about his venture into Esports and how COVID-19 has helped his company.
You’ve been involved in the competitive gaming world for several years and started your own esports company, Rise. What drew your attention to that world, and what led to your decision to start your company?
I’ve always been really intrigued by the gaming world. Growing up as a kid it was something to do to help me to escape, and it just continued to grow over the years. As a young NFL player, they always tell you to invest in what you’re passionate about.
The gaming industry became really easy. You look at the overhead when I started my team and it was very minimal—so it was an easy, easy decision to go ahead and start up Rise and to watch it grow and flourish into what it is today. I’m very proud of the results.
Since the Coronavirus pandemic has taken us to a different way of living, working, and communicating; how has COVID-19 affected you and your gaming business experience?
It’s actually been a blessing. With COVID happening, you’re forcing everyone to be in their homes, which means everyone’s looking at a TV screen or a computer screen.
If you’re looking at a computer screen, you’re probably gonna look at people streaming their gaming which means more eyes, more viewership into Twitch. We run a lot of our games through Twitch and a lot of the competitions competitively have been online because of the pandemic. So, we have more eyes than we’ve seen before, we’ve had more opportunities than we’ve seen before, and the brand is continuing to flourish because everybody’s forced to stay home and see what Rise is doing.
As a professional NFL football player, how are you able to conduct business as an entrepreneur—especially during the season?
It’s really tough. That’s why I just think it is just awesome to have somebody just as passionate as I am in the gaming world in Kareem Horsley—business partner, friend, brother, mod—he handles all that day-to-day while I’m away working on my craft and my career.
We always reconvene and talk about our next moves. We both have the power to make changes, and it’s always exciting to call him on the phone and see him excited about something new and upcoming that we had the opportunity to get involved with.
What suggestions would you give those who want to become a successful entrepreneur?
In order to be a successful entrepreneur, make sure that you’re doing something that you’re passionate about. Make sure that you’re doing something that you believe in, no matter how many people call you crazy. Eventually, you’ll be happy with the results.
Then after that, it just comes to adapting. You gotta adapt to so many different changes. There was a point in my organization where it felt like the amount of money that it took to pay for these gamers doubled because of how fast esports was growing. Franchising started getting in the mix, and now you need to have these investors coming in, and start having some venture capitalist get some more capital so you can continue to keep up with the Joneses, if you will.
But the fact that I own 100% of Rise, I just have so much leverage that could help me out in the long run and also get people involved that’s already flourishing.