Interview: Carlos “ocelote” Rodríguez Santiago
Carlos “ocelote” Rodríguez Santiago is the CEO and founder G2 Esports and former League of Legends pro gamer. Originally from Madrid, Spain, he began playing LoL when the game was only in Beta. After a break to finish school, he began playing professionally, eventually getting picked up by SK Gaming.
In November, 2013 he founded G2 Esports. What started as a League of Legends team, has now grown into an esports club, with teams competing in multiple games like CS:GO and Hearthstone. Read what he had to say when we recently caught up with him.
Tom: You’ve stated that skins were one of the reasons for inflated salaries. How much did that impact the eco-system of the scene?
Carlos: It certainly had an impact. Perhaps, combined with the numerous announcements about new leagues and tournaments and their budgets surrounding CS:GO – which, truthfully, were rarely fully invested in the league as one could expect. The expectations from players and community were rather high when compared to reality.
It is feasible that there is currently a bubble tied to player salaries generated by the combination of the two above-mentioned reasons.
Tom: Teams and players are role-models for young people, what does G2 Esports do in order to live up to that reputation?
Carlos: In G2, we strive to religiously follow our core principles, regardless of the situation. These are values we use to answer all the questions that appear in our day to day.
Due to the youth nature of the industry of esports, it is almost impossible to foresee what’s coming next. For that reason, the only way to be able to act with consistency is by following these deeply rooted values. They act like a map for us.
G2 is essentially only 19 months old. We are a young club. A startup. And we believe that by following these values for as long as we exist, forming an honest and loyal fan base will be one of the natural results.
Tom: Being the owner and founder of G2 Esports, you must have gotten multiple offers from CSGO gambling sites. How hard was it to turn down those sponsorships? Any numbers you can disclose?
Carlos: We had a few small sponsorships with skinsites last year for a short time, but it has never been our intention to base our business model on unreliable and morally questionable ventures, so eventually we decided against it.
Thankfully, skinsites are no longer a thing, and we are now able to compete on even ground at the game of business.
Tom: G2 Esports is very successful in multiple games, the LoL division, considered by many the “best team in the West”, becoming European champion in their first split, your CSGO squad winning the FACEIT finals in Wembley, and your HS Team becoming the best team in the World. How much do you do on a daily basis when it comes to managing those squads of yours?
Carlos: Having being a professional player for about 9 years gives you the experience and know-how to be able to provide valuable feedback to your players. Furthermore, players seem to have a subconscious level of respect to what I have to say.
Even the best clubs and teams in the world go through complicated moments. What makes the real difference is how they react to those situations, and how consistent they are with their solutions – In a way, this connects to the principles topic aforementioned. To answer your question plainly: I very much enjoy being in touch with each and everyone of my players, while giving them the impression that they can count on me anytime, let it be for advice or any other form of help – My door is always open.
G2 Esports is undoubtably one of the most ambitious companies in this area. We’ve built a very strong sense of hunger from day one. We’ve internally created a necessity to become the best club in the World in every area.
That’s why everyone, from the player and coach to the financial manager and graphic designer, is so unbelievably determined to make the best job possible. To add their grain of sand in form of effort and expertise. Everyone is giving their 101% to make G2 the industry leader.
Tom: Now that CSGO gambling pages are dead, lots of teams might be in financial troubles. G2 Esports managed to acquire a couple of non-endemic sponsors such as Vodafone, Paysafecard and Dominos. Any advice for upcoming teams when dealing with companies from outside of the esports industry?
Carlos: The reason we are able to close such deals is because we understand the meaning of value. Every single thing we do, day by day, is guided by a very clear understanding of Give / Take.
Often, companies and players in Esports believe they are entitled to things. Entitled to a partnership, entitled to more money, a 5 star hotel or a bonus that wasn’t agreed before. It is a blessing that we managed to understand that nothing is free, and if a company is to pay you an amount, it is your responsibility to make that a profitable venture on their end. To squeeze your assets and yourself to a point where the company doesn’t see you as a dead weight, but rather as someone they’d like to build a future with.
To answer your question with an example: if any of the two parties identify that the transaction is clearly uneven, openly addressing the topic before they do does wonders: “Hello X. We have identified that your current player agreements with G2 are outdated from an economic standpoint. Your presence has increased greatly and what you are being paid is clearly below what we believe is a fair amount. Even if you have 13 months left in your agreement, we’d like to negotiate better terms with you.” By being fair, you are almost guaranteed to renew with them by the end of the term. This example would also apply in many other scenarios: Club-Partner, Player-Club, Player-Partner, Partner-Club… Performing and believing in fair trade is what creates success in the long run within this industry.
Tom: Any last words?
Carlos: When it comes down to betting, it really is a cultural matter. For example, Spanish and French people often grow up understanding betting as a positive thing to have in the ecosystem. Other countries, like the US, do not. For that reason, at the end of the day, the only thing that really matters in this market is how diligent those betting companies are when ensuring that underaged people don’t play and that addicted clients aren’t able to keep pouring money in.
I find absolutely necessary to work with regulated markets and companies and condemn those who lack these basics; and I believe the answer from Esports as an industry towards this matter has been fantastic. A zero-tolerance stance was required, and the community delivered.
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