Tundra eyes up competitive success with Virgil van Dijk co-ownership
The esports industry is inundated with competitive organizations looking to rise through the ranks and make a name for themselves, the latest to succeed on this front is Tundra.
The organization: It launched in 2019, not too long before the global pandemic hit.
- From performing well in Dota 2 to making several key hires, the organization is one to watch.
- Tundra currently fields competitors in Dota 2, FIFA, and Fortnite, as well as housing a number of content creators.
- Its latest high-impact move is bringing in Liverpool footballer Virgil van Dijk as a shareholder and ambassador, as announced on August 4.
Deep dive: Hitmarker sat down with Tundra CEO Evgeniy Roshchupkin.
- The UK-based organization is led by Roshchupkin, who joined in December 2021 after serving as a consultant for a couple of years. He has previous experience at Gfinity and Red Bull.
- "Our investor is the owner of A.F.C. Bournemouth, Maxim Demin, and he supported the group of guys who started Tundra," the CEO told Hitmarker. "They started with FIFA as it was their favourite game and the ambition was to demonstrate great performance and a strong business foundation."
- The org's next step was calculated, having analyzed the current landscape which is full of eight-figure investment opportunities and exclusive competition.
- "We did a thorough market analysis and we identified that out of the bigger titles for esports where you have major community and great viewership, Dota 2 was one we felt was a great fit for our ambitions," said Roshchupkin. "It did not require a major franchise investment and we’re trying to be smart with our investments. We signed a very interesting roster, going through all of the analytics and talking to the community."
- The likes of EXCEL ESPORTS, Fnatic, and Guild Esports place emphasis on their British roots while maintaining an international strategy, and Tundra's walking down the same path.
- "We are based in the UK but we actually are a European organization," he explained. "Our Dota 2 team is popular across the world, our players are coming from all the different parts of Europe. We have global ambitions."
Performance play: Tundra wants to compete on the biggest stages.
- Tundra truly cares about performing at the highest level. This is something many esports organizations claim but the results may well suggest otherwise.
- Esports is notorious for its reliance on sponsorship revenue and, when it comes to securing new partners, signing large content creators with fanatical audiences is often a safer bet than investing millions of dollars on competing.
- "Esports is the basis for our business growth and that's why we're paying so much attention to it," said Roshchupkin. "A lot of young organizations neglect performance in comparison to other investments they’re making in content creators and influencers. To be successful and really get respect from communities, you first need to have performed at the top level."
- He then explained that he does however see the value in signing influencers. Tundra is playing that game like almost every other esports org, but competitive success is still the ultimate goal.
- "Community is not just about appreciating your performance, they want to learn more about the players and they want to get more content around the titles where we play," he added. "We actually have more than 20 talent signed right now, which includes both players and content creators and streamers. That allowed us to double our follower numbers."
Tundra scores: The org has brought a professional footballer into esports.
- Virgil van Dijk, who plays for Liverpool and the Netherlands, has joined Tundra as an ambassador and shareholder.
- P Money, a grime artist that's also an ambassador for Tundra, has released what the org describes as "the first official grime competitive gaming song" and was used to unveil the footballer's arrival.
- "The reason why Virgil van Dijk is an ambassador and co-owner is that, apart from the fact that he is a top-tier athlete, he's actually a very engaged gamer himself," Roshchupkin told Hitmarker. "We're focusing on much more than just performance with him. We’ll engage with his community, but also take his advice on working with talent."
- "Virgil plays FIFA and Fortnite and he wants to show that part of his personality to his following," he added. "We know that a lot of his following are gamers, but he's also very interested in our business and developing it together with us. He will also bring in his connections with some top brands."
- Tundra isn't the first organization to bring in a popular athlete as either an owner or an ambassador. A prime example is David Beckham's involvement with Guild Esports, in which he's getting paid almost $20M over five years to serve as the face of the org. He's also a minority shareholder in the company.
Looking ahead: Roshchupkin is leading the organization boldly into the future.
- Considering the effects of the pandemic, alongside the current economic downturn, esports organizations are starting to downsize their workforce to weather the storm. 100 Thieves, Dignitas, Guild, Semper Fortis, ORDER, and TSM have all laid off staff or players in recent weeks.
- Armed with its new ambassador in van Dijk, rapper and gamer P Money, and its rosters of competitors and creators, Tundra is moving in the other direction. It's doubling down on the areas it believes in and hopes it'll cement the organizations among the best in the continent.
- "There are always economic ups and downs but we really believe in esports and gaming to continue being one of the most exciting sectors in business," said Tundra's CEO. "We are actually stepping on the gas in terms of what we're doing. We will come out of this and be one of the top organizations in Europe, if not globally."
- The industry is now armed with new-found data on how a host of esports orgs are performing financially since they've started going public. No public org posted a profit in 2021, perhaps illustrating the tricky landscape they're operating in.
- "We haven’t gone public," the Tundra CEO added. "We may at some point, but we haven’t done it. We’re taking it step-by-step instead of making a huge bluster with a major investment and then having to struggle in times like this."