After news that China's esports giant VSPN (Versus Programming Network) raised nearly $ 100 million in a Series B funding round led by Tencent Holdings, TechCrunch emailed founder and CEO Dino Ying about its strategy for the company.
VSPN was founded in 2016 and is headquartered in Shanghai. The company was one of the earliest pioneers in organizing esports tournaments and creating content outside of Asia. It has since expanded to other companies, including running offline.
VSPN hosted the first major esports event with an offline audience in August, although tournaments are now run under strict COVID-19 prevention measures.
TechCrunch: VSPN has a large content production ecosystem that surrounds its esports activities. Can you elaborate on the details of your specified short form video strategy? Will this affect TikTok?
Ying: VSPN intends to leverage our world-class video production capabilities and industry knowledge to create different types of content. We will bring a new and vibrant sports experience to our existing fans and a wider audience. As our investors and strategic partner, Kuaishou will support our media platform in every way so that our content reaches more users. Short-form videos are an important part of our future strategy and we look forward to working with platforms around the world in this regard.
TC: What is the share of VSPN in the eSports market?
Ying: There is no official estimate of the size of the esports market, but VSPN is by far the largest esports organization in China with over 1000 employees and covers every major esports tournament you have ever heard of. In many ways, we are the largest esports organization in the world and we will continue to expand.
TC: Why do you think Shanghai has become a center for sport?
Ying: As the largest and perhaps most international city in China, it has a vibrant and increasingly demanding economy. Technical innovations and new industries are actively encouraged to grow here.
The Shanghai government has taken supportive measures and actions to encourage the growth of the sport at home and abroad. Thanks to these measures, Shanghai has become an international center for the largest and best tournaments in the world
TC: How important is esports research to VSPN and why?
Ying: It is important for VSPN. As a total sport solutions provider aiming to build a sustainable global ecosystem for sport, data and research and development enable us to provide a better experience for our fans. The research center will enable us to continuously improve as a company and further develop the industry.
TC: You are the Co-Founder and Chairman and CEO of Titel. What role does co-founder Ethan Teng play?
Ying: Ethan Teng is the co-founder and president of VSPN. As one of VSPN's key partners, Ethan, with his dedicated experience in the esports industry, plays an important role in leading and managing the company's strategic objective setting and day-to-day management.
TC: How is the strategic relationship with Tencent?
Ying: VSPN is a key Tencent partner in the esports industry. With the support of Tencent, VSPN has built a leadership position in the production of content for esports tournaments. Since the rise of esports in China, our deep-rooted industry expertise has helped evolve the esports ecosystem to grow and mature. In addition to Tencent, we will continue to create new opportunities in the industry.
TC: Why did you choose these partners and why? What was the strategic thinking behind these decisions?
Ying: VSPN wants to partner with Kuaishou to create an esports short-form video ecosystem to diversify existing content and create the connections between world-class developers and channels. With an extensive portfolio in the consumer and TMT sectors, both Tiantu Capital and SIG will use their industry knowledge and expertise to support VSPN's strategic development. With our investors, we will enable sport to be the new sport for the next generation.
TC: In addition to its core business of esports tournaments and content production, VSPN has branded esports venues. How important are these other companies – like the venues – to VSPN's core offering? What kind of growth do you expect in the next few years?
Ying: Regardless of the business lines, VSPN's main role is to deliver the best esports experiences to our fans. These experiences include not only online experiences, but also offline experiences that fans physically participate in. We see our offline business as a natural way to extend our services to our fans. It is an important addition to our overall range. We expect it to grow according to the demands of our fans and partners.
TC: Mobile esports, especially KPL and PUBG MOBILE (or Peacekeeper Elite in China), have increasingly attracted female viewers. What is the future of eSports for women / girls?
Ying: Mobile gaming has really helped expand the reach of eSports to include female participants and audiences. We rightly see a future of eSports in which female participants play a more important role than before. Not only as an athlete on stage, but also as fans outside the stage and above all as top-class producers and decision-makers in the industry. The effects of more female fans, athletes and professionals are exciting and will be of great benefit to the entire industry.
TC: What is the future of sport in augmented reality?
Ying: We believe that eSports in its full form will look and feel very different from what it has been in sports and entertainment before. The ability to incorporate real games and virtual competitions is fascinating. VSPN is only just beginning to test the limits of new technologies like AR, VR. The advent of these technologies will help us create fresher experiences and the possibilities are endless.
TC: Please tell us more about your personal story?
Ying: Firstly, thank you for having me – it's a real pleasure to speak to TechCrunch and let the world know about our fundraiser. I've worked in the games and esports industry all my life and I'm excited about the future. With the team at VSPN, we pride ourselves on being pioneers in the esports industry.
I live between Beijing and Shanghai but I spend a lot of time traveling to other Chinese cities like Xi & # 39; an, Chengdu, Guangzhou and Shenzhen where we have sports arenas and business interests. I usually travel internationally to some of our overseas activities and competitions, so I look forward to when travel becomes easier.
I am also a fan of traditional sports and an avid soccer fanatic. I follow some European leagues – I go to games whenever I can to soak up the atmosphere. I went to Stamford Bridge earlier this year and loved it, but it's hard to see AC v Inter Derby live …
TC: Why did you get into this business and how?
Ying: Mainly because I'm a HUGE gaming fan! I've been playing computer games since I was young and I enjoy playing all kinds. Earlier this year I played COD Warzone as soon as it came out and played PUBG Mobile a lot. I am very happy to be in an industry that I have loved since I was a child. It's a great way to connect with friends, and I'm proud to have worked in game development and publishing throughout my career. 5 years ago, sport seemed like the obvious next step due to the competitive element. We saw the beginning of a trend and founded VSPN with a world-class team to realize that potential.
VSPN prides itself on being a global leader in a relatively new industry. We believe the sport will continue to grow exponentially and will be an incredibly important part of the entertainment industry in the years to come. Running a Chinese company with a global future is really exciting.
TC: What motivates you as a businessman?
Ying: Providing new forms of entertainment to millions of people around the world and building global businesses. TC: Who is your main inspiration in the business world?
There are so many fantastic business people in China doing some really innovative things right now. For example, the live streaming industry has grown huge in 2020 due to the pandemic and has given entrepreneurs a new way to sell products and target new audiences.
If I had to name one, it would be Mark Ren (COO at Tencent Holdings) – he's an exceptional businessman. The way in which he has helped create sustainable ecosystems in entertainment and track trends is something every businessman should strive for. This is something VSPN is working hard on and we are very proud to be such close partners with Tencent. TC: What is your opinion on Silicon Valley?
Ying: It's an amazing place and it has shown the world how technology can improve life around the world. For many years it has been a center of creativity and innovation worldwide and continues to be an inspiration for entrepreneurs around the world. In China we have many silicon valleys! TC: Is there anything else you would like to say to TechCrunch readers?
Ying: This has been a challenging year for a lot of companies and the esports industry has had to adapt, but I think the world has seen how big the sport is and how it can bring communities and cultures together. As the industry grows, there will be ever larger online and offline tournaments around the world, especially as 5G and mobile gaming become even more popular. We look forward to being at the forefront of the sport for competitors around the world, and hope that some of your readers will enjoy our original content and tournaments.
Given that celebrities and big brands are viewing live streaming and casual gaming as a new way to appeal to a wider audience, the future is very, very promising for VSPN.