If you stumble upon Chris Chaney’s LinkedIn page, you will need to click the “show more experiences” list quite a few times before you get to the bottom of his involvement in various ventures. Chaney is one of those people you meet and just know right away that he is a perennial entrepreneur.
The Princeton graduate has always had a proclivity to involve himself in sports. Over 10 years ago, he served as an Associate in the Global Partnerships division of the NBA before starting a strategy and mergers and acquisitions advisory company called Chaney Sports Group.
Chaney may not have known it, but his life was headed toward a big change in 2016. That is when he started reading about the esports industry and began to see similarities between it and traditional sports, while also recognizing the many differences.
“It felt like this emerging space that was still pretty open as far as getting in and building something, and that got me super excited,” says Chaney, who was enthused about the ability to build something in the industry.
Between then and today, Chaney started and sold a company called Infine Esports (acquired by Immortals Gaming Club), the sale of which was completed in June 2019. He is now working on a new venture called Evolution Interactive and remains active as an early stage startup advisor, working with a dozen-or-so startups in the esports and gaming space.
Being all in included owning very successful esports franchises in OpTic Gaming and the Houston Outlaws before selling his interest in Infinite Esports. He also invested with some colleagues in a few esports startups such as a consulting agency, merchandise company, esports audience startup and other ventures. His new company, Evolution Interactive, seeks to own or invest in a number of different professional esports organizations.
How Chaney broke into the esports industry may sound a bit surprising. He says that he reached out to a lot of people on LinkedIn when it was not as saturated as it is now, with people constantly messaging and trying to get their feet in the door.
“A few people were talking about the space, but certainly not as many,” says Chaney. “It was pretty easy to identify folks, reach out and literally ask for an intro call. One conversation led to the next. From there, I developed an idea for an esports investment company, and we ultimately launched that about a year later in September 2017. It was very organic in a way.”
When Chaney launched his esports holding company, his group was only one of two groups globally that had two spots in the publisher sponsored leagues — the Overwatch League and LCS (League of Legends Championship Series). The other was Cloud9, which Forbes says is the most valuable professional esports company at a valuation of $310 million.
“I think a lot of people do it because the teams are familiar,” says Chaney. “You get the concept of a professional esports team.”
He believes that, disproportionately, the investment and attention have gone to teams.
“There’s a lot of pick-and-shovel opportunities around the space that aren’t receiving the attention they deserve,” adds Chaney. “A lot of smart people have gotten into esports and it’s part of my belief that if enough smart people get into an industry like this, they will see the ROI. Some investments won’t work out, but I fundamentally believe in the industry.”
Chaney remains bullish on team side investments, with long term perspective. He also indicated that he is very interested in opportunities around betting, management platforms, high school esports, rewards platforms, fashion, facilities, gamer-focused nutritional supplements, vision (which is totally ignored) and even around recovery products for your shoulders, wrists, back and other body parts.
If you are interested in more insight from Chris Chaney, then you can join Chaney and me at the Esports BAR Miami event taking place from October 2-4. We will further discuss what investors are looking for in the world of esports.
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