How Levelz is helping amateur gamers go pro.
The esports industry is a top-rising industry worldwide. In 2021, the global esports market was valued at just over US$1.08 billion, forecasted to grow to $1.62 billion in 2024. However, unlike other professional sports such as soccer, basketball, and football, it is hard to develop a professional approach to esports. This is why Sweden-based Oskar Ödmark decided to start Levelz.
As an avid esports player, Ödmark discovered that a lot of fans such as himself were asking how to play esports games like the professionals. Many wanted to know how the professionals moved, what sensitivity they have, how they think, and what their strategies were.
The breakthrough was when Ödmark realized how big this problem was, and how many people were looking for mentorship to up their game. He saw many kids all over were looking for esports coaches and mentors to teach them more about the games.
Some parents even pay coaches up to $25 per hour to help improve the skills of people embarrassed by their gameplay. Moreover, websites like Learn With League and YouTubers like Foxdrop and Skill Capped Challenger LoL Guides gained millions of views by teaching different strategies to be better at League of Legends.
Startup challenges at Levelz
Presently, esports as a market is still a growing industry. The total esports viewership has been increasing 9% every year, increasing from 454 million in 2019 to 646 million in 2023. This puts esports audience on pace to nearly double since 2017. However, this also means that companies don’t exactly understand this novel industry, and need to figure out “how to tackle the market.”
This presents “huge opportunities” for players such as Levelz. Yet, the big potential in esports also makes it very risky to invest in.
“When it comes to looking for investors, it very hard to find people that understand the enormous potential,” Ödmark tells Jumpstart. This is why it is hard to look for investors that would want to put solid capital into Levelz.
Another problem Levelz faced was incorporating aspects of traditional markets into the company. “But what most people usually forget is that we need to adapt products and services that works for gamers, and in order to do that, you need to understand gamers,” Ödmark says. “In that regard, it works to use some aspects of traditional markets and bring them to eSports, and in some aspects, it does not work at all.”
Like many companies, Levelz also faced the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
“The biggest challenge is of course not being able to meet people in person,” Ödmark says. “Sometimes, especially when you are working with professionals, it is really good to meet in person and get their feedback instantly.”
The pandemic, however, has changed the way people think and work. Going forward, Ödmark believes that a “healthy combination” of remote and in-person working would be “ideal”.
Ödmark believes that being naive can be good for a startup. “If you are completely convinced that things will work out, you very often tend to find a way to make it work,” he says. “On the other hand, if you start thinking about all the things that could go wrong before you even start, then you will probably never start.”
The important thing when dealing with hardships, Ödmark says, is to not give up.
Working with the Azalvo Project
Despite the challenges of COVID-19, Levelz was able to grow their business. This growth was helped by the Azalvo Project powered by Jumpstart. Ödmark was first introduced to the program by Binh Johansson at Nordic Innovation House Hong Kong. Seeing that the program could help their business, Ödmark signed Levelz up for it.
Typical of any accelerator, the program featured weekly events where mentors, industry experts, and investors, were brought in to teach startups about the startup journey. In these events, founders spent time understanding the “things that actually mattered.”
Furthermore, many of the startups in the Azalvo Project were able to reach their end goals which included funding, gaining connections, and expansion into the Asian market. Ödmark notes that the program helped guide Levelz and him through being a startup and founder in the modern world. It also helped him connect with “amazing mentors.”
Ödmark believes that his company will be successful due to his passion for it. He says he has been doubted many times by many people, but belief is what drags him through. He furthermore says belief is so important since people “don’t know what inside me, or have had the same experiences as I do.”
His advice to entrepreneurs is to listen to customers, be flexible, and open to new ideas. “Things usually don’t work out the way they are supposed to, but that does not have to be a bad thing,” he says. “Pivoting, being flexible, and always looking for new opportunities are very important.”
Header Image Courtesy of Levelz.