This Entrepreneur Is Building a Gaming Empire, And Here's What He Sees As the Next Phase For the Industry
ESE Entertainment has seen massive success connecting game experiences with diehard players and newbies alike, and CEO and founder Konrad Wasiela has been its chief visionary
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Megabrand videogames like League of Legends, Rainbow Six, and FIFA all have a secret weapon. So do small game developers striving to join the rarified echelon of companies like Riot Games, Ubisoft and Electronic Arts. Since 2019, Vancouver-based ESE Entertainment has seen massive success connecting game experiences with diehard players and newbies alike, and CEO and founder Konrad Wasiela has been its chief visionary.
World Biz Magazine named Wasiela among its Top 100 CEOs in Innovation Awards for 2021, while Canada's Report on Business included ESE in its Top Ten Undervalued Communication Services Stocks on the Toronto Stock Exchange's Venture Exchange (TSXV: ESE). Under the leadership of Wasiela, a respected former pro athlete, the company has reaped stadium-worthy success in a little under four years, providing value to established and emerging video game developers, publishers and brands globally.
Focused on gaming and esports, ESE Entertainment has "experienced rapid growth, scaling from $12 million to $64 million in annualized revenue in 12 months," says Wasiela, crediting the company's 360° solutions encompassing technology, media and big data that focuses on bringing new players and customers to video game developers. With a busy year ahead, Wasiela says that ESE is steadily moving toward its corporate goal of achieving $100 million-plus in revenue, by increasing its technology capabilities and winning new contracts from game developers and publishers.
Wasiela's strong focus and drive, qualities benefiting the best competitive gamers, can be traced to his youth in Vancouver. The son of Polish immigrants who came to Canada with little money, no language skills and four children, he saw how hard his parents worked "day and night to ensure that we had everything we needed." Influenced by his mother's optimistic outlook and his father's disciplined work ethic as a former military man, Wasiela worked from a young age. His father worked relentlessly both day and night shifts, back-to-back for years. "This level of work ethic has been ingrained in me since day one. I pride myself on outworking the competition in every circumstance, and take inspiration from my father," says Wasiela.
Optimism flowed from opportunity, he discovered. "Business creates an environment where everything is possible, a place you can dream, fail and achieve, and just like sports you get a fresh start every morning to get better," he said.
Football became a driving passion in high school, and his desire to become the best player he could earned him a full-ride scholarship to the University of British Columbia, where he earned his degree. Wasiela's talent soon led him into the Canadian Football League for four years, playing professionally for the BC Lions, Saskatchewan Roughriders and Montreal Alouettes. Wasiela was also recently awarded a position on the UBC All-Decade Team, which honors the greatest players from all eras of the University. His strong athleticism and position as a professional football cornerback – the need to be fast, nimble, and resilient – would serve him well in business.
In 2010, his sports background and a stroke of serendipity led him to work as Head of Business Development for a fast growing video game localization company, APlus, working with some of the largest video game developers globally.
This experience in the gaming sector sparked his next idea. With the advent of streaming platforms like Twitch and brand sponsorship of esports competitions and teams, Wasiela recognized the vast possibilities of the sector. "As a former professional athlete, I understand the business of sports very well, and as the gaming version of sports, this was exploding in popularity," he recalls. Wasiela went to the IEM (Intel Extreme Masters) gaming competition in Poland and saw it firsthand: a sold-out stadium packed with fans.
He came back from that trip, formulated a business plan, and hired the first three staff in what would eventually become ESE Entertainment. Wasiela has spent the last several years developing proprietary technology for the company, building its own media infrastructure and capabilities so that ESE could provide world class services and technology for game developers. The company now has over 120 employees and offices around the world including Vancouver, Montreal, Dublin, Warsaw, and more.
Without the benefit of a crystal ball, Konrad Wasiela has nonetheless seen the trajectory of the industry for more than a decade. "What excites me the most is the crossover between gaming, traditional sports, music and entertainment" he says. "This is all happening now. Gamification is going to rapidly continue. For example, Zwift has caputured the gamification of cycling and revolutionised indoor training. We also see the popularisation of digital Motortsports and Sim Racing in the direct crossover it has with Formula 1 and other Racing Leagues. Gaming has also had a huge impact on music recently with Travis Scott's unprecedented concert inside the popular videogame Fortnite that attracted millions of fans. We are now seeing Esports events with larger viewership numbers than the Super Bowl and other traditional sports and entertainement events. The Gaming and Esports industry has huge momentum and limitless potential and ESE has positioned itself perfectly with its technology and media to take advantage of what we believe is a "once in a lifetime opportunity".
AI, algorithms and "big data" take center stage today at ESE, and its gaming technology division recently became a certified Google Partner, recognizing ESE's deep expertise in developing and delivering comprehensive advertising campaigns that help video game developers get more users. His company's longtime focus on community building also reflects its own commitment to giving back, both through equity programs benefiting the team at ESE and through personal contributions to his community.
As the son of immigrants and a former pro athlete, Wasiela knows his journey has been guided by a set of proven philosophies: "You control your own destiny. Embrace unwavering positivity. Value teamwork. Outperform your competition."That's a formula for success in any universe – or metaverse.