Eunice Chen made a name for herself in esports as an event manager for Riot Games in 2013, planning and managing events as part of the coveted World Championship.
What she’s perhaps best known for now in the industry, however, is serving as a founding employee of North American giants Cloud9 across partnerships and marketing.
What Chen is looking to do next will be an amalgamation of her variety of esports experience and her love for building and community. She announced Enlight — a venture that aims to equip people to start a career in esports — on October 30, and spoke with Dexerto about her admirable plans not long after.
Having worked with major brands like Riot Games and Cloud9 in the past, it’s perhaps unexpected to see Chen enter the startup world. When you consider her past roles and adoration for community-building, Enlight makes a lot of sense.
Enlightening the next wave of esports personnel
“I had to really think about what I wanted to invest my time into moving forward and really be honest with myself on what’s important to me,” she told Dexerto. “I know that I like building things, and even more, I know that I like building things that help other people. I had to think through a lot of my previous jobs and the conclusion I came to was that the best part was that I was building something and helping people at the same time.
“There are people who are trying to learn these things and people who are trying to teach these things, but there’s no scalable space or easy way for them to do so. Twitter direct messages are not scalable. Conferences are great but it’s just overwhelming and very impersonal. Taking both of those together, it seemed natural for me to think about how I could build a community around learning and the sharing of knowledge.”
Making money without products
With any startup comes questioning around monetization, especially when they’re not inherently selling products. A common theme around early-stage companies is that they initially prioritize building a community and that they’ll then focus on how to make money from the community at a later date. As Chen explained, she falls in line with this approach.
“I launched with a free class because I really wanted to learn and build alongside the community,” she said. “I didn’t want to do spend a year building courses, trying to sell them, and then realising I wasn’t even heading in the right direction. I work best when I keep communication open and really work with the people I’m trying to help. From this free class, I’ll learn so much about what people want and what they find valuable and therefore what they’re willing to pay for.
“If we’re providing something of value for students that enable them to go and get jobs that pay them a salary, that’s something that is valuable and worth actual money. I think there’s also room for things like diversity scholarships and things like that. I’ll probably have a better idea in a few weeks.”
Enlight will be bootstrapped — entirely self-funded — foregoing the ever-common trend of esports companies raising millions from venture capital firms.
“I haven’t really looked for funding just because I want to be authentic to what I’m building and to the mission of that, instead of to what the investors want,” Chen said. “If I do get investment down the line, I want to reduce the cost for customers but I also want to make sure the vision is pretty set.”
Week 1 is here! We're so excited to officially start our Alpha program!
Everyone should've received an email so check your Gmail promotions, socials & spam folders!
— Enlight (@Enlightgg) November 8, 2020
Ability to adapt
There are plenty of applications for a service such as Enlight, it even has the ability to tap into pre-existing communities and establishments and then provide a service from there. As esports grows, so too does the amount of paid opportunities and career options, and that’s something that Chen is cognizant of; her experience in a large entity in Riot Games paying off in spades.
“There are so many ways to think about education, and both professionally and personally,” she said. “With professional skills, there’s a group of people that are very early in their careers and need help with things like their resumes or interviews. There’s also a group of people who already have jobs and want to get better.
“With the beginning part of their careers, working with companies to help with the recruiting pipeline is really interesting. People that go through the Enlight programme, so I hope, will have better skill sets and be more readily prepared. For people that are already working in companies, that could be a really interesting opportunity. If they need to level up around certain skill sets, if they’re hiring a bunch of new photographers or social media coordinators and don’t have time to onboard them, and so on — there’s certainly work around that that can be done.”
Enlight has an impressive roster of “experts” on their website that will serve as mentors to users. This includes lawyer Bryce Blum, Cloud9 senior producer Emily Gonzalez-Holland, Ateyo CEO Rachel Feinberg, Twitter head of gaming content partnerships Rishi Chadha, and Riot Games senior develop relations Gene Chorba.
These mentors are experienced in their own areas and have been picked for that exact reason, as Chen understands that esports is made up of many categories — just like any other industry. While they shouldn’t expect any sort of monetary reimbursement for their time initially, working with Enlight enables them to pass on knowledge and experience to the next generation of esports personnel without spending hours of their time each week doing so.
“The experts that I partnered with, they’re more than happy to speak on panels to speak with younger people to help others,” she told Dexerto. “A common thing that I hear from them and other veterans is they just don’t have time to respond to every single direct message from young people asking them how they can work in esports.
“So for me to set up this kind of structure, where they can easily transfer their knowledge and I handle all the heavy lifting, makes it so easy for the experts who are super busy with their jobs to just come in for an hour, speak on a topic that I’ve laid out for them, and I do the rest. They don’t have to have individual conversations if they don’t want to, they don’t have to deal with scheduling. It’s super turnkey for them.”
Collegiate esports on the rise
It seems as if a new collegiate esports program pops up every week, and this emphasis on teaching people before they’re ready to start their careers is ideal for Enlight. The current means of education is also fitting for the startup, with online and remote learning almost becoming the standard method of deliverance in 2020.
“I think it’s perfect for Enlight to emerge right now,” exclaimed Chen. “With what’s happened in 2020, virtual learning and remote learning has been a really big thing that we’ve all gotten used to. Gaming and esports have just exploded and so colleges are really feeling the pressure to offer something around gaming and esports and engage students.
“Colleges are super swamped and just don’t have the resources to build out very detailed courses and so I hope to be a supplement to that. I’m literally working on this full-time and it’s hard to distill down into how everything actually works and deep dive into each one of those tracks — I can’t imagine a college being able to do that with limited resources and staff.”
Auditing the audience
In terms of who’s able to enroll in Enlight and what the format will look like, Chen is encouraging interested parties to reach out to her for a discussion. She’s “targeting all types of people who are looking to get into esports or learn more about it” and taking a “three-category approach.”
“People who are trying to learn about how esports works, people who are excited to learn about additional soft skills that can help them in their professional careers, and people looking to add to their personal skill set; building confidence, handling imposter syndrome, dealing with rejection, things like that,” she explained.
“Every week, we’ll have discussion topics, I hope to have exercises and we’ll see if people participate in them, we’ll have experts come in to talk about different topics. I’m going to be experimenting with a lot of different formats. I think presentations makes sense but maybe it could be a fireside chat. Maybe it could be an interview format. There’s also room for fun ways to do those discussion topics that we could experiment with and see how people respond.”
While the shape and form of enlightenment that Chen offers may evolve over the coming weeks, it’s clear that she’s looking to equip the next generation with the personal and professional tools necessary to make it in this emerging industry.