Exclusive: Hitmarker to raise £200k from fans to expand into new markets
Business

Hitmarker aim to raise £200,000 from fans to expand into new markets

Published: 27/Nov/2020 12:59

by Adam Fitch

Share


Gaming and esports jobs platform Hitmarker are planning to launch their second crowdfunding campaign to expand into new locations.

Aiming to raise at least £200,000 in exchange for 4% equity, the UK-based company will use the money raised to set up localized platforms for markets in Asia, Europe, and Latin America.

Specifically, they will hire 10 more staff members over the next two years to accommodate jobs in esports hot spots such as Brazil, China, Japan, and Spain. They’re also looking to create the “first truly global professional network for gamers.”

This upcoming funding values Hitmarker at £4.8m, well over double the £1.9m figure they were valued at just a year ago. In November 2019 they raised £200,000 in their first crowdfunding initiative, achieving 250% of their £80,000 target.

Hitmarker staff expansion
Hitmarker
They doubled their workforce following their first crowdfunding initiative.

Raising the stakes

“Our previous campaign enabled us to almost immediately double our headcount from five full-time staff to 10, which in turn allowed us to transition from just covering esports to covering the entire video game industry as well in March,” Hitmarker’s managing director Rich Huggan told Dexerto. “We’ve since been able to increase the volume of live opportunities on Hitmarker by over 1,000%, from around 1,200 esports jobs last November to over 12,000 esports and video game jobs now.”

After drastically increasing the number of jobs they compile — which, usefully, further consolidates the gaming and esports jobs market — they’re seeking additional capital to keep their growth going. There are plenty of localized markets that could be better served and Hitmarker are looking to tap into those going into 2021 and beyond.

“This next raise is intended to help us broaden our coverage even further by beginning to create the first truly global professional network for the esports and video game industry,” he said. “In the coming weeks and months, we’re going to hire at least a further five full-time staff so that we can roll out fully localized hiring platforms for Brazil, Spain, Japan, and China. The feature set of our platform is going to increase dramatically in 2021, too.”

While their new goal of £200,000 is on par with the amount they raised this time last year, there’s a potential to raise over twice the amount of the baseline figure once again. With more users than ever and a growing valuation, Hitmarker are feeling bullish about their chances with this next round of investment.

“Having hit our £200,000 upper limit last November, we felt it was a fair minimum target for this raise,” said Huggan. “In reality, we’ll be disappointed if we don’t raise at least twice that amount this time around. Crowdcube always told us that the first raise is the most difficult, and we don’t think last year could have gone much better than it did. We’ve now got an existing network of 380 engaged investors to lean on, and we learned a lot from last year’s campaign.”

Forgoing esports tradition

In esports, it’s become the norm to raise investment from venture capitalists with numbers in the millions becoming commonplace. With Hitmarker’s crowdfunding efforts, as well as Fnatic’s current ongoing fan-funded efforts, smaller companies are being shown that there are other paths to go down when seeking funding. Not only that but, as Huggan explained, he’s consciously avoiding venture capital.

“I’ve yet to meet a VC that I’d want anywhere near Hitmarker and I’ve heard too many horror stories from companies both inside and outside of esports who’ve gone down that road and regretted it later,” he said. “Maybe I’ve just met the wrong ones, but we’ve never regretted our decision to crowdfund for a minute and we’ve gained some tremendous investors in the process. A number of them have been invaluable to the business this year.”

In theory, when esports and gaming grow so do Hitmarker. With more companies spawning as too do career opportunities, especially with more investment flooding into these industries. Hitmarker have a clear path in mind to capitalize on such growth, though they’re cognizant of the fact that they’re not yet serving every geographical market as well as they could be doing. This crowdfunding effort will help them to remedy that.

Vaggas BR Hitmarker
Hitmarker
Hitmarker partnered with Brazilian esports jobs platform in March 2020 to compile Portuguese and Spanish language jobs.

“The future is Brazilian Portuguese, Spanish, Japanese, and Chinese versions of the Hitmarker platform, all complete with dedicated customer service and the same noise-free, hand-curated feed our English-speaking users benefit from,” said Huggan. “The future is the first truly global professional network dedicated to the esports and video game industry. Hopefully, the future is also a very decent return for ourselves and all of our investors.”

As with many startups, monetization is on the mind. It’s all fine and dandy being able to continuously raise money when the well starts to dry, but actual revenue streams are needed to be a sustainable company.

“We’re on track for 100% annual growth in revenue in 2020,” he said. “We’ve seen a significant uptick in the number of companies hiring directly through Hitmarker and promoting their listings on the platform, while we’ve also added data sales to our income streams this year too. Our partnerships with recruitment specialists RGF Executive Search, New Level Recruiting, and the Executives in Sport Group should start bearing fruit in early 2021.”

Hitmarker are the de facto platform when it comes to finding a new job in gaming and esports, and it doesn’t seem like they’re resting on their laurels. While the jury is out as to whether their second round of raising money from gamers and esports fans will once again eclipse their expectations, they’ve helped thousands of people find opportunities and they may just fancy repaying the favor.

Esports

Why do esports organizations keep rebranding? Experts weigh in

Published: 21/Jan/2021 17:54 Updated: 21/Jan/2021 18:36

by Adam Fitch

Share


A trend that’s emerged over the past couple of years in esports is organizations rebranding, but why do they deem it necessary to change a visual identity they’ve had in place for years? It’s considered counter-intuitive to some, but there are some merits to a brand refresh.

When it comes to selling your company and its services or products, branding is a crucial decision. It communicates your company and its offering to the audience you’re looking to tap into, hopefully providing a connection point and keeping it top of mind when prospective consumers are scouring the market.

In an industry that’s predicated on competition, there’s additional nuance. There’s a need in esports and sports alike to create an identity that fans can root for; a brand that’s relatable or aspirational that helps to foster long-term supporters.

In 2020 alone, over a dozen prominent entities in the esports industry opted to ditch their logo (and in some cases, their company’s entire identity) in place of something fresh. There are plenty of reasons these decisions were made.

Why do esports organizations keep rebranding?

Evil Geniuses Rebranded Jerseys
Evil Geniuses
If any organization knows what it’s like to upset a diehard fan base due to a rebrand, it’s Evil Geniuses.

The conception of esports happened at different times, depending on who you ask, but it’s very clear that entities housing competitive players really started to emerge in the early 2000s. At this time, though, these teams were made up of friends who enjoyed playing alongside each other — it was remarkably rare for a tournament to have the life-changing financial incentives that are commonplace today.

These teams weren’t established as multi-million dollar companies or media giants, and thus time and resources weren’t funneled into branding. These organizations, which were actually just gaming clans, were simply a product of the times. As the industry has professionalized and become more economically lucrative, the functions and demands of such brands have changed.

The likes of Evil Geniuses, Fnatic, and Ninjas in Pyjamas have been around for years and, as such, they’ve had to develop in every area as the industry too developed. No wonder companies that were once present-minded inventions have had to change their branding, they needed to adapt to the new environment surrounding them as they blossomed into professional operations.

“With the esports scene moving at lightning pace, it’s not uncommon for brands to rapidly outgrow their original branding,” designer Owen M. Roe told Dexerto. “If you’re founding a team with limited resources at your disposal, you’re not going to be able to afford world-class designers.

“Eventually, there will come a point where a bad logo will begin to hurt your bottom line, whether it’s with brand recognition, merchandising, or because it just plain old looks dated. Fans strongly identify with logos, so it’s important to give them something to be proud of — but that’s also what makes esports rebrands so hit or miss.”

League of Legends champs Damwon Gaming has partnered with KIA Motors.
DWG KIA
Even DAMWON Gaming changed their name and logo just months after establishing themselves as the current League of Legends world champions.

“Tenets of great design are timeless, but the market is so dynamic that sometimes rebrands are necessary — for example, if an organization switched regions and the old branding no longer effectively represents them,” Theorycraft founder and creative strategist Lauren Gaba Flanagan told Dexerto. “Also, if brand architecture wasn’t built correctly at launch, a rebrand is a good opportunity to correct and refresh that.

That said, observing shifts in design trends is the wrong reason to rebrand.

Organizations have to consider what their brand communicates to consumers, and also how well it serves its purpose across the board. These days, branding has to be well-suited to digital channels, on merchandise and branded accessories, in broadcast graphics, and supporting assets across their entire operation.

Creating a timeless brand

Esports is a digital-first industry that’s evolving at a rapid pace, so it’s impossible to ensure that a brand is able to stand the test of time in every application. It’s more sensible to try and represent what your company is right now and where you envisage it being in the short-to-medium-term.

Should we, as an industry, simply expect constant iterations of recognizable brands organizations attempt to communicate their ethos while staying in line with current design trends and norms? Despite not knowing how things will develop in the future, Roe believes that companies should still be aspirational.

“The goal should always be to make timeless logo designs,” he said. “Frequent & unnecessary rebrands are probably indicative of a larger problem within the organization. We see brands like Evil Geniuses and Dignitas throw away their iconic logos in favor of a hollow corporate rebrand, only to return to form with an updated iteration of their original branding.

“There’s a reason they made the decision to go back to their original logos, that’s what the fans identify with, there’s history there. Esports rebrands should aim to build on & improve what has already been established.”

It’s not uncommon to see new owners come in and change the logo (and overall direction) of an organization, as Roe stated. HBSE with Dignitas and PEAK6 with Evil Geniuses are perfect examples, only realizing that changes they felt were necessary would alienate their fan bases when the damage had been done. In these cases, they reverted back to the original designs, but attempted to modernize them.

Dignitas Rebrand
Dignitas
Dignitas moved away from their iconic DIGI logo in 2018 just to bring it back in 2021, much to the delight of their fans and the wider industry.

“I hope we don’t see organizations with beloved branding pushed to rebrand simply because they feel pressure to modernize,” Flanagan added. “From the practical (what do I do with all my old merchandise?) to the emotional (I have fond memories of the old logo), any organization planning to rebrand has to do the work of appropriately retraining and reconditioning people on identification and association. A lot goes into that, so rebranding is a card you can pull maybe once. If the same org is rebranding multiple times, that’s a bigger problem.

“Brands can’t be futureproofed unless they’re composed of solid fundamentals, so organizations need to invest in great brand identities upfront — but that investment also must be ongoing. You need great designers who will continually think of ways to creatively apply the identity — through apparel design, photography, social, motion graphics — because that’s what can really keep decades-old branding feeling fresh and inventive. Org branding should be consistent and distinct while remaining flexible enough to incorporate changing rosters, games, and trends.”

The jury is out on whether the recent rebrands in esports will stand the test of time — though there are some that have been disappointing, to say the least — but it’s clear that this trend has emerged for the right reasons. Organizations want to optimize their potential for growth and success, and saying branding is part of that formula would be an understatement.