Adam Fitch: 100 Thieves’ new creator-owners is a taste of the future

100 Thieves co-owners Nadeshot, Valkyrae and CouRage100 Thieves

North American esports organization and entertainment company 100 Thieves appointed major creators Rachel ‘Valkyrae’ Hofstetter and Jack ‘CouRage’ Dunlop as co-owners on April 7th. This is not only smarter than it first appears but, I believe, a glimpse into the future.

The realm of content creation is a weird one. Not only has it never been easier to make a living from content due to the sheer amount of eyeballs, but it’s never been harder to do so too because millions of people are all trying to make it a reality. If you’re among the top creators today, you’re still very much part of an exclusive club.

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Esports has evolved over the past decade, expanding beyond competition to a point where it’s now strange if an organization have a handful of creators on their roster. It’s pretty hard to monetize the competitive aspect of the industry and esports fans, for all intents and purposes, are typically gaming fans too, so it’s possible to engage them in other ways. Creating content with likeable, creative personalities is not only a great way to build a brand but their numbers contribute towards metrics that can help sign sponsorships. Like it or not, content creators are a huge aspect of these team brands keeping the lights on.

Valkyrae and CouRage have been with 100 Thieves, an organization founded by one of gaming’s largest content creators in Matthew ‘Nadeshot’ Haag, for years at this point. They know what the brand stands for and where it will go in the future. They’ve been instrumental in cementing the ideal of 100 Thieves as something people aspire to represent. Like OpTic Gaming before them, Nadeshot’s long-time home, fans want to be among these popular creators.

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valkyrae courage 100 thieves co-owners100 Thieves
The organization also released their new apparel collection and eight NFTs in the same week as announcing their new co-owners.

Now, this is where I’ll get into some mild speculation. I imagine both creators, especially Valkyrae, have immense leverage with the organization because of how intensely they’re attached to the company. They’re both thriving, commanding live audiences of tens of thousands of people and racking up millions of views on YouTube each and every month. They can easily make it on their own should they wish to do so, but it’s in 100T’s best interests to keep them on their side.

So, what happens? The amount of money the org can afford to throw at them each month as a salary is pretty inconsequential at this point. It’s a minor factor in their monthly income. They need something more than that, something concrete that helps to secure them in the future and allow them to expand beyond content should they wish. Equity can provide that.

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On the surface, many may see this as a silly move that keeps the duo happy without giving them any real say in the business aspect of 100 Thieves. I’d argue against this. Content creation is a business within itself. Creating a product (a video), marketing (thumbnails, titles, distribution), managing staff (editors, artists, moderators), deals (negotiating with potential sponsors, and many other aspects of their day jobs translate directly to running a company. They’re essentially the CEO of their own brands. Brands that have grown exponentially and become rather lucrative, no less.

100 Thieves Enter Infinity apparel collectionYouTube: 100 Thieves
100 Thieves’ roster of creators grows on what’s almost a monthly basis.

It makes sense for them to accept a greater involvement in 100 Thieves. Content creation can be intense. Not only that, but it doesn’t follow a set path like many careers. What happens when you’re ready to move on? Like broadcast talent in esports, there’s no clear answer. This clever move for all parties allows CouRage and Valkyrae to acquire more exposure to running a sizeable, growing business with millions of dollars invested. It opens up doors to so many areas that may have been closed prior.

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With an ownership stake in 100 Thieves, they’ll quite literally be invested in the future of the organization. The brand’s success equates to their success, to an extent. If they were already seen as faces of the org prior to acquiring equity, you can only imagine how fiercely they’ll represent going forward. They’re in exclusive circles with other major creators and may have some influence in bringing them other under the 100T banner too.

Creators like Valkyrae and CouRage are more than just gamers. They’re media-savvy business-people who not only make waves in the industry, they’re sometimes at the forefront of them too — it’s no coincidence they’re playing alongside the biggest people in whichever game explodes into mainstream popularity. Fortnite and Among Us are two perfect examples.

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This isn’t necessarily a new model. FaZe Clan have counted their creators as co-owners for years now, but they were often involved in the days before the money came. This is one step further than that. I believe this is certainly not the last we’ll see of moves of this type. Creators are businesses now, and together the limit of their impact is yet to be seen.