The rapidly growing world of professional gaming has become a diverse ecosystem of career opportunities requiring a new type of workforce. To that end, eFuse was launched in 2019 to help be the connective tissue between professional gamers, broadcast personalities, online marketers and all of the other facets of the eSports industry.
“We’re building a network of gamers so that they can connect with each other, but also connect with opportunities,” explained eFuse Founder & CEO Matt Benson. “From scholarships to jobs to playing in a pro tournament or joining a pro team.”
While pursuing a degree in Entrepreneurship from Ohio University, Benson secured a role as an investment analyst at the Ohio Innovation Fund, giving him first-hand experience with the process of funding startups.
“In August 2018 I jumped ship from my day job to start raising money and by December 2019 we launched our beta,” he explained. “Our goal was to have 10,000 users at launch and by January 2 we had 25,000 registered users with more joining every day.”
eFuse was able to secure $1.4 million in seed funding from the Ohio Innovation Fund in November 2019, prior to its launch, with help from several prominent investors including professional football player Braxton Miller.
Benson credits local ties to the Central Ohio community as being critical to the success of eFuse.
“There’s a lot of great gamers and game-related companies here in Columbus,” he stated. “Moby Dick is building the largest brands and merch. Esports Engine is an infrastructure business for eSports. You’ve got the GDEX gaming conference. And even Ohio State has made a big investment in gaming. Venture capital is catching up and we have some great investors here in Columbus.”
LinkedIn For Gamers?
While it’s easy to potentially write off eFuse as just being a “LinkedIn for Gamers,” Benson wants to differentiate eFuse from only being a job-search platform. The site —and its accompanying app — contain social networking feeds for connecting casually with industry professionals, but also opportunities for the active participation in tournaments, as well as applications for scholarships and internships for their younger demographics.
“We’re an active part of the community from very early on,” added Benson. “Gamers aren’t stupid — they know who’s being authentic.”
That authenticity has helped eFuse grow faster than LinkedIn did in its first year, according to Benson. He also credits the Coronavirus Pandemic with boosting that growth, as many in-person entertainment options like music festivals and movie theaters have remained closed, driving a bigger spike in at-home entertainment options such as gaming.
While eFuse remains focused on user growth and user retention in 2020, there is also a focus on monetization opportunities for the young startup. Currently, revenue is driven by hosting tournaments — both branded in-house and white-labeled for other companies. Benson said that a premium subscription service is in the works, as well as a digital advertising platform, both of which are expected to be rolled out at a later date.
Advice For New Startups?
When you’re scaling up a growing enterprise like eFuse, it can be easy to make mistakes. When asked for one piece of advice he would give to new startups going through the same high-growth phase, Benson said:
“For me, the biggest help has been to hire people around you who are better than you,” he stated. “Recruit the right people to fill in your gaps — because you have to know your own weaknesses. Learn quickly to deal with ambiguity, and learn how to ride that wave.”
One Mistake You’ve Learned From?
The entrepreneurial mantra of “Fail Fast, Fail Often” has always been a fancy way of saying “try new things to see what works and what doesn’t.” When asked about something that eFuse tried at launch that didn’t pan out, here’s what Benson had to say:
“We built a news aggregator that was scraping eSports and gaming news,” he stated. “It was an easy tool to format, and we thought that would lead to increased time on our site, but it didn’t pan out. So we pivoted from that and started creating original content, sourced from contributors and things we’ve built ourselves in-house.”
For more information on eFuse, visit efuse.gg.