Play One Up, the creation of Brandon Pitts, is an e-sports mobile app that enables video game players to compete against one another for money. Pitts, the company's CEO, says he was driven to create the app so that esports players can discover opportunities to compete and monetize their skills.
While a competitive gaming app could seem like frivolity to some, it's estimated that there will be some 29.6 million esports viewers in 2022, and the category is receiving billions of dollars in investment.
Pitts' Play One Up has so far raised $6 million and has pro athlete investors, including the Cleveland Browns' Denzel Ward and Miami Heat's Victor Oladipo.
"It's an ever-growing market," Pitts says. "Billions of dollars is being poured into it on an investment basis and I think that it's going to continue to see exponential growth and evolution in the industry. It's the next big thing for sure. The market has to mature a lot for the gamers to be able to realize superstardom and the ability to earn from their skills on a whole other level, and I think that we'll be on to something special."
Still, Pitts says esports is still a nascent industry, akin to crypto or cannabis. That's meant breaking the opportunity down to its most basic elements when pitching investors who might not have any familiarity with the industry.
"Early on when you're pitching investors, period, it's like you've got to really water it down and get it where your grandmother or your mom or dad could really understand what it is that your business does. So, early on, going through the LaunchHouse in a previous venture, that was one of the things that they really drove home is make it so anybody could understand your business in literally one line, easily and straight to the point. So, I just tell investors we host video game competitions for real cash prizes and right now there's a lack of opportunity and we want bridge that gap and create more opportunities for all of the gamers. And so just really narrowing it down in a very clear, concise way to help someone understand exactly what your business does is super critical."
Pitts says getting backing from investors that include high-profile athletes creates awareness around the opportunity while also highlighting the potential of the industry. And the investment itself has enabled Pitts to expand the team and add intellectual capital, which creates an opportunity to accelerate growth.
That team has recently grown from 11 to 26 employees. As the CEO of the company and as a leader, Pitts says its important to trust your team, and to delegate
"Proper delegation is always critical when you're growing," he says. "It's never easy, but it's just about having a solid core and a solid group of people. I would be remiss if I took all of the credit for our success so far in our growth. I just so happen to be one person, but I got a super strong team and some of the best world-class guys from around the world, so I'm just excited for our growth and our team."
Pitts spoke at last year's Cleveland Smart Business Dealmakers Conference about the growing esports industry, building Play One Up and how he pitches investors who might not be familiar with the opportunity. Hit play on the video above to catch the full conversation.