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XLIVE Interview Series
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Jason Lake Interview (video) - XLIVE Esports Summit 2018

We sat down with Jason Lake, Founder & CEO of at compLexity Gaming, at the XLIVE Esports Summit, April 2-3 in Los Angeles, CA.

JASON LAKE INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPT

[00:00] Here we are with Jason Lake, CEO of complexity gaming, Jason we’re super excited about everything you’ve been doing in industry, we’ve been following you closely and inspired by you daily. What’s top of mind? What’s going on, man?

[00:10] Oh Man. I don’t know if I can live up to all that, but I appreciate the kind words very much. Thank you.

[00:14] You’ve been in the industry for a super long time. I think we’re all motivated by your hustle. How does it feel to finally get to the point where you’ve got the cowboys and the Jones family behind you supporting your dream?

[00:26] I mean, it’s really tough to put words on it. When we closed the deal with the Jones and the Goff families out of the Dallas area, it was a culmination of over a decade of hustle. This will be my 15th year in esports this summer and I spent a good couple of years looking for the right corporate, big brother, right? Because as esports blew up all the investment is costing us a lot of money as far as the cost side, the expense side of our balance sheet was growing exponentially, but the income side wasn’t growing exponentially, so it became really apparent to me that we needed to find, you know, deeper pockets and in a bigger organization to help us kind of take that next leap forward in our history and uh, couldn’t be happier with where we ended up. I’m super blessed and grateful to be in Dallas, working with the Jones and Goff families.

[01:13] I think as an entrepreneur, I relate to what you kind of have been through, a fellow hustler in the esports space. How many conversations do you think you engaged in with investors that were just pumping you of information or you just thought you were making leeway in the conversations and they just fell through. Like, I’ve been seriously wondering that man.

A lot, a lot, a lot. And I’m a big believer at the end of the day that business is really about people. And I met with a lot of people. Some people were good but didn’t, didn’t quite fit our longterm vision, some people quite frankly were bad and led me on, and, uh, put me through a bunch of hoops for nothing to find out. It was all smoke and mirrors. They really didn’t have the investment that they were promising to deliver. They had to go get it from somewhere else. And it was kind of frustrating. But I guess going into it, I knew it would be quite an adventure. And two years of meeting with some of the most compelling sports leaders in America was kind of worthwhile. You know, I met the owner of several, several NFL teams and NBA teams. Um, some really interesting tech people, some super smart people from the VC world, I learned a lot. I feel I grew a lot as a person just kind of being out there and humble and, and trying to find the right relationships. And like I said earlier, you know, when the cowboys and the Jones and Goff contingent came a call and, I quickly knew that this was a, the vision and the partnership that would take us to the next level. So, uh, I feel really, really grateful. It’s the answer to a lot of prayers.

[02:47] How do you stay so grounded and humble? One of the things that concerned me in the space. I’ve been a Gamer my entire life, I feel like there’s been an inclusion issue. People are getting a little jaded. I feel like in kind of arms distance keeping outsiders out. Then if anybody had a right to do that, given your longevity, it would be you. How do you stay true to your core and avoid that?

[03:08] Uh, you know, we’ve been doing this a long time and I think frankly the economic collapse, the 2008, really wiped me out. And up to that time I’ve been pretty bullish. I’ve been pretty brash, but it was a very humbling time in my life to where I’d sold my law firm, moved to California to pursue the espors dream in May of 2008. I moved my wife, my two young children all the way across the country. And then that summer the economy imploded and they shut down the entire global league that November. So I went from owning complexity and, and a pretty successful law firm to being unemployed in California where I wasn’t licensed to practice law. So the intervening years saw me getting the intellectual property rights back to complexity and starting it from the ground up thinking, you know, this will rebound in esports is going to be a big thing. I just need to hold on and you know, it took much longer than initially thought, but you know, it’s a long winded way of, of saying, you know, if you, if you failed in life and you’ve crashed and burned and you woke up in the middle of the night, just kind of saying, you know, what have I done? I think it is a humbling effect. And uh, whenever you experienced success after that, if you’re wise and you learn from your mistakes, you realize like, this is a blessing. I’m going to do my best to take advantage of it because you don’t know how long it’ll last.

[04:36] Tell us about your support network. The Lake family, Ms. Lake, what’s behind you, man? I mean, obviously you got to have a pretty strong network, you know?

[04:46] Yeah. No, I mean my wife Danielle has been sensational. She allowed me to pursue the esports dream when I was pretty successful attorney and that meant turning down a lot of. I’m not guaranteed money but pretty reliable money and chasing after a dream and she allowed me to move the family all the way across the country to do that and then it instantly blew up in our faces, but rather than divorcing me or you know, just really getting on me,she went to work. She was a stay at home mom and now we’re broke and trying to figure out the way forward. So she went and got a job where she had to get up at five in the morning and hustle, you know, five days a week while we were raising two young kids. So that’s a kind of support structure I have behind me. And it really circles back again to my core belief of surrounding yourself with the right people. I surrounded myself with an amazing woman to be my wife and when shit hit the fan, she didn’t go running off into the hills. She, you know, she dug down deep and went to work and supported me and built me back up while I could rebuild complexity and you know, it eventually ended up working out. But if I hadn’t picked the right people, starting with my wife and other people in the organization that stayed loyal over those years, we never would’ve got to where we are with, you know, with the Joneses and Goffs and at the Dallas Cowboy world headquarters. So my, my biggest suggestion to people as they’re out there hustling, as they’re out there grinding is be very particular about the people you really put in your inner circle. Make sure they’re humble, hard working, loyal and trustworthy.

What goes on internally. You’re waking up, you got out here to California. You don’t, you didn’t pass the bar in California. 

I never took it.

So you technically couldn’t practice law, you were broke, what’s pushing you every day? Like what are you fueled by? I always talk about I’m fueled by passion. That’s why I know I’m so aligned in this space because being an entrepreneur, it’s what it takes when things are a little less clear. But what, what’s internally in you? Was it spite of everybody who’s doubting you? Um, what was it?

[06:51] A combination of things. It was a lot of passionate because I’ve always believed in esports space. I believe very passionately that I was right, that esports, we’re a digital sport for a new digital era. And maybe it’s just that I’m stubborn too where all these people were constantly telling me I was crazy. Why would you leave a law from my parents, my inlaws, friends that had my best interest in mind, but they were unintentionally kind of like, what are you doing? Like, you know, you need to grow up, take care of your family. And I know that their hearts were in the right place, but it was a super difficult time. And you come to a crossroads in life. And my crossroad was, am I going to get the complexity, intellectual property back and start this from scratch. We had no employees with no website. We had no gamers. The League who had bought complexity, you know, had closed and shuttered and was I going to invest my time and my life and the life of my family back into complexity after this disaster while going out and working jobs in the real world to pay the bills because complexity wasn’t paying any bills for years. So I was out hustling. My wife was out hustling and I was donating my time to building the complexity dream because I was passionate about it. I believed in it. And uh, I still believe in it today.

[08:16] That’s amazing. I mean, one of the things I appreciate from you, we talked about earlier, one of our panels was your perspective of the space in that we’re in that 3.0 esports, that 3.0 realm. what does that look like today and what does the future look like for the space?

[08:33] Like we talked about in the panel, I think esports 3.0 is really an evolution of of esports player treatment. Esports 1.0 players lived at home with their moms and travel to events like Cpl and quakecon and other things.  Esports 2.0 was arguably created in North America when we opened the first gamer house in Plano, Texas in 2005 where gamers would come and live in a gamer house and this model stuck around for quite a few years because it was financially feasible to rent a house and put your gamers in there and then they could train in some houses, had chefs and so on and so forth. The downside of having Gamer house was you woke up to your teammates, you go to bed to your teammates, you make a sandwich, your teammates are in there. You go to brush your teeth, your teammates are in there, and that caused a lot of friction with teams over the years. Esports, three point. Oh, in my opinion is where we are now is what we’re building out with the cowboys organization, uh, with the Jones family and Goff families in Frisco, Texas.

[09:26] We have luxury apartments for our gamers, so they have their own private space in their own private life. They go to work in the morning where they provided breakfast and lunch, at the cowboys’ training table where they eat alongside cowboys player. They have free gym provided by the company so they can go work out after the nutritious meals prepared by the cowboys chefs. They could go get exercise, then they can go to work in a place where you have state of the art training facilities, classrooms, coaches and analysts to really maximize who they are. We’ve invested in a performance coach to really help them with everything from team communication to improving as individuals, focus on nutrition and wellbeing. Um, and these are the things I kind of refer to generally when I, when I say esports 3.0 because at the end of a workday, they can go out with their girlfriend, they can go home, they can crash, they can have a life.

[10:16] And they can work and that’s really what I’m most excited about right now is increasing the level of player care and it’s not just complexity. We’re seeing other organizations open up really compelling headquarters. Team liquid, immortals here in LA. And it’s a really exciting time for people that have paved the path. People that have really dedicated chunks of their lives to building this space because for a long time, you know, we just simply couldn’t afford the player treatment we wanted to provide. But uh, now with our new partnerships, we have access to resources that make esports 3.0 possible. And it’s a great thing.

Was 3.0 part of your vision when you did the deal with the Goff family and the Jones family, because when you look at a lot of other esports owners or CEOs, they brought in big investors and they got some of the traditional sports organizations behind them, but they don’t quite have what you have. And the thing that’s really nice of you to bring up immortals, their campus, but it’s still not quite what you have, and liquid’s facility practice facility that they built with alienware is different than what you have. I’ve seen your videos, the content with the star and everything you got going on and it’s pretty unique.

I’m super blessed, man. I’m not gonna lie. I want to stay humble and, and you know, and I respect the heck out of the other brands you’ve mentioned, but we are really building something special in Frisco. And as soon as we get the headquarters open, we’re going to have a public facing part of our headquarters where our fans can walk into our headquarters and experience. I’m a little bit what that looks like. So I invite people once we get that done, hopefully this fall and we are building something special.

[11:51] We hope to be setting really just an example for how can a professional sports team with the caliber of the Dallas cowboys and the Jones family really integrate with an esports organization, whether that be meals and medical facilities and nutritionists and proper player care. And you know, free gym access and and all these things in our headquarters is going to be at a facility in Frisco, Texas called the star, which is like a town square. So everyday there’s hundreds of kids coming and playing ball with their parents and we’ll be able to interact with these families and have local touchpoints in our community. I think that’s going to make the headquarters and where it’s situated pretty special. So we’re super excited about what we’re building out and invite everybody to come visit us and check it out.

[12:33] Look, I’ll be there. Thanks for everything you do.

[12:35] Thanks so much.

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