The world of esports and gaming is wide and multifaceted. From the folks that make the games themselves to pro gamers, casual fans, and content creators with millions of followers, this industry means so much to so many.
While gaming is accessible on the entertainment side, when it comes to the industry side of things, some can get lost in the discussions of profit margins and markets. Luckily, there are folks like Kevin Wright, who handles one of the most exciting businesses in the booming gaming and esports industry: GameSquare Esports Inc. We walked away from our conversation enchanted with the business he leads and excited for the things to come.
With an MBA from The University of Western Ontario’s Richard Ivey School of Business as well as an extensive C.V.’s worth of experience in the telecommunications sector, Wright is just the sort of person you’d want as President of an up-and-coming esports company. In fact, it was shortly after Wright came on board at GameSquare Esports back in 2019 that the company was able to take a major step in its growth, going public on the Canadian Stock Exchange. “When I was brought into the company… [My plan] was twofold in terms of what I was looking at,” says Wright. “One, what sort of businesses could we look to acquire? And then, how could we get ourselves public in order to access capital and really accelerate that growth?” Now, about a year-and-a-half after taking the helm, that acceleration is well underway.
More than merely taking the company public, Wright has also managed to do one of the most important tasks for an effective leader: assemble the perfect team. A key member of that team is none other than CEO Justin Kenna, whom we were lucky enough to talk with earlier. “I was so excited to meet Justin,” Wright says, “Given Justin’s background in business [working with a] Big Four accounting firm, working his way through finance roles in Australia, seeing his experience in production and media, and then going into esports.” After their introduction, it wouldn’t take long before Kenna transitioned from his work as CFO at FaZe Clan to CEO of GameSquare Inc., something Wright was more than enthusiastic to facilitate. “[I was] absolutely thrilled… to figure out how to bring him into the fold and to be part of [GameSquare].”
Wright’s enthusiasm goes a long way, especially when mirrored by the company’s investors. “We had a lot of investor calls over the last couple weeks and I said to almost every one of them that I don’t think there’s a more experienced esports CEO in Canadian public markets, and I put him up against global CEOs in terms of his experience… It was an extremely exciting opportunity to work with somebody of Justin’s caliber, and to have him join our company.”
As important as finding the right fit for CEO, Wright was also tasked with considering global leadership for a company intended to function internationally. Luckily, GameSquare Esports was able to add Jan Hendrik Neumeister to their team as the company’s Head of European Operations. As Kenna stated in our previous conversation, “GameSquare is the head entity and we are there to provide support to our portfolio assets.” On an international scale, the importance of strong leadership is exactly what will enable them to “support” their assets. When those assets vary from actual esports teams to marketing agencies and more, there is a certain level of finesse needed to making sure everyone is satisfied, a challenge Wright is more than confident GameSquare is equipped to handle.
“I think we’re lucky because we’ve got feet on the ground everywhere. So, you know, Justin’s down in LA, Jan’s in the UK, I’m up here in Canada. And then we’ve got really good people that are heading up the companies that we’re acquiring.” Furthermore, Wright acknowledges that with technology and the development of teleconferencing, it’s easier than ever before to connect with an international team. “We’re really lucky doing business now that we can all do this. You know, our call before had Toronto, LA, [the] UK, and we are able to have those conversations, high quality face-to-face conversations. So the technology enables us to do that, much more than twenty years ago, thirty years ago [when] if you had branches on the other side of the city, it might be difficult.”
Wright is well aware of how technological development and progress changes the way a company can function and how the esports and gaming industry is riding that wave of development. But while gaming and esports may be new in the grand scheme of things, the industry itself ultimately exists as just the latest in the long tradition of entertainment and media. “I think the important part about esports broadly is that it’s a new form of entertainment. Right? And I think there’s a lot of people who, conceptually, will say that they don’t understand esports. But really, they do.” On that front, Wright understands that many business leaders and potential investors may be wary of a seemingly-new industry, but as Wright puts it, “It’s not a big departure from traditional sports or traditional entertainment, but it’s the way that this next generation is consuming that media.”
By understanding both the way the next generation approaches this kind of media as well as the way investors and industry leaders approach the market, Wright is able to serve as a bridge. Since the very ethos of GameSquare Esports is to serve as a bridge between their assets and the financiers and investors from beyond the gaming and esports sphere, Wright is just the person to lead. As he puts it, “When I think about working with kids that—some of them might be those 16, 17-year-olds, creating content—I don’t think that’s any different than what happened with Shirley Temple, or Michael Jackson. Every generation has young kids that have a huge impact.”
With such a wide variety of generations at play in esports and gaming, one question, especially for a publicly traded company like GameSquare Esports, has to do with the age demographics of investors themselves. As seen in the recent e-trading fluctuation with GameStop, forums like Reddit, and apps like Robinhood, younger and younger demographics are participating in the market, and GameSquare’s investor pool may well be made up of said demographic. Wright explains, “I think it’ll be a mix… I think investors that are newer to markets have a better understanding of esports… they understand why they invest in it, because they’re consuming that media. Whereas somebody that might be further along needs a little bit more guidance in terms of understanding what the space is. And that’s why we’re really cognizant of explaining this as a new form of media.”
Wright also understands that, especially for a demographic less familiar with the potential impact of gaming and esports, a new company will have to prove themselves. “In our trajectory of life as a public company, I think we’re starting out with people that are thematic investors that understand esports is really exciting and they’re willing to get involved. That will move further down the investor chain as people start to see the fundamentals that we’re putting up and that we’re going to generate significant revenue. And that will bring some of the more traditional investors in who are willing to wait for that evidence of the fundamentals.”
Obviously, given the growth of the market and the attention that the industry has to offer, there’s a lot of potential for profit in the gaming and esports industry. For Wright though, the appeal of said industry isn’t merely the money involved. “I think gaming is exciting. People use the cliche of ‘find something you like to do and you’ll never work a day in your life.’ I mean, we’re working hard but there’s a lot of excitement in gaming, and it’s high growth.” Overall, while we are talking about business here—and obviously a lot of work goes into running one—it’s encouraging to hear the President of such a business express enthusiasm for the industry, beyond the sole idea of making money. As Wright puts it, “I want to be part of something that’s growing, that’s exciting, that’s engaging. And I think [esports and gaming is] a really dynamic industry.”
In terms of his own personal gaming preferences, Wright describes himself as a “more casual gamer,” noting that he has “always enjoyed driving games. There’s something about understanding the track and knowing what the cars can do. I’ve always enjoyed that side of it.” Although he admits that his “interests would tend to be in driving games like Gran Turismo,” Wright still expresses an understanding and appreciation for how younger gamers interact with the medium. “Look at any kid running down the street with a Nerf gun that has Fortnite plastered on it or, you know, my daughter. She would much rather sit and play games on the tablet than she would do a lot of other things. It’s a really cool space to be in.”
Ultimately, a lot goes into being an effective leader. Luckily, GameSquare Esports Inc has found a President who’s able to perform in a number of roles and recognizes the value of building a qualified team made up of individuals like Justin Kenna and Jan Hendrik Neumeister. Indeed, Kevin Wright has the perspective to embrace the esports and gaming sphere as both a novel development and as part of a longer tradition of entertainment and media. He can cherish the the enthusiasm of young investors and prove his company’s viability to more established ones. He can bridge the exciting future of the esports industry with the sturdiness of a seasoned business environment. It would definitely seem he’s just the sort of President GameSquare needs to continue to develop into the sort of gaming and esports fixture they seem poised to become.
We sincerely thank Kevin Wright for his time. To check out the GameSquare website, click here.