Riot Games Esports Co-Head Talks ‘League of Legends’ 2017 World Championship

The world’s top competitive video gamers are facing off in China over the next few weeks for the League of Legends 2017 World Championship, one of the premier tournaments in the fast-growing world of esports.

Hosted by Riot Games, the company that makes the popular League of Legends (LoL) online game, the tournament’s early rounds turned in a fair amount of excitement and upsets, though last year’s champion is still standing. The Korean professional esports team SK Telecom T1 remains a favorite in a field that also features teams like Samsung Galaxy (sponsored by the South Korean electronics giant) and the North American team Cloud 9.

If none of those names ring a bell, then the rapid ascension of esports has likely passed you by. Competitive gaming’s popularity around the world has exploded in recent years, and the esports industry is now expected to generate more than $ 1.5 billion in annual revenue by 2020, according to one estimate.

Meanwhile, major professional sports teams like the New York Yankees and Cleveland Cavaliers are throwing money at esports, while tech giants like Amazon and Google compete to lure gaming fans to stream live gameplay and competitions on their digital video platforms, Twitch and YouTube, respectively. Last year, Riot Games (which is owned by Chinese tech giant Tencent) signed a reported $ 300 million streaming rights deal with Walt Disney’s BAMTech, and this year’s LoL world championship tournament is available for streaming around the world on Twitch and YouTube.

The influx of media rights deals has also opened the door for a range of high-profile corporate sponsors, with Riot Games landing sponsorships in recent years from the likes of Acer Gaming, Coca-Cola, T-Mobile, and Mercedes-Benz.

This week Fortune caught up with Jarred Kennedy, the co-head of esports at Riot Games, to discuss the world championship (the finals will take place Nov. 4 at the Bird’s Nest National Stadium in Beijing) as well as the overall growth of the esports industry and Riot’s plans, much like rival Activision Blizzard, to remodel its own esports league after major professional sports leagues like the NFL and NBA.

The following conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Fortune: What are some of the big storylines fans will be following heading into the quarterfinals of the LoL World Championships this weekend?

Kennedy: Where to begin? We’ve got some great teams that have made it through. Lots of regions are still alive. You’ve got your defending champions, SK Telecom T1, where they always are, which is contending. But, you’ve got teams that are potentially going to give them a run for their money. I think if [Chinese team] Royal Never Give Up and SK Telecom T1 wind up meeting in the semifinals in Shanghai that could be incredible. Honestly, any of the match-ups with the teams we have right now are going to be really fun to watch, because they’ve all proven themselves to get to this stage. And, the competition just keeps getting better and better the deeper we get into the tournament. That’s one of the reasons that worlds is so compelling.

Courtesy of Riot Games

How has the media rights aspect of the esports business expanded in recent years for Riot?

I think what you’re seeing is the maturation of our sport. With esports, I wouldn’t say it’s entered the mainstream, but it is increasingly an option that marketers look to. And, that’s great for us, because what we’re trying to do is build up the overall ecosystem, and having those increases in revenue coming in on that side allows us to invest in the professional players, the teams, and it allows these players to make a career out of this in a really meaningful way.

That leads into the bigger question of the esports industry’s overall growth trajectory. What are the areas of business that you think are most ripe for increasing revenue in the industry?

There are lots of different pools of revenue. Big ones would include media rights, which not unlike the NFL, NBA, or the Premier League, media rights are a large driver. For some games, including ours, there’s in-game content, and that’s something that’s unique to esports, as opposed to stick-and-ball or traditional sports, where there’s an opportunity for teams to participate in some of the in-game revenue streams. I think those are probably the biggest ones, but we’re always on the lookout for new ways to engage with fans of our sport.

You used to work at Sony Pictures Television. Would it benefit esports to make that leap to being more of a presence on traditional TV networks?

We don’t feel the need to go to TV as a point of validation. We’ve found that a lot of our fans of this sport are online, they tend to consume digitally, and thus the BAMTech deal and some other things we’ve done—negotiations with Twitch, YouTube, etc.—is just to serve them where they are. But, we’re not looking to be on NBC at 8 p.m. on a Saturday broadcasting to all of America, because we don’t think that’s where our fans want to watch, and we think it would probably be casting too wide of a net.

Why model Riot Games’ North American League of Legends Championship Series league after major professional sports leagues with revenue-sharing and a players association?

We’ve always looked at professional sports, not because we want to model exactly what other sports do, but even when you’re attempting to innovate, sometimes there are things that already exist in the world that work really well and work for a reason, and we shouldn’t be afraid to use some of that. Our goal is to have sophisticated owners of teams that can operate at a high level, know how to build businesses, know how to build sports, and who aren’t going to be working against each other, but are going to be collaborating in the best interests of fans around the world.

Going back to your point about esports not yet being in the mainstream, what needs to happen to put esports on the same level as one of the major professional sports leagues?

It takes time to get to the scale of where major sports are today, and I don’t think we have any illusions that we’re going to be able to do that overnight. We do have the advantage of being a digital property that tends to grow faster and can grow more virally. Friends tend to bring their friends into the sport, we found. We’re looking to build the best ecosystem for our fans that we can and we hope that by doing that it will thrive and grow, and over time we’ll have a chance to be as big as some of the major sports that exist today. But our primary goal is delivering value to fans day in and day out. And, if we can do that, then the rest will take care of itself.


5 people Tim Cook calls for advice on running the biggest company in the world


It’s only fitting that the leader of the biggest company in the world has a pretty impressive list of friends. 

In an extended interview with the Washington Post, Apple’s top executive offered new insight into how he’s handled some of the bigger decisions he’s made in his five years as CEO. Among the revelations: a casual list of some of the biggest names in business and politics who he has called upon for advice in years past.

“I think it’s incumbent on a CEO to not just listen to points of view but to actually solicit them,” Tim Cook said in the interview. “Because I think, if not, you quickly become insular. And you’re sort of living in the echo chamber.” Read more…

More about Us, Tim Cook, Apple, Businesss, and Tech


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The 10 Hottest Startup Ecosystems in the World

A view of San Fransokyo from Disney's 'Big Hero 6'


Since SparkLabs Global Ventures launched 20 months ago, we have made 50 investments across five continents. We have six partners, based in Silicon Valley, Seoul, Tel Aviv, Singapore, and London, which gives us a unique viewpoint on what is trending in terms of technology and innovation across the globe.

Last year, we began an annual analysis of the top global startup ecosystems in the world, and we’ve just completed our analysis for this year. Silicon Valley, New York City, London, Stockholm, Berlin, Tel Aviv, Beijing, Seoul, Los Angeles, and Boston won out.

To find this top 10, we looked at eight factors: Funding Ecosystem & Exits, Engineering Talent, Active Mentoring, Technical Infrastructure, Startup Culture, Legal & Policy Infrastructure, Economic Foundation, and Government Policies & Programs. We aren’t releasing the specific category scores until later this year since we are expanding this list to at least 20 cities. But for the first time we are revealing the cumulative scores (out of a total possible 80 points) with specific rankings:

global hub rankings

Of the eight factors we considered to reach these scores, some are “soft” factors that are difficult to quantify but that have real consequences. Trust and chemistry between members of a founding team, for example, is very difficult to quantify, and yet breakdown of trust and chemistry is the cause for at least a quarter of all startup failures.

Probably the most important factor on this list is a soft factor — “active mentoring” or a “pay it forward” culture. This has been cited numerous times as the “secret sauce” of Silicon Valley and why its startup environment is so difficult to replicate. Even if you drive a few hours south to Los Angeles, the business culture is worlds apart. People tend to guard their contacts and rolodexes more than the free-sharing culture of Silicon Valley.

This is also a reason why we focused on urban ecosystems and cities, not countries, because the startup cultures between two cities in the same country can be night and day.

We included Legal & Policy Infrastructure as a factor because basic steps, such as company formation, can be a huge barrier to entrepreneurship. In Greece, the entry cost to form a company is 60,000 euros ($ 68,000)! How can this not be a factor that impacts the country’s economic health since it has policies that greatly hinder startup formation and eventually job creation and growth? I would rate Athens a “1” on a scale of one through 10.

U.S. cities rated a 10 out of 10 on Legal & Policy Infrastructure because of the ease of creating a company and the generous bankruptcy laws that are cited as a driver for entrepreneurship.

Seoul, South Korea rated 5 out of 10 since there are still laws that could hold a CEO personally liable if a company becomes bankrupt. There isn’t as clear of a separation between corporate liability and personal liability as in the U.S. We half jokingly commented to each other, while putting together the analysis, that if these laws were in the U.S., Silicon Valley might only have half the number of startups it currently does.

For Government Policies & Programs, we gave London a 7 out of 10. The U.K. has programs to encourage angel investing, such as income tax relief of 30 percent for up to £1,000,000 per year (EIS program). In Seoul, our affiliated startup accelerator is part of a government matching program for venture capital funds where a $ 100,000 investment received a matching grant of $ 500,000. There are various other programs initiated by President Park’s “creative economy” initiative for South Korea, which is why we gave Seoul a 9 out of 10.

With this updated analysis, we wanted to show how many “unicorns” there are in each of these global startup hubs. Any city that doesn’t have any unicorns would have a hard time breaking our top 10.

This category’s ratings weren’t only about unicorns but also about the overall exit climate. What is the exit potential of a startup in that city? How many $ 50+ million exits did it see? How many $ 100+ million exits and $ 500+ million exits? Even though Tel Aviv (or even Israel overall) doesn’t have many unicorns (even historically and not just after our 2010 cutoff), it has had many exits over $ 100 million. We gave it 7 out of 10.

Also this category is not just about exits but the overall funding ecosystem. There might be great base for seed-stage investment activity, but many cities in the world lack Series A funding to create a robust startup ecosystem.

For this year’s analysis, we compared funding trends in North America, Asia, and Europe, and within U.S. metro areas. The overall venture capital activity at the top levels has been close between the U.S. and Asia, with Europe lagging behind.

The three largest rounds of Q2 2015 in North America have been:

  • Airbnb, $ 1.5 billion raised (San Francisco)

  • Wish, $ 500 million raised (San Francisco)

  • Snapchat, $ 337.6 million raised (Los Angeles)

The three largest rounds of Q2 2015 in Europe have been:

  • Spotify, $ 526 million raised (Stockholm)

  • One Web Solutions, $ 500 million raised (Mallow, Ireland)

  • Funding Circle, $ 150 million raised (London)

The three largest rounds of Q2 2015 in Asia have been:

  • Coupang, $ 1 billion raised (Seoul)

  • Red Star, $ 931 million raised (Shanghai)

  • Dianping, $ 850 million raised (Shanghai)

Even with a market downturn, we are excited about the continuing innovation and startup activity across the globe. A sharp downturn will have a stronger effect on the weaker startup ecosystems and those overloaded on consumer facing products, but the stronger ecosystems we believe will continue to produce “unicorns” and successful companies.

Bernard Moon is cofounder and General Partner at SparkLabs Global Ventures, a new global seed-stage fund, and cofounder of SparkLabs, a startup accelerator in Seoul, Korea. Follow him on Twitter

VB’s research team is studying web-personalization… Chime in here, and we’ll share the results.

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Q&A: What are the two main bacteria ruling this world? What do they eat?

Question by experienced: What are the two main bacteria ruling this world? What do they eat?

The two main BACTERIA ruling this world are ra and re. Since they are bacteria, they reproduce. We are inside the belly of these two main bacteria on death row. The blood group species received a deceitful contract from bacteria to allow bacteria to live in them. So the ones that claim that their gods give them promise land are the receiving temples of bacteria. So bacteria call themselves “holy ghosts” “gods” goddesses” “spirits” and called the hosts “temples” “machines” and the bugs living on the “temples” called the “temples” “horses”.

Before the followers of these bacterial gods use to sacrifice blatantly the blood species to them on pyramids. They remove the hearts while beating to offer it to their sun or moon gods. Now, since they are not allowed to do so, they sacrifice cows, chickens, and such to their gods and eat the flesh and the blood of these animals. These gods kill people using tornadoes, twisters, tsunamis, earthquakes, flood, and other methods.

What are these gods?

They are bacteria living in water, land, clouds, and air. These bacteria are from the moon and other related planets. That is why the world ra and re ruled is made of darkness. The sun worshipers are afraid of the flame planet that can fry them. So they created a word call sun, which are clouds pierced by the light of the flame planet.

Why is there only one flame planet?

The bacterial ice planets have partly conquered the flame planet by dividing it and keep part of it hostage under the earth.

Each group of bacteria call their enemies by the name of animals that they eat. For examples, one group of religious bacteria called their enemies “sheep”, “cows”, “snakes”, and anything that is edible.

What would a pastor or a priest call their followers sheep? Because the sheep are for guarding and eating. So these people trust in the ones that are eating them every day.

What is communion?

Communion is the gathering of bacteria symbolizing eating flesh and drinking blood of their enemies. So religious people are cannibals.

Do religious people carry parasites?

Yes religious people carry parasites. The dead people they serve are parasites, which have eaten the dead. Wherever one parasite live, many parasites follow. So as religious people worship the dead, those that eat the dead are with them always. So religious people have mites, roaches, and multiple parasites on them, in them, and around them.

What happened in “holidays”?

The monstrous viruses living in people sacrificed the blood species to eat: cows, sheep, and the likes. Then the viruses in the earth sacrifice people to eat in the form of tsunamis, earthquakes and such. Then the viruses in the clouds sacrifice people to eat in the forms of twisters, hurricanes, and tornadoes.

How did this world become so viral?

People are burying animals and people alive as sacrifices. The air and blood living the people are trapped in the soil and become one with the soil. The tormenting residue turned their surrounding into a monstrous creatures and terrorize their surroundings. The earth, the sea, and everywhere become monstrosities.

Bacteria take advantage of this fact to rule the living and the dead. The dead are trapped and so are the living in the bowel of bacteria. Bacteria became spheres that trapped everything in it to digest. So uneducated people keep feeding bacteria with sacrifices and bacteria keep feeding them with fear. Every time catastrophes happen, people turned to bacteria their gods for help, while bacteria are the ones terrorizing them.

Do we have mean to annihilate bacteria?

Yes. Antibacterial bombs, Satellites with antibacterial lights, Methods to sanitize earth, sea, space, and water are already in our hand. But bacteria use the poor, which they made to become rich, to stop people from annihilating them.

Who are rich people, kings, queens, and such?

They are lowest scums of the earth or lowest poor made rich. These rich people that have sold their soul and body for title, glory, and riches are the ones ruling the planet to this day through their descendants, which they have made temples of their gods: bacteria.

That is why bacteria always chose among the poor that have killed and proven to be killers to become leaders of their world. These people are willing temples of bacteria and they are the rulers of all bacterial kingdoms called Earth.

Deal or No Deal, the game, is one method for bacteria to recruit assassins to rule this world. Every single one of these people are selling their family and themselves to bacteria for one moment of wealth. When they die, bacteria turned into maggots and other despicable insects to eat their body, its temple.

Why is everything in this world named after bacteria and bacterium?

Bacteria rule earth and named earth after them. In the name “bacteria”, there are three names: r

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