Meet Andrey "Reynad" Yanyuk, poker player turned Magic: The Gathering card game player turned CEO of one of the top esport teams in the competitive gaming scene, Tempo Storm. Thousands of people tune into his Twitch streams to watch him talk and play Blizzard's super successful game Hearthstone.
It might sound unusual that a guy who once traipsed around America squeezing dollars from poker tables would suddenly develop an aptitude for business, but you get the sense that Reynad built Tempo Storm specifically so he wouldn't have to face that life again. He will always be a competitor, but in 2017, he's learned to transmute that fire from the felt to the boardroom. After all, it's just a game. And Reynad loves games.
"At the time, in early 2014, every deck on ladder was a copy from my stream, he says to Glixel, referring to the Hearthstone card decks he builds and the game's competitive ladder. "I had the highest ranks, I had this massive following, and I had kinda hit the cap for the game. So I figured ‘what's the next step, and what's best for job security?' I thought I should leverage [myself] into a brand that wasn't me being a camgirl."
In a moment where "esports" is one of the most popular terms with eager marketing executives at big brands, it must feel pretty reassuring to work with someone like Reynad. There seems to be no shortage of old guys throwing cash at this business right now, so it's a distinct advantage for your primary decisionmaker to be someone who actually knows the scene. Maybe it's weird to entrust a multifaceted business to a twentysomething former Magic pro, but frankly, a hedge fund manager in New York is far less qualified to vet potential Street Fighter signees.
"One of the things I think I've done a really good job of is hiring the best people across all roles. Our staff collectively is a lot smarter in the space," says Reynad. "But there is a lot of dumb money involved right now – a lot of people getting in on the hype in esports and not necessarily putting money in the right places."