Electric motor racing and e-sports team Veloce, is at the forefront of not one but two exciting and emerging markets and is aiming to win big. We went for a spin with CEO Rupert Svendson-Cook…
Ever been in a room with people playing video games, but not playing, just watching? It’s a uniquely frustrating experience. Like having your clothes on at an orgy. Probably.
Video games are meant to be played not watched. And yet, people clearly like doing that too because according to video games trade body UKIE, the UK esports sector grew at an annual average rate of 8.5% between 2016 and 2019 with a gross value of £111.5m. You can get a few more stats on that here – https://ukie.org.uk/value-of-esports-in-UK-2020.
Clearly, the competitive nature of officially-sanctioned professional e-sports, with actual prize money at stake, has provided an added edge and dramatic tension that watching Motherwell match up against Argentina on FIFA at your mate’s house, can’t match.
Into this burgeoning arena has stepped Veloce which is both an e-sports team and an actual motor racing team too, set up by ex-racing drivers Jack Clarke and Rupert Svendsen-Cook and marketer Jamie Maclaurin.
This is how Svendsen-Cook describes the business: In simple terms, esports is professional gaming. As an established organisation in the industry, we have a multi-pillared eco system that continues to evolve. We have our own talent, teams, media network and leagues across multiple titles and platforms.
I am an ex-racing driver and after realising I was better suited to the business of the sport I established a management business in motor racing. It was an archaic model and I wanted to scale. Together with my two tremendous co-founders Jack Clarke and Jamie Maclaurin, we entered the esports arena off the back of the clear opportunity to scale and own a market.
As you would imagine with the personalities and the subject matter involved, all talk of the future direction of the company is smattered with high octane talk and competitive fervour.
It’s a cliche to say but our culture is highly energised and extremely hard working. Our motto is ‘Viva Veloce’ which translates to ‘Live Fast’ and we certainly do that! Of course as we’ve grown so fast we’ve learnt some hard lessons on the job and I think we continue to embrace those challenges.
The ‘real’ racing aspect of the business sees the team compete in the Extreme E Championship (electric cars) as well as the W Series (all female), where the team has already had its first win at the Austrian Grand Prix with driver Jamie Chadwick. Then with Extreme E it scored a podium with second place in only its second ever race in Senegal.
Extreme E is an off-road motorsport series that sees all-electric SUVs racing in areas that have been affected by climate change. Each race features two laps over 16 kilometres, with the male and female drivers taking an equal split of driving time ‘ one lap each ‘ swapping over at the halfway point.
W Series, meanwhile, is a free-to-enter championship, launched in October 2018, that provides equal opportunities for women and eliminates the financial barriers that have historically prevented them from progressing to the upper echelons of motorsport.
Drivers are selected purely on their ability and the series’ cars are mechanically identical, which means that races and championships are won by the most talented drivers, rather than those with the wealthiest backers.
The two halves of the business connect together by adding the authenticity of the real-life racing team to the e-sports side, with branding and cross-promotion in both.
When looking at the world of motorsport we see three main areas of opportunity – electrification, women in motorsport and esports, says Svendsen-Cook.
Veloce is well established in all three and they compliment each other well. From a commercial standpoint, we’re able to offer partners a fairly unrivalled engagement across both real and digital platforms. Our esports media network achieves more than 230 million views per month for a 17 to 24 year old demographic which is a hugely valuable asset to compliment our real world activity.
The e-sports business is the mothership as he describes it and the main focus.
All are fairly emergent sectors, but the projections for them are pointing upwards.
Electrification within the automotive industry is now well underway so of course an electric racing series that serves as a platform to not only raise awareness around climate change but also to develop the technology directly relevant to the future of how we travel is in a very strong position.”
The same goes for women within motorsport. Simply put it has been a very slow-to-adapt and male-dominated sport. But the W Series is changing things fast and we fully believe that it can be the biggest women’s sport in the world. In my opinion, the only other women’s sport that is on a par with men’s in the same discipline is tennis and that is largely thanks to the Grand Slam competitions taking part with both men and women at the same events with equal prize money, TV time etc.”
The W Series is making great strides to do the same by racing alongside F1 on the same weekends in front of the same fans etc. I think more can be done by the media players to move the needle but it’s moving in the right direction.”
And for esports and gaming the projections of growth are almost infinite. Accessibility and limited barriers of entry to either take part in or consume the content, represent enormous opportunity.
Asking about the amount of investment involved Svendson-Cook, is a little vague, but clearly it is still not quite self-financing just yet.
We’ve been raising constantly since we started so it wasn’t a case of just securing an amount to kick things off. As our model has evolved in the esports industry so have our requirements on capital. With so much opportunity and clear value to be realised, we are focussed on making that happen with enough capital to do it.
Such a new concept can be a tricky mission to explain to investors. Which can also be an advantage, of course.
We’re not a fundamental business and of course some traditional investors want to see some tangibility to what they invest in. It’s funny, we’ve had multiple ‘advisors’ and all sorts but until now we’ve always just found it faster and easier to do ourselves. Certainly at this stage, nobody can sell our business better than ourselves. With so much growth in a short time already achieved in a very fast-paced industry, the management team is who the investors are backing and we are conscious of following through on that.
Talking to investors the firm has experienced a variety of reactions, ranging from scepticism to ‘this is new and sounds promising so let’s not miss the boat’. Which is not that unusual with new and emerging markets.
It’s very different depending on where you are in the world, he says. The US totally understands the business and the same goes for Asia – there is no justification required and the value is understood. In the UK, for whatever reason we are met with more scepticism but our viewership data and revenue growth already speaks for itself.
If the e-sports market, which is part of a £7bn UK video games sector, can continue to evolve and, more importantly, convince investors and entrepreneurs that it is here to stay, then Veloce is nicely positioned to play a big part.
It will need to keep winning races as well, mind. Strap in.