Value investor Joel Greenblatt says this company could solve a key hurdle in esports' growth


The San Francisco Shock celebrate their victory in the 2019 Overwatch League Grand Finals e-sports championship against the Vancouver Titans at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, September 29, 2019.
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports | Reuters
The rising hype surrounding esports has presented the industry with one big hurdle: The lack of scalable technology to meet the demands of an immense, digitally-based audience.
That's where a company known as Vindex could step in.
Backing the company is famed value investor Joel Greenblatt, who expects Vindex is in a position to meet the demand and solve this problem plaguing esports.
"[The leagues and publishers need to] keep up with the high demand of an enormous and growing fanbase, so to keep up with the execution of esports programs, content and events is incredibly difficult," Greenblatt told CNBC. "It's very hard to do so internally and very hard to do without a set of vendors and partners from outside."
Right now, according to Greenblatt, the size of the esports audience and the gaming industry as a whole has left many league operators and publishers alike racing to keep up with the want for new content and programming. Not only is the global video games industry projected to generate more than $150 billion in revenue this year, but research firm Newzoo sees esports viewership growing 15% year-on-year to hit 454 million global viewers in 2019.
By 2021, that number could hit 645 million as the biggest esports events often draw in more viewers than traditional sports.
While Greenblatt does believe that the industry will continue to grow "like crazy," he also believes that the infrastructure needs to be in place to support the audience boom that will come with it.
But accomplishing something of that scale requires capital along with sustainable growth potential, part of which the Gotham Asset Management founder believes involves harnessing the organic growth of gaming and esports while investing in the support elements of the ecosystem.
And that's why Greenblatt has decided to back Vindex as both an investor and board member. The company aims to provide partners with the means necessary to scale up their esports operations through global platforms, technologies and services.
G2 Esports fans during Quarter Finals League of Legends World Championship match between G2 Esports and Damwon Gaming on October 27, 2019 in Madrid, Spain.
Borja B. Hojas | Getty Images
Their dedication to growing the infrastructure of esports is essentially what made Greenblatt invest in Vindex as it provides the longer-term solutions needed for the industry, he said.
"I'm a value investor, and [Vindex has] a great base," he added. "I have the opportunity to invest in a business that I expect to earn a lot of free cash flow in [an industry that] I think will explode over next few years just organically."
Essentially, Greenblatt sees a combination of "value up front and growth" with Vindex that led him to be part of a $60 million Series A funding round announced Wednesday morning.
Vindex's co-founders include current CEO and former Activision Blizzard executive Mike Sepso along with Sundance DiGiovanni. Both launched an esports league known as Major League Gaming in 2002, with which they brought on some of the first big non-gaming sponsors into the esports space before the league's acquisition by Activision Blizzard in 2016.
Greenblatt also stressed that part of Vindex's value lies with the management team as it is comprised of Sepso and DiGiovanni, both esports veterans who have long navigated the industry.
As part of that their launch, Vindex also announced that they had acquired an esports company called Next Generation Esports and launched a second company, Esports Engine.
The launch makes Vindex another player in the growing esports industry, which Newzoo believes will top $1 billion in revenue this year.

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