After Ten Years, Gaming Giant FaZe Clan Has No Plans to Grow Up, But Big Ambitions to Dominate

Sam Blake

Sam primarily covers entertainment and media for dot.LA. Previously he was Marjorie Deane Fellow at The Economist, where he wrote for the business and finance sections of the print edition. He has also worked at the XPRIZE Foundation, U.S. Government Accountability Office, KCRW, and MLB Advanced Media (now Disney Streaming Services). He holds an MBA from UCLA Anderson, an MPP from UCLA Luskin and a BA in History from University of Michigan. Email him at samblake@dot.LA and find him on Twitter @hisamblake

After Ten Years, Gaming Giant FaZe Clan Has No Plans to Grow Up, But Big Ambitions to Dominate

As FaZe Clan prepares to celebrate its tenth anniversary on Saturday, it's no great wonder why chief executive Lee Trink describes the fact that the company has even lasted a decade as "mind-blowing for a lot of people."

On the heels of recent milestones like a $40 million series A funding round led by Jimmy Iovine, which pegged the firm's value around $250 million, and a partnership with Sugar23 productions to form FaZe Studios, "It feels like we finally have the appropriate attention that we deserve," Trink said. He has big plans for L.A.-based FaZe Clan to become an international powerhouse that dominates the entire entertainment industry.


It's quite a vision for a company that ten years ago consisted of three dudes posting YouTube compilation videos of their Xbox escapades: "like skate videos," co-founder Thomas Oliveira, better known as FaZe Temperrr, told Hypebeast, complete with "dope music" and "cool edits." Soon enough, Temperrr, along with FaZe Banks, FaZe Rain and FaZe Apex, realized there was serious money to be made in online videos. Eventually they began competing professionally, and winning. As their accolades and YouTube libraries grew, across both individual accounts and the shared FaZe-branded channels, so did the fans.

In those early days, FaZe members embraced vlogging, turning the camera on themselves as their warrior and soldier characters kicked butt and performed stunts on screen. "They were the first ones to represent themselves as gamers, totally unapologetically," Trink told dot.LA. "That woke up an enormous community of underappreciated gamers."

Today that community numbers over 215 million followers across FaZe Clan's social media platforms and those of its roster of gamers and content creators, many of whom continue to play and post under FaZe-prepended monikers. The company claims its videos yield over 500 millions views per month. A host of celebrities have invested, including musicians Lil Yachty and Offset, and professional athletes Ben Simmons and Juju Smith-Schuster; many of them consider themselves part of the crew.

Faze Temperrr, FaZe Blaze and FaZe Adapt are 3 members of FaZe Clan

A big driver of FaZe's appeal, Trink says, is that fans not only feel close to the talent, but also have a sense that they, too, could one day join the ranks.

"Not that long ago," Trink said, "we signed an 11-year-old. The proximity to be a part of us, in addition to being an extension of us, is part of what makes them so passionate."

In 2019, that passion summed to $35 million in revenue, spread more or less evenly across sponsorship and brand deals, esports, merchandise, and advertising from content. FaZe Clan has reportedly inked seven-figure partnerships with Nissan and energy drink G Fuel, and has made apparel deals with brands like Champion. In one of its recent "drops", FaZe Clan sold limited-edition $80 hoodies and $40 t-shirts in collaboration with the NFL's virtual draft this April.

"It's transcended a hobby or a pastime and has become how (fans) define themselves," Trink explained.

Some of FaZe Clan's talent live together in a house in the Hollywood Hills. Mostly men in their 20s, many of their walls are adorned with YouTube plaques commemorating subscriber milestones, reminiscent of a music star's collection of gold records. The vistas from large windows in the upscale house are beautiful. FaZe members report working hard, though, often filming throughout the day and editing their videos into the night.

Esports currently comprises about 25% of FaZe Clan's revenue

One of the house's resident cats, FaZe Barry, himself has over 400 Instagram followers, despite having no photos posted on his account.

When FaZe Clan's admirers have an opportunity to come out in person, the number of fans can be overwhelming. A pop-up shop in New York City last year had to be shut down by the NYPD due to security concerns when lines to meet FaZe members stretched far beyond expectations.

Commanding such frenzied adoration through a youth-fueled energy has brought FaZe Clan some controversy. In one instance, certain FaZe members are thought to have been involved in an offshore esports gambling ring which, though not necessarily illegal, was widely considered shady. Loud contract disputes between FaZe Clan and some members have been an ongoing sideshow. But Trink mostly shrugs it off.

"The reality is when you are leading culture in the way we're leading culture, you don't do that with some type of whitewashed brand," he said.

FaZe Clan CEO Lee Trink

Looking forward, Trink highlights two growth areas for FaZe. One is content, which he expects to grow to over 50% of total revenues.

"On the content side, the quest is to be a dominant force in entertainment overall, not just in gaming," he said, while emphasizing that it's important to him that FaZe doesn't "lose sight" of its gaming roots. The partnership with Sugar23 is a piece of that growth strategy.

The other growth area is global. Although over half of FaZe Clan's fans are outside North America, Trink says he wants the company to have "boots on the ground, regionally around the world" to cultivate talent and produce content.

Being headquartered in Los Angeles should help. Trink serves on Mayor Eric Garcetti's esports council, which he's put together to help make L.A. the global center for esports.

"If we weren't in L.A.," Trink said, "I don't think we would have achieved things like the FaZe Studios deal and some of the other deals we're working toward."

Those deals include developing longer-form film projects and a potential partnership with an unnamed large music company. Trink is intent on working with new partners to reimagine how media can be combined in interesting, more "significant" ways that "elevate the industry and elevate the culture of gaming." The ambition is high for a company already well accustomed to deal-making; "We try to make it a common practice of blowing people's minds," Trink noted.

Although the pandemic has changed tomorrow's virtual celebration from what the company originally had in mind, Trink is excited. "It'll be a great moment for all of us, to look at each other and take some pride in what we've done."

And on Monday, it'll be back to work, with big plans ahead.

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🤠Musk Picks Texas and 🔥Tinder AI Picks Your Profile Pictures
Image Source: Tinder

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Tinder is altering dating profile creation with its new AI-powered Photo Selector feature, designed to help users choose their most appealing dating profile pictures. This innovative tool employs facial recognition technology to curate a set of up to 10 photos from the user's device, streamlining the often time-consuming process of profile setup. To use the feature, users simply take a selfie within the Tinder app and grant access to their camera roll. The AI then analyzes the photos based on factors like lighting and composition, drawing from Tinder's research on what makes an effective profile picture.

The selection process occurs entirely on the user's device, ensuring privacy and data security. Tinder doesn't collect or store any biometric data or photos beyond those chosen for the profile, and the facial recognition data is deleted once the user exits the feature. This new tool addresses a common pain point for users, as Tinder's research shows that young singles typically spend about 25 to 33 minutes selecting a profile picture. By automating this process, Tinder aims to reduce profile creation time and allow users to focus more on making meaningful connections.

In wholly unrelated news, Elon Musk has announced plans to relocate the headquarters of X (formerly Twitter) and SpaceX from California to Texas. SpaceX will move from Hawthorne to Starbase, while X will shift from San Francisco to Austin. Musk cited concerns about aggressive drug users near X's current headquarters and a new California law regarding gender identity notification in schools as reasons for the move. This decision follows Musk's previous relocation of Tesla's headquarters to Texas in 2021.

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Top LA Accelerators that Entrepreneurs Should Know About

Los Angeles, has a thriving startup ecosystem with numerous accelerators, incubators, and programs designed to support and nurture new businesses. These programs provide a range of services, including funding, mentorship, workspace, networking opportunities, and strategic guidance to help entrepreneurs develop their ideas and scale their companies.


Techstars Los Angeles

Techstars is a global outfit with a chapter in Los Angeles that opened in 2017. It prioritizes local companies but will fund some firms based outside of LA.

Location: Culver City

Type of Funding: Pre-seed, early stage

Focus: Industry Agnostic

Notable Past Companies: StokedPlastic, Zeno Power


Grid110

Grid110 offers no-cost, no-equity programs for entrepreneurs in Los Angeles, including a 12-week Residency accelerator for early-stage startups, an Idea to Launch Bootcamp for pre-launch entrepreneurs, and specialized programs like the PledgeLA Founders Fund and Friends & Family program, all aimed at providing essential skills, resources, and support to help founders develop and grow their businesses.

Location: DTLA

Type of Funding: Seed, early stage

Focus: Industry Agnostic

Notable Past Companies: Casetify, Flavors From Afar


Idealab

Idealab is a renowned startup studio and incubator based in Pasadena, California. Founded in 1996 by entrepreneur Bill Gross, Idealab has a long history of nurturing innovative technology companies, with over 150 startups launched and 45 successful IPOs and acquisitions, including notable successes like Coinbase and Tenor.

Location: Pasadena

Type of Funding: Stage agnostic

Focus: Industry Agnostic, AI/Robotics, Consumer, Clean Energy

Notable Past Companies: Lumin, Coinbase, Tenor


Plug In South LA

Plug In South LA is a tech accelerator program focused on supporting and empowering Black and Latinx entrepreneurs in the Los Angeles area. The 12-week intensive program provides early-stage founders with mentorship, workshops, strategic guidance, potential pilot partnerships, grant funding, and networking opportunities to help them scale their businesses and secure investment.

Location: Los Angeles

Type of Funding: Pre-seed, seed

Focus: Industry Agnostic, Connection to South LA and related communities

Notable Past Companies: ChargerHelp, Peadbo


Cedars-Sinai Accelerator

The Cedars-Sinai Accelerator is a three-month program based in Los Angeles that provides healthcare startups with $100,000 in funding, mentorship from over 300 leading clinicians and executives, and access to Cedars-Sinai's clinical expertise and resources. The program aims to transform healthcare quality, efficiency, and care delivery by helping entrepreneurs bring their innovative technology products to market, offering participants dedicated office space, exposure to a broad network of healthcare entrepreneurs and investors, and the opportunity to pitch their companies at a Demo Day.

Location: West Hollywood

Type of Funding: Seed, early stage, convertible note

Focus: Healthcare, Device, Life Sciences

Notable Past Companies: Regard, Hawthorne Effect


MedTech Innovator

MedTech Innovator is the world's largest accelerator for medical technology companies, based in Los Angeles, offering a four-month program that provides selected startups with unparalleled access to industry leaders, investors, and resources without taking equity. The accelerator culminates in showcase events and competitions where participating companies can win substantial non-dilutive funding, with the program having a strong track record of helping startups secure FDA approvals and significant follow-on funding.

Location: Westwood

Type of Funding: Seed, early stage

Focus: Health Care, Health Diagnostics, Medical Device

Notable Past Companies: Zeto, Genetesis


KidsX

The KidsX Accelerator in Los Angeles is a 10-week program that supports early-stage digital health companies focused on pediatric care, providing mentorship, resources, and access to a network of children's hospitals to help startups validate product-market fit and scale their solutions. The accelerator uses a reverse pitch model, where participating hospitals identify focus areas and work closely with selected startups to develop and pilot digital health solutions that address specific pediatric needs.

Location: East Hollywood

Type of Funding: Pre-seed, seed, early stage

Focus: Pediatric Health Care Innovation

Notable Past Companies: Smileyscope, Zocalo Health


Disney Accelerator

Disney Accelerator is a startup accelerator that provides early-stage companies in the consumer media, entertainment and technology sectors with mentorship, guidance, and investment from Disney executives. The program, now in its 10th year, aims to foster collaborations and partnerships between innovative technology companies and The Walt Disney Company to help them accelerate their growth and bring new experiences to Disney audiences.

Location: Burbank

Type of Funding: Growth stage

Focus: Technology and entertainment

Notable Past Companies: Epic Games, BRIT + CO, CAMP


Techstars Space Accelerator

Techstars Space Accelerator is a startup accelerator program focused on advancing the next generation of space technology companies. The three-month mentorship-driven program brings together founders from across the globe to work on big ideas in aerospace, including rapid launch services, precision-based imaging, operating systems for complex robotics, in-space servicing, and thermal protection.

Location: Los Angeles

Type of Funding: Growth stage

Focus: Aerospace

Notable Past Companies: Pixxel, Morpheus Space



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🚁 One Step Closer to Air Taxis in LA
Image Source: Joby Aviation

🔦 Spotlight

Joby Aviation, a pioneering electric air taxi company, has achieved a significant milestone by successfully flying a hydrogen-electric aircraft demonstrator for 523 miles with only water as a byproduct. This groundbreaking flight showcases the potential for emissions-free regional travel using vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, eliminating the need for traditional runways. The company's innovative approach combines its existing battery-electric air taxi technology with hydrogen fuel cells, paving the way for longer-range, environmentally friendly air travel.

For LA residents, this development holds exciting implications for future transportation options. Joby's technology could potentially enable direct flights from LA to destinations like San Francisco or San Diego without the need to visit conventional airports, offering a cleaner and more convenient alternative to current travel methods. The company's progress in both battery-electric and hydrogen-electric aircraft positions it at the forefront of next-generation aviation, promising to revolutionize urban and regional mobility.

Notably, Joby Aviation has already made strides in Southern California by securing an agreement with John Wayne Airport earlier this year to install the region's first electric air taxi charger. This strategic move sets the stage for LA to be among the initial markets where Joby will launch its electric air taxi service. With plans to commence commercial operations as early as 2025 using its battery-electric air taxi, LA residents may soon have access to a fast, quiet, and environmentally friendly mode of transportation that could significantly reduce travel times and traffic congestion in the region. In the not too distant future, LA might find itself in an identity crisis without traffic and excess smog 🤞🤞.


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