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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Why Tower 28 Founder Amy Liu Risked It All For Her Brand

Yasmin Nouri

Yasmin is the host of the "Behind Her Empire" podcast, focused on highlighting self-made women leaders and entrepreneurs and how they tackle their career, money, family and life.

Each episode covers their unique hero's journey and what it really takes to build an empire with key lessons learned along the way. The goal of the series is to empower you to see what's possible & inspire you to create financial freedom in your own life.

Black and white headshot of Amy Liu
Courtesy of Amy Liu

On this episode of the Behind Her Empire podcast, host Yasmin Nouri sat down with Amy Liu, the founder and CEO of Tower 28, an affordable, irritant-free beauty brand.

Before starting her own beauty brand, Liu worked as an executive for some of the biggest names in beauty: Smashbox, Kate Somerville and Josie Maran Cosmetics. Yet Liu, who has eczema, couldn’t use the products she had a hand in promoting.

The experience would inspire her to create an affordable beauty brand that is mindful of skin tones and textures, vegan and free of every known skin irritant.

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How To Startup Part 7: Scaling Your Business

Spencer Rascoff

Spencer Rascoff serves as executive chairman of dot.LA. He is an entrepreneur and company leader who co-founded Zillow, Hotwire, dot.LA, Pacaso and Supernova, and who served as Zillow's CEO for a decade. During Spencer's time as CEO, Zillow won dozens of "best places to work" awards as it grew to over 4,500 employees, $3 billion in revenue, and $10 billion in market capitalization. Prior to Zillow, Spencer co-founded and was VP Corporate Development of Hotwire, which was sold to Expedia for $685 million in 2003. Through his startup studio and venture capital firm, 75 & Sunny, Spencer is an active angel investor in over 100 companies and is incubating several more.

How To Startup Part 7: Scaling Your Business
Image by SvetaZi/ Shutterstock

Congratulations – you’ve found a startup idea, learned how to name your business and successfully pitch to investors and employees, survive a downturn, build a Minimal Viable Product and find Product-Market Fit. Now it’s time “to scale," which is just tech-speak for growth.

When scaling your business, you are setting the stage to enable and support growth in your company for the long run. While rapid growth can be exciting, founders often place their focus on achieving it quickly and lose focus on what matters most. Scaling a business is very difficult, which is why the scaling stage should be thoroughly mapped out. When planning, here are the most important things to consider.

Hiring and Structuring Your Team

So you just raised your Series A or B, and now you’re looking to expand your team for the scaling stage. First, you need great leaders at the key functional areas of your company: product, engineering, marketing and sales. Of course you’ll also need great leadership at the other more support-oriented functional areas – HR, legal, finance, corporate development – but these can come slightly later. Once you have leadership in place in the core functional areas, the scaling stage requires a great recruiting function which allows the company’s headcount to grow. Recruiters are like flag-carriers or drummers in the infantry of an army.

In addition to having great recruiters, it’s important at this scaling stage that the relationship between the three core teams – product, engineering, and sales & marketing – is excellent, since this can make or break a company. Issues almost always arise when there is a lack of trust, failure to assume positive intent, lack of respect for other people’s functional areas and big egos.

Remember that employees who passionately share your vision and feel valued will work hard to help your business thrive. You’ll be able to grow by retaining and attracting top talent, who are loyal, feel fulfilled by their work, and as a result, work harder and smarter.

Building Your Go-To-Market Strategy

So you’ve come up with a startup idea, named the company, raised money, launched a minimum viable product with product-market fit and hired a team with enough organization and motivation to keep the company going. Great work, but you aren’t done yet. Now you need a go-to-market (“GTM”) strategy.

Think about a recent product you bought or an app you downloaded. How did you discover the company? Have they been able to retain you as a customer or user? Maybe you saw a TikTok from an influencer about the product or were referred to a business from a friend. These are examples of conscious GTM strategies devised by the company.

A go-to-market strategy is a step-by-step plan created to successfully launch a product to market. GTM helps you define your ideal customers, coordinate your messaging and position your product for launch. Examples of GTM strategies include creating referral programs for early users to bring in new ones, utilizing channel partners to push a product or service through an existing sales network and mobilizing social media influencers to promote a new product.

Product and Strategy Iteration

Once your product is on the market, you must continuously look for ways to improve it. Here are several common places to look for ideas for improvement:

- User activity. By following how people use the product, you can gather useful data such as what features are used most frequently, which are most avoided, and any unexpected uses of a feature.

- User problems. Even if you think your product is perfect, users will find problems for you. Learn what the major challenges holding back growth are and figure out how to solve them.

- TAM expansion. Ask yourself if there is a new product or feature that will expand your total addressable market.

- Cost and efficiency. Determine whether the benefit of developing a feature or product makes sense from a financial and efficiency perspective.

Other Resources

Looking for more info on scaling? I’ve had some great conversations with successful CEOs about their growth stories and scaling advice on the Office Hours podcast. Listen to my chat with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella to learn more about the importance of a mission-driven team and leadership mindset plus my talk about growth through adversity with Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield.
https://twitter.com/spencerrascoff
https://www.linkedin.com/in/spencerrascoff/
admin@dot.la

Here's What To Expect At LA Tech Week

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

Here's What To Expect At LA Tech Week

LA Tech Week—a weeklong showcase of the region’s growing startup ecosystem—is coming this August.

The seven-day series of events, from Aug. 15 through Aug. 21, is a chance for the Los Angeles startup community to network, share insights and pitch themselves to investors. It comes a year after hundreds of people gathered for a similar event that allowed the L.A. tech community—often in the shadow of Silicon Valley—to flex its muscles.

From fireside chats with prominent founders to a panel on aerospace, here are some highlights from the roughly 30 events happening during LA Tech Week, including one hosted by dot.LA.

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