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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Genies Wants To Help Creators Build ‘Avatar Ecosystems’

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.

Genies Wants To Help Creators Build ‘Avatar Ecosystems’

When avatar startup Genies raised $150 million in April, the company released an unusual message to the public: “Farewell.”

The Marina del Rey-based unicorn, which makes cartoon-like avatars for celebrities and aims to “build an avatar for every single person on Earth,” didn’t go under. Rather, Genies announced it would stay quiet for a while to focus on building avatar-creation products.

Genies representatives told dot.LA that the firm is now seeking more creators to try its creation tools for 3D avatars, digital fashion items and virtual experiences. On Thursday, the startup launched a three-week program called DIY Collective, which will mentor and financially support up-and-coming creatives.

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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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Inflation Reduction Act Officially Passes the Senate, Revamping Electric Vehicle Pricing

David Shultz

David Shultz is a freelance writer who lives in Santa Barbara, California. His writing has appeared in The Atlantic, Outside and Nautilus, among other publications.

The Capitol at Sunset
Courtesy of Mike Stoll via Unsplash

Over the weekend Senate Democrats officially passed the Inflation Reduction Act in what amounts to President Biden’s biggest legislative win so far. The bill includes a host of broad-spectrum economic policy changes and completely reworks the subsidies for electric vehicle purchases. The law still has to get through the House, but this should be a much smaller hurdle.

dot.LA covered the bill in depth as it neared the goal line at the end of July, and the final iteration doesn’t change much. To recap:

1. The rebate total stays $7,500 but is broken into two $3,750 chunks tied to how much of the car and its battery are made in the US.

2. The manufacturer caps are eliminated, meaning even EV companies that have sold more than 20,000 vehicles are once again eligible.

3. Rebates will now only apply to cars priced below $55,000 and trucks/SUVs below $80,000

With the new system placing a renewed emphasis on American manufacturing and assembly, the calculus of which vehicles cost how much is still being worked out. The most comprehensive (but unofficial!) list I’ve seen has come from Reddit user u/Mad691.

In addition to the EV rebate program, the bill also includes a number of economic incentives aimed at curbing emissions and accelerating the country’s transition to electric vehicles.

There’s $20 billion earmarked for the construction of new clean vehicle manufacturing facilities and $3 billion will go help electrify the USPS delivery fleet. Another $3 billion will go to electrifying the nation’s ports. Then there’s $1 billion for zero-emission trucks and buses.

Now that the bill is about to be codified into law, VC investment in the sector might heat up in response to the new money flowing in.

“I do anticipate more climate funds standing up to invest in EV infrastructure,” says Taj Ahmad Eldridge, a partner at Include Ventures and the director at CREST an ARES Foundation initiative with JFF/WRI that aims to provide training for people in the new green economy. “However, we do see funds being a little more thoughtful on diligence and taking their time to fund the right investment.”

The sentiment seems to be shared across Southern California. ChargeNet CEO and Co-Founder Tosh Dutt says the Inflation Reduction Act “super charges” the company’s effort to build infrastructure across the country.

“This investment accelerates the transition to renewable energy and gives companies like ChargeNet Stations the confidence to expand more rapidly, especially in underserved communities,” says Dutt.

For Rivian, the bill’s passage has left would-be customers in a sort of limbo. Because many of their models will exceed the $80,000 cap for trucks and SUVs after options, customers who’ve preordered are scrambling to sign buyers’ agreements to take advantage of the current EV rebate scheme which doesn’t include price caps. As I noted in the previous article, if you buy an EV before the bill is signed, you’re eligible for the current rebate system even if the vehicle isn’t delivered until 2023. Any existing contracts under the current system will remain valid.

With the legislation seemingly on the fast track to become law, it’s unclear whether or not Rivian will expedite the purchasing process to allow customers to sign the buyers’ agreement before the new rebate program becomes the law of the land. Tick tock!

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