Benjie Lewis saw potential in eSports from the beginning — first as a mentor, then an investor, he said.
Rapidly evolving from recreational pastime to official leagues and high school sports programs, the competitive multiplayer gaming concept has created a new space for startup opportunity, he said.
“When I was growing up … they weren’t really real teams, and now it’s full-on sport,” Lewis said.
His investment in High School eSports League already is paying off in terms of growth and momentum, he said. The startup now has 1,700 partner schools and more than 60,000 users.
Click here to learn more about High School eSports League.
Filling a void for students who are less interested in such programs as football, baseball and basketball, eSports has a place at the top of today’s secondary education extracurriculars, said HSEL founder Mason Mullenioux.
The league creates a partnership opportunity for students and schools to bring varsity gaming, premium tournaments and other league opportunities to high school gamers, he said, noting eSports high school students are learning STEM, programming, and management skills.
Now developing credited school curriculums, Mullenioux and the league is focused on social and emotional development called “Gaming Concepts,” which aim to teach such skills as team building, leadership, social interaction, college and career readiness, and teach basic-level technical skills, he said.
High schools like Lee’s Summit North and Park Hill South already are on board, stoking confidence for potential investors, Lewis said.
“Once they start to prove themselves, then you’re going to get the real investors, they’re going to say, Yeah, I want to put in a million dollars, or I want to put in $5 million,” he said. “What were doing with high school eSports now is just a tiny segment of it … There are all sorts of facets off of eSports where there’s a ton of potential revenue models that are going to come out — models we probably haven’t even thought of yet.”
The numbers speak for themselves, Mullenioux said of the league’s growth.
“That’s what investors see,” he said. “I think they see huge dollar signs.”
Beyond the potential for revenue, Mullenioux ties the league’s success to a genuine passion for gaming, and the community it creates, he said. Starting HSEL six years ago as a passion project, his drive remains for a place where students can feel at home, Mullenioux said.
“We’re in it because this is what we wanted in high school,” he said. “There’s a lot of kids out there who don’t have a place to belong and this is where they find that. … They make friends and they come out of their shells. … It’s something that they can feel part of for the first time — that’s the big power of eSports.”