This Esport Gamer Levelled Up To Successful Entrepreneur
Arwina Mogul took her love of Esports and turned it into a new business venture as CEO of Beam. World of Warcraft first got Arwina Mogul into gaming, but it was Dota 2 that introduced her to Esports. She started playing in 2012 and was instantly hooked. Mogul quickly took things to the next level, competing in, and winning, tournaments with her team. And with that, she entered the world of Esports.
“Esports is exciting because I believe that it’s the future of entertainment. It is so accessible,” says Mogul, explaining that unlike other sports, players in this arena can be any height, build or age and still be successful. That being said, Esports is a heavily male-dominated industry. Mogul was frequently the only woman at Esport events—so she decided to change the game and host her own, including a community. After working as a consultant on the world’s first-ever Esports theme park in Qatar, Mogul discovered an opportunity for something bigger.
“I created Beam because I saw an opportunity to have a specific and niche platform meant for Esports events and tournaments,” says Mogul, who describes Beam as “Eventbrite and meet-ups for gamers.” Beam is supported by Ryerson’s Future’s Zone Startups program at DMZ.
In the rapidly evolving gaming market, Mogul has to continuously take her business to the next level, finding new ways to serve Beam’s customers and stay competitive, while also battling sexism as a female CEO. And like the true competitor that she is, she’s crushing the game.
Here’s how she turned her passion for Esports into a thriving business:
What are the essential components for a solid business plan?
The most important element of a business plan at an early stage is the people behind it. Most entrepreneurs nowadays, they don’t have a track record. So what you have to do is get a really qualified, talented, skilled and experienced team to present to investors. At an early stage, anyone can say that, “Hey, we’re going to make a billion.” But really the investors, the other entrepreneurs and other advisors will take a look at your team and see if your team is actually capable of being a billion-dollar company.
The second essential consideration would be your competitive landscape. Is your idea something that’s been done before or is it completely innovative? And how well will you fare against your competitors to differentiate yourself? Position yourself so you’re well equipped to fight against the competition and dominate the market.
How did you assemble your team?
I have a really bad radar on gauging how people are. I’ve had really bad experiences where they would just go in and copy the idea and then go off to do their own thing. For me, the best advice is to take your time and be picky with who you want on your team. Be sure that their skills complement yours.
How do incubators, like the Ryerson DMZ that you’re part of, help entrepreneurs?
There are two ways. The first one is validation. If you have an incubator or accelerator that you’re a part of, investors know that other people have looked at your business plan, have interviewed you, you’ve pitched, etc. That gives them more of the trust factor, which is super important and in raising funds. The second reason one is your network of people. If you’re a part of an incubator, or accelerator, you’re open to their network of investors, entrepreneurs, partners and business partners. It’s easier to do that if you can say that you’re affiliated with a program.
What is your advice for figuring out how to fund a new business?
I think the first thing to think about is that only 2 per cent of venture capital funds actually go to female founders. You have to understand that there’s a whole industry right now that’s very focused on issuing funds to female founders. It’s a great time to be alive. One of the tips that I have for female entrepreneurs is that they have to be prepared to answer very difficult questions about their company, like how you are positioned to be defensible against bigger companies.
The second one is, take a step back and think if you need investment money. If you’re not looking at becoming a billion dollar company, a Unicorn company, or making $100 million a year, that’s OK. You can tap into a lot of different fundings from government grants to loans. There are a lot of business loans in Canada as well, like Futurpreneur or BDC. There are other non-equity type of loans as well, such as Clearbanc.
What challenges did you face as a woman working in the Esports industry and how did you overcome them?
The first challenge in the Esports and gaming industry is it’s heavily male-dominated. Sometimes when people start talking to me, they don’t know that I’m female, especially if it’s a phone call. I’ve actually gotten this multiple times where the first conversation is, “Oh, I thought you were a man.” Or they say, “Oh, I thought you’re… Oh, I didn’t know you’re a girl.” They wouldn’t say woman or lady. They would say, girl. Frankly, I’ve gotten used to it. But I do recommend that women know that these things happen and all they have to do is really just push through it. They can respond back and say, “Yeah, it’s me. I’m the one who set up the meeting.” And take charge of the conversation and don’t ever let anyone talk over you, especially if you’re talking.
The second challenge is whenever I attend events. It is a male dominated industry, not just Esports or gaming but also business and also tech. You usually just really see about 10 to 20 per cent women in the event. I have my tribe of women that attend events with me. If I speak to one investor and a female entrepreneur friend of mine is also there, she will be able to tell me afterwards if the investor is actually interested in what I have to say or is just not interested, and is just entertaining me for other purposes. Having that support system, we’re able to figure it out amongst ourselves if this person is worth following up with.
The third challenge is when I’m speaking with potential investors and closing deals. When I’m fundraising, the concern is that I will get asked questions that are unfortunately just women focused, such as: When are you planning to have children? My solution to that is just ask them, “Hey, is this a standard question that you ask all entrepreneurs? Because last time I checked, if you’re a dad and you’re a male entrepreneur that doesn’t mean that you don’t take care of your kids.” That’s a question that I ask and usually it would stop any gender-focused questions and now you can shift to focusing on how you’re going to make them a lot of money.
How did you form that trusted circle of women in tech?
For me, I did tap into the personal connections, but I also attended a lot of women’s networking events. I was a part of different women’s programs. The programs are catered to entrepreneurs either if there’s an age bracket or there’s a niche for the specific industry that they’re catering for, but that’s how I got my tribe together.
What does it take to become a successful entrepreneur? Grit. Grit, grit, grit. Because on a daily basis you have your highs and you have your low’s multiple times a day, and if you don’t know how to navigate that, then it’s going to be an extremely challenging road ahead of you.
To celebrate Small Business Week in October 2019, watch the Startup & Slay digital video series featuring six Canadian companies founded by diverse women entrepreneurs. This special project is produced by How She Hustles, with proud sponsor CIBC in partnership with Futurpreneur Canada and Ryerson University. Help us share these stories online with hashtag #startupandslay and don’t forget to tag @howshehustles. We’d love to hear how you Startup & Slay, too!