Episode #10 - James Corcoran - Meet the founder of stage.gg and Head of Product at Mobalytics
In this episode we interview James Corcoran. James is currently the Head of Product at Mobalytics, a gaming analytics company based in Santa Monica.
He previously founded stage.gg, a site that was essentially the ESPN of the gaming world that published information on everything esports.
Stage.gg was acquired by Mobalytics in 2017 and has since ceased operation.
We talked with James about his inspiration for starting stage.gg, how it became such a rapid success, and why he chose to go the acquisition route as opposed to raising money and continuing to work on stage.gg
If you’re interested in the esports industry, then have a listen because we really get into the nitty gritty on this one.
Alma Mater: USC
Major: Computer Science (Gaming)
(edited and abridged)
What did you study in school and why?
In high school I dreamed of creating the next big shooter game. I didn’t know what I was doing but I was passionate and I had a lot of creative energy. When I saw the Computer Science Games major at USC my eyes lit up. My plan was to take this major, and my really great idea from high school -- spoiler alert: it wasn’t that great -- and make the next big game.
CS at USC was hard. I spent a lot of all-nighters working on projects. I quickly learned that although I was a competent engineer, that was not my passion. All I knew was that I wanted to work in games. My sophomore year I decided I wanted to be a game designer so I talked to a lot of people to see what I needed to do to get this done.
I quickly realized how competitive the games industry is, there’s lots of nerdy kids like me who dream of designing games and there’s not that many jobs where you can design games. If you don’t create games in your spare time and have a really strong portfolio, you don’t get internships and entry-level jobs. The only other way as far as I could tell was to start as a QA engineer and work your way up, which was not a path I was interested in taking.
I decided I needed to take initiative. I organized small teams with other students throughout college and organized hackathons. I tried to always work with people one to two years older than me and extract as much knowledge as I could. I just tried to build things and get it on my website and portfolio. I made sure that the people in my program knew who I was and I had something to show the outside world with my creations -- even it wasn’t the most significant project.
That was the single best thing I did in college for my career. The most important piece of advice I could give a student who wants to work in the tech or games is to work your butt off in college, make things happen, do hackathons, do side projects, network, start a business -- college is a time when you have endless energy and infinite connections that are living right next to you, take advantage of it.
Tell us about Stage.gg, the company you founded
Stage.gg was essentially like the ESPN for esports. People could come to our site and see everything they might want to know about the competitive gaming world of League of Legends.
First off, when I left my job at Graphiq I decided it would be the most financially sane decision to reduce my living expenses as much as possible. That meant that I was basically going to mooch off my friends and live off their couches for a few months.
Hiring the first set of engineers was really hard. I would say you need a solid founding team that are ready to quit their jobs and jump in with you. It took about 3-4 months to hire the first couple engineers.
Eventually we moved up to San Francisco and worked out of my apartment. It took a few months (and a few hiccups) but we had our MVP by late 2016.
We launched in January 2017 and really our site was pretty simple. We had standings, the matches that happened every day, statistics about the matches and the players.
Adoption happened really fast. We made a post on League of Legends subreddit, which at the time was one of the largest on Reddit, and it just exploded. We got 30-40 thousand users overnight. We had a ton of momentum, and it grew to 300-400 thousand active users in the first few months and then we started fundraising.
What did fundraising look like?
We wanted to raise funds to expand. We had created a successful formula with League of Legends. We wanted to expand the fan experience while finding ways to create value for other businesses in the esports industry. And we really need to grow our engineering staff to start supporting other games as well.
Fundraising is a grind. It’s a lot of cold emailing. It’s a lot of taking calls with people that are looking to do due diligence, who are not really serious about investing. We fundraised for awhile and had a few investors committed but had not finalized the round when we started receiving acquisition offers. One of those offers was from Mobalytics, a company we really respected and I just ended up really vibing with the leadership and team there.
They had a ton of momentum, they had recently won TechCrunch, they had investments from some of the top investors in the world and I thought they were attacking a really cool problem in a way I hadn’t seen before. So we made the decision to sell the company to Mobalytics instead of fundraising.
About Mobalytics (from Mobalytics)
Mobalytics is the 1st personal performance analytics for competitive League of Legends gamers. Our system uses in-game data that’s available through Riot’s API to calculate player performance and provide you with actionable advice on how to improve.