Carlos "Ocelote" Rodríguez Santiago has been busy this off-season. The CEO, founder, and owner of G2 Esports made a huge splash by acquiring Fnatic Mid Laner Rasmus "Caps" Winther. Luka "Perkz" Perković's transition to the Bot Lane after a successful Mid Lane career has been one of controversy, but Ocelote and G2 Esports have always been risk-takers.
About one week before the start of the 2019 LEC Spring Split, Ocelote spoke with Inven Global about his expectations for the new season, the life of a professional player, and his wealth of perspective from the many hats he has worn in the G2 Esports organization.
I'm here with G2 Esports owner Ocelote. The 2019 LEC Spring Split starts in about a week; how are you feeling about your first matchup against Origen?
I'm feeling really great, you know? It's always a challenge after changing a big part of your team to expect results right away, but we have very high expectations, even in the short term. However, we are taking things step by step. When we look at the future, it's from a game-to-game perspective.
Ultimately, it is our intention to win the whole LEC, and I think we are very well-positioned to do so. However, we are ready to adapt and adjust if things don't go as planned in the short term. We just adapt and evolve. It's a very progress-based approach.
With the addition of Caps, you have the most on-paper talent in the LEC. Is there extra pressure on your players due to the hype and high expectations of the roster?
There are two kinds of players. There are players who can handle pressure; and players who can't. If you want to be a world champion, you have to be a player who can handle pressure. Of course, it is always harder to play in official games if the expectations of you are gigantic, but such is the hard life of a professional player.
For the most part, our players are reacting positively, and they are not shy to challenges. The only player who hasn't had a ton of experience in big crunch time moments in official games is Mikyx, but everybody else has been in incredibly tight moments where a single skillshot or decision can mark an entire game against the best players in the world. They're used to that, so pressure in general is being handled pretty well.
Also, with the addition of Mitch Voorspoels as our Team Manager, things are even better taken care of than they were before. Mitch is incredibly diligent, and as a former player, has also proven to be a source of trust for our players. In addition, he has a corporate background, so he benefits us on both sides.
He's cut from the same cloth as you are, as far as experience in professional play and business. Has your approach to professional play during your career influenced the way you run G2 as an organization, and if so, can you try to put into words how that's unfolded?
That's an interesting question; I've never been asked that actually. I would say yes. I've always been a very aggressive player *laughs* at times way too aggressive; almost mindlessly aggressive! And in a way, that's how I envision lineup changes; that's how I envision content creation; that's how I envision brand partnerships; chairing the ownership group; raising capital — I'm always very aggressive.
I always try to do something that hasn't been done before, or something that is so incredibly good and outstanding that it shocks everybody. As a player, I was always driven by the glory of entertaining people, like a gladiator does.
I have maintained that gladiator mindset, whether that be through winning, or streaming and doing great plays that shock people, or doing lineup changes that nobody expects that everyone gets excited about. The same goes for content pieces; we always intend to break the norm with the kind of videos that we create.
We've been the club that is the first to do many different things. Sometimes, things don't turn out as well, and sometimes, things are fantastic and everybody feels proud. But no risk; no fun, and we consider ourselves a company that always takes risks. That's also how I've engaged with my professional career.
When I created G2, I essentially bootstrapped it with the money I earned as a player. I didn't have any investors back then, and I literally placed all my money into the company. I didn't care. I didn't care at all if I was going to fail. I came in, I spent all my money developing this organization, and I'm happier than ever.
It's definitely paid off for you. It was Gamers2 back then when you were trying to qualify for the EU LCS through the EU Challenger Series, right? In that transitional phase of your career, what was the most important thing you learned to help shape G2 into the organization that it is today?
I've done accounting. I've done contracts. Thankfully, I have not done graphic design *laughs* but I've even done video editing. I've been part of interviews; I've hosted interviews and podcasts. I've made lineup changes, content strategies, campaigns, social media plans. I've raised money; I've pitched the company to investors and brands. I've closed on sales; media rights; broadcasting rights.
Outside of developing a website, I've done anything you can imagine in an organization. What this gives me is exactly the experience I need to hire the people I think are best for the company.
I have a theory that if you want to hire the right person for a job, you need to completely understand what that person is supposed to do. Only then can you create goals and targets and be aggressive enough to push that person. At the same time, you also have to know where to give that person freedom and where exactly to lay the boundaries. You have to know where creative liberty is best given.
You only get that context if you've done that job before. One thing I learned in the first two years of the company is that I know how to do so many things, and I'm not shy about doing them. Right now, if I had to do something contract-related; campaign-related; product-related; I'll do it. And I'll be happy doing it.
You have achieved so much with G2 Esports over the past few years. Do the glory and accomplishments of G2 for you as an owner compare to your victories and glory as a player?
I'm having a blast right now, even more than when I was a player. When you're a player, you tunnel vision into every game. Time passes quite fast. Now, there are so many different things I'm doing and so many different responsibilities I have, the angle from which I look at life is different. That different angle provides me with increased satisfaction when things go well.
I look at everything strategically from a macro perspective. At the same time, I take 2 A.M. calls with players whenever they need. Whenever they have a family problem; a personal problem; or just to talk, I will go out with them and meet with them or have lunch with them.
Combined with long nights preparing board presentations to gain an increase in resources, all of these things provide me with additional context. When I see a player raising a trophy, or when I see a content piece doing really well, or when I see us closing a brand partnership that I feel very proud of, I feel very accomplished because I know what got us there.
To be fair with you, best players enjoy what they do so much that they don't have time to think or reflect on life. Ask Perkz; Caps; Faker; anybody who is that successful in their craft how they are feeling, and they will respond like zombies.
When you're no longer a professional player, you savor your victories in hindsight far more than you did in the moment. Only once you step back can you reflect upon those moments like I have in the CEO position, and I'm very grateful for that.
Following up on that, do you think your time as a player has helped you put a higher priority on personal relationship with players?
Yes, 100%. When you've been a player, you have a certain level of empathy. I would never just tell a player 'listen, you've just gotta do this and record the video.' I've been a player and I remember what it was like to lose a game and have to create a content piece.
So I'll speak with the player and say something like 'Look, man, I'm going to oversimplify things. There are two reasons a player gets paid: because he wins; and because he has fans. If you win, you want to make your fans happy by meeting with them. If you lose, you only have the other side for that day.' And then the player looks at it from different eyes. But you can only tell them this if you've lived through it.
When you look at my career, I've not always been the most successful competitively speaking, but I've always been the most successful business-wise relative to my competitive success. Players appreciate that, because whether you're the 1st, 10th, or 50th best in the world, all of them are training 12-14 hours per day. They acknowledge when a player can accomplish goals outside of the game.
Another thing that has taught me so much from being a player is something that nobody talks about. No professional player in any esport loses a few games. Whether that be professional League of Legends; professional World of Warcraft; CS:GO; League of Legends solo queue; FPL; they will lose SO many games. But at some point, successful players will grow comfortable with losing games and see it as an opportunity to grow.
The most successful players are not only those that have the right amount of reflexes and hand-eye coordination, but also those that understand what progress and a focus on growth means in one's career. You end up losing so many solo queue games that you understand every loss as an opportunity to grow an improve.
That's the one thing that's carried over to my life as well. Now I f**k up all the time, but I don't care about f*****g up, I care about if it didn't teach me anything.
Thanks for making the time to speak with me Ocelote. Is there anything you'd like to say to the G2 Army before the 2019 LEC Spring Split gets underway?
Absolutely! You know, in normal circumstances I would say, 'Don't get your hopes up. Give us some time.' — F**k that s**t! Get your hopes up, get hyped as f**k, root for our guys, support them, and let's f**k some s**t up this year.