Last November, a new esports platform entered the scene: Juked, the brainchild of esports veterans Chris "ChanManV" Chan and Ben "FishStix" Goldhaber, went into open beta. Its goals are simple, yet ambitious. At a time where several streaming platforms like Twitch and YouTube try to pick up exclusive esports leagues, Juked tries to organize the viewing experience for esports fans. The site collects tournament streams on their platform, provides a comprehensive calendar and lets users personalize which esports they want to follow closely.
With the site now three months into open beta, we decided to catch up with co-founder ChanManV. He walked us through the creation of Juked, how they manage to stay in touch with all the esports scenes, and what the future holds for the platform.
What drove you and Ben to create Juked?
It's pretty simple actually. Ben and I are esports fans, and there is an army of esports fans out there. For a long time, the esports scene has been quite fragmented. The closest thing to having something where everything is in one place is Twitch. When Twitch first started, esports was a high priority for Twitch. You would see all the esports events featured on the front page, and it was pretty easy to find stuff back then.
But obviously, over time, Twitch definitely gained different interests. Esports is less of a priority than it used to be. A common experience was that I'd scour Twitter, maybe Reddit, and hope you come across the links and the calendars for esports events. So for a long time—I think Ben has been thinking about this for ten years—we wanted to create something that's one place, you know? One place that has all the calendars for all the esports, and you can actually watch it there too.
You mentioned that Ben has been thinking about this for a long time. When did you two team up?
Yeah if you talk to any of Ben's friends of over the past ten years they'll say that he talked about this. *laughs* Three, four years ago I was in a place where I said "well if you want to do this now, I can do this now." At the time he was still at Twitch, and he was waiting out the options he had there. So the timing wasn't great then. I ended up going to HS Replay, with Andrew and the gang, to do more for Hearthstone. During that time Ben ended up getting laid off from Twitch, so then he was freeing up but then I wasn't available.
Timing came back around in the fall of 2018. I was looking at an opportunity with the Florida Mayhem, but that didn't work out in the end. I'd just left Hearthstone, so Ben and I were both available now, and we got together for this project.
Juked is a startup company, a streaming platform in a time where there are already many large video content websites. How did you manage to find interest from investors and other partners?
So, we've raised our pre-seed round. We've just announced that we're part of 500 Startups' batch 26, so that's very exciting. We've been sitting on that for a couple of months. They wanted to announce it close to the end this time around.
But back to your question: the whole raising thing has definitely been an educational experience for us. We started raising last summer. I think for very experienced companies, it would take like a month or two to raise what they need, right? But we were doing this for the first time, and it ended up taking about three or four months of talking to lots and lots of potential investors. We're really happy with our current syndicate. It's a combination of people in our industry as well as very, very well known investors that have been successful in other companies. Hopefully we'll get to share who they are, that's really up to them.
So yeah it's a challenge. But here's the thing: even if you don't know esports, people can understand the need for something like Juked. They can imagine what it would be like in, say, traditional sports, if there was a solution like this. They totally understand that.
People still now Twitch as their go-to platform for esports, and other platforms are trying to fight back. For example YouTube got exclusive broadcasting rights for the Overwatch League. How is Juked going to pull people in, and how will it elevate the esports experience? In the end, Juked embeds Twitch and YouTube streams.
That's definitely a good question. I think the biggest thing that Juked offers, which Twitch and YouTube don't, is the fact that we're entirely focused on esports. We're focused on this niche. At this moment I wouldn't even say Twitch is focused on casual gaming—it's broadening to non-gaming. We're seeing more IRL, that kind of stuff on Twitch. And YouTube has always been big, in all the other sectors. Gaming was a little bit late there, to be honest.
Yes, we have the embeds for the different platforms. But we have our own site too. We have the ability to add our own experience to it as well. We can't manipulate the broadcasts itself, but for everything around it, we can offer a different viewing experience. You don't see all of it quite yet, but it's definitely on our roadmap. Interactivity, things like that, are very much part of the plans we have.
When browsed through all the games that you cover, I was surprised. You obviously cover the big titles like Counter-Strike, League of Legends and Dota 2, but you also cover super small titles I've never even heard of. Samurai Showdown? How do you even pick up on those games?
I'm glad you pointed that out. We have everything. If you go through the 'favorites' list, where you can choose your favorite titles, you can choose osu!, you can choose Tetris... you can choose all these games that people don't usually associate with esports. For us, all the games can be esports. Even Games Done Quick, speedrunning, is very competitive, and we think things like that are in the esports space.
To cover all that does take a lot of different avenues of getting the information. It's a combination of APIs, people going to find these schedules, and partnerships with the developers. And obviously the community. They submit these events that we'd probably never even known about, and then we think "well this looks great, let's add it to our calendar." That's how it all comes together.
So for the smaller games you guys look at what the community submits, and decide what's interesting and what isn't?
Correct. We have people from all different types of communities. Whether it's FGC, or the racing games... It's been awesome. When we launched Juked, the first folks that really got in contact with us were the tournament organizers. They really have a problem right now to get exposure for their tournaments, so I think they immediately felt the value Juked has. They definitely want to be part of this as well.
"Everybody is like 'oh you're competing with Twitch,' but we're not! We're helping Twitch!"
The open beta for Juked started in November, so it has been around for three months now. What have you learned over the past few months of running Juked?
Open beta has been great. Having a lot more users to help us test our hypothesis and features that we've been talking about is very helpful. For me, being able to talk to users directly and really get their needs and experience as an esports fan, what their habits are like when it comes to watching, has been great. Talking to people has mostly validated what we're doing. Esports fans, like Ben and I are, used Twitter, Reddit, maybe Liquipedia to find tournaments all the time in a very inefficient way. The thing I hear most is: "I missed this." When you hear things like that, you realize that there are so many views left on the table for tournament organizers, for platforms.
I think that not only we're helping the fans to find these, but I think in the end we're actually helping the entire ecosystem achieve maximum potential. It's one of our missions too with Juked. Everybody is like "oh you're competing with Twitch!" But we're not! *laughs* We're helping Twitch! The views they get from their embed: they get credit for that. They get to sell against that, for sponsorships things. If anything, we're trying to help YouTube and help Twitch, help tournament organizers to get as many views as they can possible get.
In the end, everyone wins. We can provide things like landing pages. One of the coolest things that we've been able to release since right before Genesis, is having a landing page for an entire event with multiple tournaments nestled in it. Right now there is not a great place to find anything like that. It's usually a single page per thing, and you have to jump from page to page. There's not an easy way to get a comprehensive view of these events. On Juked now, we have things like an EVO page, where you can see every one of these tournaments. You can jump into one if you want, or you can just see all of them at once with a schedule list.
Every project has a roadmap, a schedule by which time a certain milestone must be met. A while ago Ben Tweeted that you're ahead of that. Can you give a bit more context on that?
I don't know if I feel the exact same way, as in being ahead of it. But I know for Ben, just how quickly this has been built, it's all gone pretty smoothly. I think when we first started, just over a year ago, it was a little bit slow in the beginning. But once we started building, everything went quickly. The development cycle of the product has been very good. We're able to be nimble, and we can adjust quickly.
I think Ben was talking more about the number of users Juked already has, at this point in time.
Well the growth has been good. We can't talk about specific numbers yet, but we're growing month over month. Being an early startup, that's the most important thing for us. Retention and engagement has been my number one goal. We want to make sure people are coming back to the site. We make sure that what we're offering on our site is something people want to use consistently. Once we do that, we can broaden what we offer. Multi-language, a mobile app, all those things. We're just waiting for the right moment for that.
You guys are also getting a lot of support from high profile esports personalities.
Well, you know, they're friends of ours.
I know they're friends, but someone like MonteCristo wouldn't promote your site if it was trash.
*laughs* No definitely, he's a smart guy. He understands what we're offering. It's nice to have friends that are influential, and who believe in your product as well. You know what's been really cool recently though? Just having random people mention Juked on Twitter or other social media. For me, that marks a moment too. We have everyday people just talking about it. They might not have the reach that some people like Monte and Goldenboy have, but it's great.
You're becoming part of the everyday conversation.
Yeah! If we can get people to recommend Juked to each other, that's the dream, right? That's how you get word of mouth going. I think many people are liking what we're building, and just like what they're seeing.
To round up the interview, let's look at the future of Juked. What can we expect from the site, say, this year?
This year, you can almost guarantee that we'll have a mobile app. That's starting to become a pretty important piece of the formula in terms of getting the product market-fit. To make it something that can spread like wildfire. That's definitely coming up. One of our strategies from the get-go was to start in an area where we could get traction, and we'd be super good at. We wanted to start at the watching experience. But eventually, we want to have a full experience in terms of following esports. Things like scores, things like news. Those are definitely things we want to get to once we've really nailed discovering watching. But you'll see more of those things on the side as we go.
We want not just to aggregate streams, we want to aggregate other content too! We want people to find your article. We want people to find podcasts that are awesome, but few people know about. As long as it's about esports, or anything in regards to it. One cool thing that we've been doing is, when people stream IRL from events, or if there is a viewing party: we're putting that on Juked too, alongside the actual mainstream. You get a more comprehensive experience of the event. Anything that is in that esports category, we want to give to the fans.
Images via Juked.gg