Korean startup MASTER.GG’s CEO Charlie Rhee talks about revolutionizing monetizing for game steamers

Korean startup Master.GG‘s CEO, Charlie Rhee, always dreamed of running his own business and creating products that people need and enjoy. He partnered with CTO HK Ahn to make their main product MASTER.GG an overlay tool for live streamers.

MASTER.GG is now an exciting platform for monetization and engagement tools for eSports live streaming. It makes overlay tools and Twitch Extensions for individual streamers as well as major gaming companies. Live streamers on platforms such as Twitch, YouTube, Facebook Live receive ‘donations’ from fans.

Rhee is optimistic that MASTER.GG will help millions of streamers and gaming companies monetize their efforts. He talks about the company, the market opportunity, his aspirations, and what motivates him to work with koreatechdesk.com.

1. Please tell me about your background and What motivated you to get started with your company?

My background is in Finance. I graduated NYU Stern undergraduate with a double major in Finance and Accounting. I worked for more than ten years in Finance in equities sales and trading. However, from a young age, I had always been interested in running my own business. I started an event, and party hosting company on the side for over four years and grew the business to have some big parties with headline guest performances and major corporate sponsors.

When the smartphone came out, I was very interested in making apps, and my friend, who was from the gaming industry, decided to make a mobile game. As I could not quit my main job, I served on the board of directors and saw firsthand the whole development and launch process of four mobile game titles. We also successfully raised investment to series A, but unfortunately had to close down. But once I had the opportunity to pursue this full time, I left my job and built a team, and for the past five years have been working to build products that people need and enjoy.

2. What is your current main product, and can you share any previous product pivot story to the current product?

Currently, our main product is the MASTER.GG an overlay tool for live streamers. Live streamers on platforms such as Twitch, YouTube, Facebook Live receive ‘donations’ from fans. These virtual gifts are a way for the streamer to make money and engage and interact with their viewers.

We saw the rest of the world was lagging in the type of donations viewers can send, as in Korea, we are five years ahead of the world in streaming and have several donation methods, so we developed these tools for the global market.

While making these tools, we also realized gaming companies need streaming tools to support their pro leagues and their games that streamers play. We have been working with top global gaming companies to make these tools together. So we are making it so that they can add development features they need like a shopping cart and creating these tools for them.

Before this product, we have had some pivots. But we were making an aggregator app for streamers, a sort of Zig-Zag for Streaming. When thinking about monetizing this service, we began talking to the streamers directly and listening to what they wanted. We made both the donation tools and a fantasy esports service, but it turns out the streamers needed the donation tools more, so we finally decided on this product.

3. What is the market opportunity for your product?

Twitch alone has 6.5 million monthly streamers, and the sports market is estimated to be $1.2 billion this year. However, the opportunity for gaming company streaming tools is more significant as their annual marketing budget is over $5 billion. They are increasingly deploying this budget through live streaming and content creators.

4. Please tell me more about your founding team.

The team is headed by me, the CEO, and CTO HK Ahn. We are childhood friends since elementary school in Hong Kong. HK returned to Korea after middle school, while I left for the US in college. After working in our respective industries, (me – Finance, HK – Gaming), we teamed up to create Master.GG

5. How much money have you raised in total so far? When was the recent funding round?

We have raised a total of $500,000. The last round was June 2019.

6. If you had to start over, what would you do differently?

We are US Delaware S Corp but based in Korea. We would not have flipped to US parent company if we started over.

7. What are your milestones for the next round? And what are your goals for the future?

We are looking to grow our revenues by 7% each month and add 20 top tier streamers next year.

8. How have you attracted users, and with what strategy have you grown your company from the start to now?

We have contacted streamers directly or through their fans. For gaming companies, we have used partnerships to get into projects.

9. What do most startups get wrong about marketing in general?

I feel we did the same thing as only focusing on what we thought our user would be. For us, we started B2C focused, but learned Companies also need our services, so we have shifted to more B2B these days. Marketing is challenging, and most spend too much time on it before getting a product-market fit.

10. How do you plan to expand globally?

We want to partner with gaming companies as well as MCNs to expand the global network.

11. How do you handle this COVID-19 outbreak situation for your company’s survival in the future?

We have made many changes ourselves, with all of us working most of the time remotely and only meeting in person occasionally. It has been good as it has cut costs and we don’t see any change in productivity. However, when expanding the team, it will be a challenge to assimilate new members smoothly remotely.

In terms of our business, gaming companies have seen mixed results from COVID. Many had to cancel or delay their events, which in result affected us. However, with many people staying at home and consuming more content online, it benefits us as we are focused on helping gaming companies deploy their marketing budgets via online content.

12. What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? And what advice do you have for someone interested in doing similar things like yours or in a similar direction?

Don’t trust anybody, but don’t assume anything and say no to things you think are not related to your business.

13. What are the top-three books or movies (TV series) that changed your life and why?

I have always been a sci-fi fan, so I enjoyed all the Star Wars movies. It made me imagine a future and what things people use in that future, and somebody has to make those.

14. How do you keep yourself motivated every day?

If you need to keep yourself motivated, you’re in the wrong field. I don’t accept anything but a success, so no matter how many failures we face on the way, I will keep going until I deem it a success myself.

You can follow about MASTER.GG here, 

 

Read about gaming industry in South Korea on koreatechdesk.com,

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