founder

Juked Founder Ben Goldhaber on Building a Gaming-Centric Social Platform

Introduction

Esports are competitive video games that give viewers a slightly different thrill from sports, sometimes taking place in digital fantasy settings or combat zones. For 234 million esports enthusiasts around the world, the internet and social media can be an ideal place to meet fellow fans and share their passion. But esports conversations are often scattered and wedged between unrelated topics across a variety of different platforms.

To make being an esports fan easier than ever, Juked created a social platform centered around competitive gaming. Fans can connect to their own accounts on platforms like Twitch, meet other players, have discussions, and play together. We reached out to founder and CEO Ben Goldhaber to learn how Juked differs from more toxic fan platforms and how it expects the gaming industry to handle a potential recession.

Note: This interview was conducted over phone and email. It has been lightly edited for clarity and length.

Francis Vu

In your own words, how would you describe the company?

Ben Goldhaber

Juked is a social network for gamers that connects people around their favorite games and esports. We’re taking a page out of the vertical social network playbook in that we’ve created a social product with esports and games-centric features, baked in since day one, that make it easier to follow, discover, and find community in your gaming fandom.

Francis Vu

What inspired you to take the leap and start this company?

Ben Goldhaber

I was on the founding team at Twitch in 2011 and am deeply connected to the gaming and esports industries at all levels. My co-founder Chris Chan is equally connected to esports influencers, streamers, journalists, and beyond. We have long felt that esports was being held back by problems of fragmentation (you have to use five to 10 different platforms simply to stay up to date) and toxicity in the modern social media landscape. By creating a healthier community and reducing friction for following esports, we hope to facilitate the long-term growth of the esports fandom for decades to come.

Francis Vu

Who is on your team and how did you come together?

Ben Goldhaber

I first met Chris through an esports podcast he was producing many years ago. We became close friends over the years, meeting up at gaming conventions and discussing ways we can improve the industry. We eventually co-produced the most popular Overwatch esports podcast together (“TheOverViewGG”) and in the spring of 2019 decided to partner up and build Juked.

Francis Vu

What major changes and milestones have you accomplished since your previous raise?

Ben Goldhaber

Our long-term vision remains the same. However, our approach is markedly different in building a social-first product. We also decided to go mobile first, which has paid off in 10 times better retention than our previous web product. So far, we’re up to 16,000 registered users in less than six months, with more than 600 verified esports industry insiders and influencers already using the app.

Francis Vu

What does the competitive landscape look like, and how do you differentiate yourself?

Ben Goldhaber

Our approach of building a social platform for esports is somewhat unique in the space. There are ESPN-esque apps out there like Strafe that are arguably our closest competitors, but we don’t view them as direct competitors. Our biggest challenge is to change existing esports fan behavior and get them to switch from general-use social platforms (like Reddit, Twitter, and Discord) to Juked.

Francis Vu

How is the gaming industry, if at all, affected by the current economic environment?

Ben Goldhaber

Games are more recession-proof than just about any other industry outside of booze. I don’t see gaming slowing down much at all in the coming years, even assuming a recession is on the horizon.

Francis Vu

What should investors know about the gaming and social media industries before investing in them?

Ben Goldhaber

Our research shows that 85% of esports fans agree that toxicity is a major problem on the primary platforms where discussion happens. Twitch chat is chaos, Reddit is insular and hive-mind-y, and Twitter is only good for hot takes and quips. Esports fans love Juked because they can actually have a deep, meaningful, and nuanced conversation. We’re connecting like-minded fans in a way that is not possible elsewhere.

Francis Vu

What do you want potential investors to know about you and/or your company?

Ben Goldhaber

Our long-term vision is to expand beyond even just esports and build a social network for all competitive gamers. This is a massive total addressable market (around $1.5 billion) and an audience that is more attractive than almost any other — i.e., more wealthy, educated, early adopters who are more willing to spend. We have an exciting $10 billion opportunity ahead of us that our early investors — including C-level executives from Discord, Twitch, and Blizzard — have identified.

Francis Vu

As you think about the business 5-10 years down the road, what do you see exit opportunities looking like?

Ben Goldhaber

Accomplishing the goal of building a true social network for gamers is no small task, but it has incredible upside potential. While we’re still relatively small, we have the team, vision, and early traction to get there. At that point, acquisition from top 50 companies or an initial public offering will be likely.

We look forward to seeing where Ben and his team take the company. Juked is currently raising on Wefunder.

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About: Francis Vu

An investment professional with a background in private equity and venture capital having spent time conducting investments at VU Venture Partners and Pacific Oak LLC with a finance and management degree from Tulane University.

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