8.9. 2017 Kuukauden kasvo

E-sports events are the future

Kalle Koskela is arranging a major event of electronic sports in Turku for the autumn holiday week. The international field in e-sports is also developing.

Computer games have been part of Kalle Koskela’s life since childhood when he first started playing on Commodore 64 and later on Atari and Nintendo. His current favourite leisure activity is miniature strategy games. He founded Grail Group Oy together with Ville Nikola in 2014 for the import and trade of accessories related to them. The company also imported board and strategy games.

Mr Koskela’s partner is a co-founder of youth club Hyvinkään Pelitalo and has worked with children. He brought with him enthusiasm in e-sports and experience in arranging sport events. Mr Koskela got interested in them, too. He says that he is always ready to try something new. Courage and entrepreneurial spirit are his strengths.

Change in operations

In autumn 2015, the entrepreneur duo decided to adjust Grail Group’s business operations, and now it focuses exclusively on marketing of e-sports and the media. The first hired employee was Niklas von Schöneman who was recruited from Gatorade Center.

”E-sports continues to conquer new audiences. The turnover of the gaming industry is around two billion euros in Finland and in the region of one billion in Sweden where e-sports do not yet play a big role, but the potential is huge. According to a market survey we commissioned this year, e-sports is now the second most popular type of sports after ice hockey among men aged from 18–29 years in Finland. A calculated number of 415,000 people say that they follow e-sports. There are players in Finland who are in top 20 in the world”, Mr Koskela says.

Last autumn, Grail Group participated in SparkUp’s Business Up accelerator programme, and according to Mr Koskela it was very useful. It attracted mentors and local partners for the company. The principle is that you need not be able to do everything yourself; experts from outside are used as needed.

The profitability of the business idea has also convinced public parties, as Grain Group was accepted to Tekes’ development programme Tempo and received a guarantee from Finnvera which secured financing from the bank. Furthermore, the company was recently granted subsidy for internationalisation by the Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment.

To the international markets

Electronic sports are forecast to become more popular among spectators than traditional sports by 2027. The number of players increases constantly as young people grow up and older players stay with it.

E-sports include both individual and team games, for example e-football, e-ice hockey, fighting games, rhythm games, trading card games, and driving games. The games are entertainment which is streamed and broadcast, on YouTube and TV. For example, Twitch.tv is a streaming service for games through which 900 million hours of e-sports content alone was watched in 2016. The forecasts on the popularity of e-sports are definitely not unfounded.

Grail Group aims at international business, and the most important partners are in Stockholm which is the centre of the game industry in the Nordic countries. In addition, the company is negotiating e.g. with the Japanese community Namco Bandai on a service to be integrated for its members.

”Our business is divided into the development of a tournament platform and arranging of e-sports events. The tournament platform is a cloud service which is developed by our partner Make Helsinki. It allows us to create tournaments by ourselves or the players can create them. The profit comes from the tournament fees, most of which are returned to the players as prizes.”

Around 70 per cent of the turnover in the industry comes from advertisers and sponsors, some 6 per cent from licensing, and the rest from end users.

”The tournament platform alone is not a profitable business, but it provides us with good opportunities for negotiating on arranging events. We continuously visit game fairs and develop various co-operation relations.”

A large annual e-sports event in Turku

The City of Turku started as a partner of Grail Group in arranging an e-sports gaming event of international scale called Grail Quest. It will fill the Gatorade Center for three days in the autumn holiday week from 19–21 October, and the goal is to make it an annual event. The event will involve Finnish Championships in different games, and the diverse programme will also include musical performances and product demonstrations ranging from retro products to VR goggles. Partners will contribute to the arrangements, and as many as 3,500 visitors are expected.

”Turku is the first city in Finland that wants to strongly participate in e-sports. Turku has a strong community of game developers, and the Turku Game Academy, or TGA, run by the City’s youth services will have visible presence. Initially the Finnish eSports Federation SEUL granted us the right to arrange the Finnish Championships in e-sports for two years. SEUL is the umbrella organisation for Finnish competitive electronic gaming and has been a member of the Olympic Committee since the beginning of this year. Those who are successful at the national games will go to the annual World Championships”, Kalle Koskela says.

The event has attracted a lot of interest beforehand, and Mr Koskela believes that the targeted number of audience will be met, but admits that the low awareness about the new event is a challenge.

Cook became a gaming entrepreneur

Kalle Koskela entered the gaming industry purely through a leisure activity. Originally he graduated as a cook from a restaurant school and worked over ten years in restaurants.

”I had a dream of becoming a teacher in the restaurant industry and continued my studies as an adult, but never completed the pedagogic part of the education, because there was no work for teachers at the time. So I found my way to entrepreneurship and sales work. During my studies I ran a summer café in Rymättylä.”

For a man oriented to sales and marketing, the decision on becoming an entrepreneur was an easy one, especially as her mother had also worked as an entrepreneur.

”I have the entrepreneurial spirit. I’m fascinated by freedom and independence and making my own schedules, although I’ve also come to know stress, risk management and the need for safety nets.”

The father of three children can’t extend his working days too much. The work also includes a fair bit of travelling, because there is a lot going on in the gaming industry, and new connections are being set up both in Europe and Asia.

Kalle Koskela comes originally from Tampere and moved to Turku after meeting her future wife here. Now he spends most of his leisure on playing with the children. They have imaginary plays and go on trips. Being a cook, Mr Koskela prepares the meals in the family.


Text and photos: Anne Kortela

Kalle Koskela

  • Entrepreneur/Managing Director, Grail Group Oy
  • Born in 1980 in Tampere
  • Lives in Turku, married with three children (girls aged 5 and 1, and a boy aged 3)

Education

  • 1998 Cook, Restaurant school, Tampere
  • 2010–2013 Bachelor of Business Administration, service production, Turku University of Applied Sciences

Career

  • Over 10 years in the restaurant industry
  • 2012 entrepreneur in a café in Rymättylä
  • 2014–8/2015 Sales Manager, Ajolanranta Oy
  • 8/2014– Entrepreneur, Grail Group Oy, at first part-time, since August 2016 full-time
  • 2/2016–7/2016 Sales Manager, Euro-East ltd

Leisure activities

  • Miniature strategy games, cooking, playing with the children
  • 1987–2003 Boy Scouts