The Liquid Legacy

Steve Arhancet
“What do you think of Team Liquid?

That’s something I’ll ask people when I run into them. If I’m lucky, the person I’m talking to won’t know who I am, so I’ll get an unbiased answer.

Often, the answers I’ll get are that we’re the pinnacle of esports athleticism, competition, and winning. Others will say that we’re innovative, professional, and that we treat people well.

I think many of those answers are born out of the fact that we’re continuing to push the ecosystem at every chance we get. We’re constantly bloodying our knuckles on ensuring that we’re not complacent with where we are now.

That innovation is important to how we think and challenge ourselves, but it’s one of many parts that makes Team Liquid, Team Liquid.

It starts with the relationship that Victor Goossens and I have as co-CEOs. When we decided to go into business together, for me, Team Liquid was the obvious choice and Victor was someone I wanted to work with.

We made a Word document and said “let’s act like we’re merged already.” All of our business units, our staff, our revenue generators, it all went into that doc and we just started working.

I think about it now, trying to imagine what it would look like these days. You’d have teams of high-priced attorneys and months of preparation in order to organize and document everything meticulously. We didn’t do any of that.

But it worked, and after a while we said:

“Let’s Google what a co-CEO looks like.”

The thing is, when you go into business with a partner it’s like you’re getting married to them. You have to be able to face the challenging questions and handle them thoughtfully together, even when there’s a disagreement.

The other part is that in a co-CEO relationship you need to complement each other. I’m an ENTP and Victor is an ISTJ. He’s organized and meticulous, making his decisions through good information and research. Meanwhile, I’m creative, charismatic, and excel at the marketing and sales.

We balance each other out because we are each other’s weaknesses. Without that dichotomy, I don’t think we would be as successful as we are.

When we recruit new players to come to Team Liquid, Victor and I are still involved in that process. You’d think that with how big we are that we’d have hired a Director of Esports to deal with this, but we haven’t.

Every new signing is an extension of our brand and a commitment of what we’ll provide, so it’s important for us to still be involved in that process.

And we provide a lot here at Team Liquid. I like to think more than any other esport team out there in terms of support, compensation, bonuses, care, boot camps, meals, counselors, sports psychologists.

We stop at nothing to win.

In return, we ask for a lot from our players.

The fact is, some players aren’t ready for that kind of commitment. Having to give back as much as we give and having to sacrifice some things.

Without that commitment, we’re not doing things the Team Liquid way, and it’s an honest conversation we have with players as they consider signing with us.

Looking at our current League of Legends roster, I see something special in each of them that they bring to the table besides their raw game skill.

Impact may not show it on stage, but he’s quite light-hearted when you get to know him. He’s able to keep the mood light when things are tough, but he also trains his ass off. Out of all of our players, I think he plays more solo queue than anyone else.

Some players are always seeking the greener grass. For Xmithie, he’s more concerned about investing in where he’s at. He shows incredibly loyalty to his teammates, the organization, and his family. Loyalty exudes from him and it’s such an admirable quality.

I credit much of that to his family that I’ve had the privilege of meeting and getting to know at various events. I can tell that Jake was raised well with strong values and that love was a big part of that upbringing.

When we were at the Spring Split finals, there was this moment where Zven mocked Jensen by looking over him. I’m pretty sure Jensen took that and went:

“Don’t fuck with me, I’m going to show you.”

That’s Jensen’s competitive spirit, which is what stands out most to me. So many players would have been content to be on Cloud9 with how they have performed. But Jensen had never achieved domestic success and he had the determination and drive to say that it wasn’t good enough.

He wanted to play with Team Liquid because he wanted a chance at Worlds and domestic success. I distinctly remember talking to him about those goals and promising him we’d achieve that together.

In CoreJJ, I see someone that’s philosophical and thoughtful with his words. He’s well beyond his years, and for someone who speaks English as a second language, he’s said some almost poetic things that have made us all stop and think for a moment.

It’s a sort of crystallized intelligence—things you can learn from experience and then use those experiences to define how you act in the now.

Of course, we have to mention Doublelift.

There are many ways I could describe him, but if I had to pick one… it would be “strong.”

I’ve been with him through some very difficult life events and challenging moments. He’s the one who spawned the “paid for by Steve” meme when I brought him in to help us survive relegations.

Just watching how he is able to remain strong when most people would crumble is incredible.

The commitment to our players that has allowed us to cultivate such an amazing roster with admirable qualities, also extends to our staff and the brands we partner with.

One of my own personal mottos is:

“Just get shit done.”

The cleaned up version of that is “The Team Liquid Way”.

It means our job isn’t done until the job is done. We hire people that are focused on results and have a genuine appreciation and understanding of what we’re doing here.

The pool of qualified applicants is very limited in esports and gaming. But we wouldn’t compromise that part of our hiring process. It’s too important to building Team Liquid and it shows in what we’ve accomplished.

We also view a partnership as creating things together. That’s what we look for when we seek out new partners like we have in the past with Alienware, Marvel, Honda, Jersey Mikes, and others. We want to be able to give back to the community.

Our Marvel partnership is a prime example of that commitment. We wanted to show our appreciation to fans of Marvel and Team Liquid. Not to mention that having our players look like Captain America on stage at LCS is just plain awesome.

I’ve touched on this in the past, but the Alienware Training Facility is one of our biggest partnerships and one that I think has had an incredible impact on Team Liquid and the scene overall.

I lived through many of the problems in the esports scene as it grew up and I wanted to fix them. Esports may be young, but we’ve seen the mental toll it takes on the players while they train and compete.

Growing up, it’s instilled in us that athletes get injured by breaking a bone or tearing your Achilles through physical exertion. When you’re an esports athlete, it’s really about the mental conditioning.

I understand why we started with gaming houses and why there are still many of them in use. But they create conditions where you have a high potential for burnout. You get relationship issues between teammates, high anxiety, and panic attacks as a result of living and working on top of each other every single day.

Which is why I’m so thankful to Alienware for helping us build and outfit the training facility. We’ve helped set the standard for excellence in the esports scene once again. I’m incredibly excited that our sister facility in Europe is going to have the same experience very soon when it’s done.

As we continue our journey, we’re going to continue to look for partners that can help us give back. That can create value where there wasn’t value before.

All of this is what has created that sentiment around Team Liquid. That we’re the pinnacle of esports athleticism, competition, winning, innovative, professional, and that we treat people well.

It’s what has allowed us to win four LCS titles in a row. That unwavering will to win it all.

You can look back at the end of 2018 when we won back-to-back championships in the LCS. What if we had decided to keep the same roster? Would we have won two more? It’s easy to be complacent when you’re at the top. You have to constantly challenge yourself.

I know this may sound backwards, but those moments when you win a domestic title are very short-lived.

I’ve been with these players as they’ve won, the seconds after they’ve won, and it often feels like it means a lot. You’re smiling, cheering, jumping, and then it diminishes faster than you’d anticipate.

Some of our players are on their sixth trophy at this point, and for them, I don’t think it’s about being a champion. It’s about the journey and the experience. The championship is just a quick moment of recognition for the time they’ve put in.

Of course, that’s not a Worlds championship.

We’ve never had one of those so I can’t tell you if it would be the same. But I’ve asked Corejj about what it felt like to win. You know what he told me? He said it was pretty good… and then he went back to practicing.

We’ll have to wait and see if that remains true, but a Worlds Championship is something I want to add to the Liquid Legacy, which is consistent championships over and over.

I’ll close with this: we’re going to be celebrating our 20th year anniversary as a company in January. In Team Liquid tradition, we’re going to launch something that is completely unprecedented in the space.

It’s something that I’m really proud of and excited to share with you all, and we’ve been working on it for half a year at this point. I would say it’s going to be pretty revolutionary.

But that’s what we’re all about here at Team Liquid. Pushing the boundaries of what’s possible, whether it’s being four-time champions or changing the way we train.

We’re not going to stop anytime soon.


Image Credit: Team Liquid & Riot Games

Jeff Yabumoto assisted with the creation of this article

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