- Alliance is a European esports team founded by Razer, with squads competing in multiple games.
- Alliance’s "Dota 2" team is currently competing in The International, a massive tournament with a $33 million prize pool in Shanghai, China.
- Business Insider spoke with Alliance’s CEO and coach Jonathan "Loda" Berg and general manager Kelly Ong about what it takes to build and support a competitive team of professional gamers.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Esports is a burgeoning industry, and only a handful of people can truly call themselves veterans in the world of professional gaming.
Jonathan "Loda" Berg is the CEO of Alliance, a Swedish esports team sponsored by major companies like Twitch, Monster, and Razer. But before he was an executive, Loda was considered one of the world’s best "Dota 2" players. In 2013, the same year Alliance was founded, Loda led the team to victory at The International, the annual "Dota 2" championship hosted by Valve Software, the game’s developer.
Now six years later, Alliance has new roster of young players to competing for a $33 million prize pool at The International, with Loda as the coach. The tournament’s prize pool is more than 10 times larger than it was when Loda won, and it’s being hosted in Shanghai, China for the first time this year. The winning team will walk away with $15 million, but Alliance’s progress in the tournament so far means it’ll leave with at least $501,545 in prize money.
Alliance has also added new players to compete in games like "Fortnite," "Super Smash Bros. Melee," "League of Legends," and "Call of Duty." Alliance general manager Kelly "kellymilkies" Ong has more than 10 years of experience in competitive gaming and helps manage logistics, social media, and other day-to-day matters for the rapidly-expanding team.
Business Insider spoke with Loda and Ong about what it takes to build and support an esports team, how professional gamers can transition to new jobs when their careers end, and what it takes to win on the biggest stage in competitive gaming.
Loda led Alliance to victory at The International in 2013, when the prize pool was $2.9 million. Back then, he thought he was too competitive to be a coach.
"Back then I could honestly not see myself being a coach because I was always all about competition," Loda said. "I always loved playing "Dota 2," and I loved competing in "Dota 2."
Loda retired in 2018 after competing for more than a decade. Now, at 31 years old, he says he’s found a personal connection with Alliance’s current "Dota 2" roster. The team has an average age of just under 22, and only one of them has competed in The International before.
Loda said that most "Dota 2" players reach their physical peak between the ages of 18 and 22, but it can take a few more years for players to learn enough strategy maximize their potential. He said that older Dota players can take advantage of their experience to stay competitive for longer, but that often requires them to move into a support role as a captain.
As a coach, Loda wants Alliance’s players to learn from his experiences.
"After working with these boys, they’ve grown a lot on me and they mean a lot to me," Loda said. "It’s just a blessing to be able to be here and help them. We’ll hopefully make the same kind of journey that I did."
Alliance finished the first round of qualifiers with an even 8-8 record, earning the 8th seed in the 16-team bracket for The International’s main event.
"I try to remind them of stuff that went through my head and just calm them down," Loda said before the tournament began.
Players on Alliance’s "Dota 2" team hail from Sweden, Germany, and Norway, and the oldest player is 25.
Loda scouted the five members of Alliance’s "Dota 2" squad to play specific roles. Three of the players are from Alliance’s home country of Sweden, while Maximillian "qojqva" Bröcker is from Germany, and Tommy "Taiga" Le is from Norway.
Loda met the team’s strongest player, Michael "miCKe" Vu, through another game called "Heroes of Newerth." Vu introduced Loda to the team’s oldest player and eventual captain, Aydin "iNSaNiA" Sarkohi.
The team’s third Swedish player, Samuel "Boxi" Svahn originally played against Alliance in practice matches — Loda says he was impressed with his decision-making.
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