Esports, Ulti Agency | Turning Millions in a Little-Known Industry: – I Quit My Job and Went “All In”

Esports, Ulti Agency | Turning Millions in a Little-Known Industry: – I Quit My Job and Went “All In”

“I felt like, ‘OK, here we have an opportunity.’ After that I quit my job and went ‘all in,’” esports agent Asgeir Kvalvik told Nettavisen via video call from Kristiansund.

The decision was made just three months after the company started in 2020, when they reached an agreement worth NOK 1.8 million.

Thus, Ulti Agency went from being a hobby alongside a full-time job at bookmaker Coolbet to Kvalvik's livelihood.

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Kvalvik says he saw the esports industry as a “blank canvas” with huge opportunities, which is why he created the company with Frank Berget.

The founding partners had previously worked together at KBK Football Club as media director, finance director and administrative director respectively. So they had the knowledge of the agency industry and executing large deals, but they soon faced one major problem:

They had no knowledge of the e-sports world.

“That was really our biggest challenge,” says Kvalvik. “We started from the bottom and didn’t have good connections in the esports industry.”

Western Prairies

Four years after its inception, the company is in a strong financial position, and has brought in influential people such as Ole Gunnar Solskjær, Jim Solbakken and Anna Kjos Mathijsen on the ownership side.

But what does a working day for an esports agent look like, you may wonder?

According to Kvalvik, they work very similarly to what football agents do.

– It is a very broad spectrum. We help players find new clubs, set up suitable races, improve contracts, and assist in practical matters. In addition, we cooperate with law firms in case of legal disputes, and we can also provide assistance when it comes to finance, economics, and advice.

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The agent's fee is ten percent of the contract value they negotiate for transfers, and 20 percent when they secure sponsorship deals for personal or corporate profiles. Kvalvik can say they have arranged sponsorship deals worth up to NOK 60 million.

The company has also expanded its operations from just acting as agents for esports players to helping companies and investors with advice, in addition to the fact that they have built a gaming center in Kristiansund and invested heavily in – market.

Football agents are often accused of doing “shady business” in order to earn as much as possible. And Kvalvik makes no secret that there are also many of them in the world of esports.

“There’s no doubt that there’s a lot of that in football, although you certainly have a lot of honest, hardworking, honest agents out there. It’s very unregulated in esports. There’s no FIFA or standardized contracts, so it’s a bit like the ‘Wild West’ in terms of that,” says Kvalvik.

However, Kvalvik is quite clear that the Ulti Agency will always operate within the law.

– It was very important to Frank and I when we started this, to be positive contributors to this ecosystem. We told each other from day one that we had to act in the “honest Scandinavian Norwegian way.”

Solskjaer was the saviour

Most other players in the esports industry have been bleeding money in recent years. Ulti, on the other hand, has gone against the grain and could show strong growth.

2023 was a record year for the relatively new company, which could achieve sales of NOK 16 million and annual profits of NOK 3.6 million.

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“It’s no secret that most people involved in esports have burned through huge amounts of money. There have been huge losses for investors and the like. For a while there were a lot of people who wanted to invest in esports, but maybe a couple of years ago the esports bubble burst a little bit for them,” says Kvalvik, who clearly doesn’t take it for granted that he will make a profit every year.

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On the other hand, the road to achieving sales of several million annually was not easy, and the founding duo realized early on that they had to raise more capital if the company was to grow as they wanted.

In 2021, they began to consider potential investors, and launched their dream candidate early: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. However, taking him over proved easier said than done.

“After all, Ole Gunnar was Manchester United manager at the time, so it wasn’t easy to get him, even though we’re from the same city,” Kvalvik laughs.

-But Jim [Solbakken] We knew each other a little, although I didn't know him personally. But we had a mutual friend in Bernt Hulsker, whom I knew well.

Kvalvik goes on to say that he spoke to Hulsker, who took the ball forward for them. An article from Finansavisen mentioning the company was sent to Solbakken, and the football agent was immediately interested.

– At first he joked that they were going to buy the whole company. It started out very awkward, but eventually we picked up the ball and asked if we could make a phone call.

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The phone call led to a physical meeting, and things moved quickly from there. A few weeks later, Solbakken and Solskjær each bought 12.5 per cent of the company for what Kvalvik refers to as “a significant sum of millions”.

– It was absolutely essential for us to get to where we are today. Without it, it would have been difficult to get Frank on board. [Berget] In a full-time job. So that was very important.

With two prominent owners behind them, Kvalvik quickly noticed that they were being put on the map, and customers who had previously had no chance began taking them seriously.

Kvalvik and Birgit are still the only full-time employees at the company, but the duo has big plans for further growth in the future.

“It’s clear that if it ain’t broke don’t fix it,” Kvalvik concluded. “We’re on a good path and have a lot of exciting opportunities, so we just have to keep our mouths shut and move on.”

Najuma Ojukwu

Najuma Ojukwu

"Infuriatingly humble internet trailblazer. Twitter buff. Beer nerd. Bacon scholar. Coffee practitioner."

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