New Wave Holdings Corp. is a recently established competitive gaming and esports investment company. Their CEO and CMO, Tolga Onuk and Daniel Mitre, come from an extensive background in both the technology and gaming industries. Having previously worked for companies like Electronic Arts, Sega, and Thunderbolt Studios, their venture into esports and its communities with New Wave Holdings come with a high level of expertise.
While Onuk and Mitre are experts on the business side, they also come from a background of being fans of video games. While Onuk has been playing a lot of Titanfall, Mitre currently plays Apex Legends and has been playing Diablo III for the sixth year in a row. He also plays Battlefield 4, which is near and dear to him.
“You know, that’s such a big chunk of my life and I’m very passionate about what my friends and family at EA DICE has done. And that’s a game I’ll always play,” Mitre said.
Both Onuk and Mitre sat down with ESTNN for an interview about how their experiences throughout the years can take New Wave Holdings to the next level.
ESTNN: What was it that prompted the start of New Wave? What is its origin story?
Tolga Onuk: I first worked for a Canadian toy manufacturer and entertainment company — Spin Master [Studios]. This was pretty much my first corporate experience. I worked there for four years, managed brands like Bakugan and Tech Deck, worked on their websites, and also their interactive games that they were producing back in the day. This is actually where I met Daniel.
Our friendship started 12 years ago at Spin Master. I had a chance to design game brands and experiences for kids. That was my experience in the gaming industry. Then, I got more evolved in the technology industry and I worked at multiple different agencies. For example, we created a bunch of applications, for global brands. I eventually worked at EA Mobile. Like Daniel — Daniel worked at EA for a longer time.
Eventually, I founded Thunderbolt, which grew into a company that started with a 13 person team. I grew this team in our L.A. offices, and I was working with technology startups in California. Eventually, in 2018, I partnered with Daniel, my friend from Spin Master, and we pretty much converted the company into a development branch, and this company got acquired by New Wave. That’s how we became part of the company. This is our whole story.
ESTNN: Being already experienced in both the technology and gaming industries, what would you say gives you an edge in terms of making New Wave a prominent mark on the map?
Tolga Onuk: It’s not that we are, right now, in a position that we can say we are the big fish, but at the same time, we’ve made it a great beginning [in] our venture. All the investments that we’re making are in alignment with our goals, our vision. I believe that we can definitely grow the esports scene in Canada and the college scene with our investment in Event Matchup Gaming. We can definitely help grow Tiidal — they have one of the greatest women’s esports teams in Canada and also in North America.
All these investments are really in alignment with what we want to accomplish. Hopefully, we are going to increase more investments into these ventures. We are going to help these ventures grow. Eventually, we’re going to make new acquisitions and merge companies with these ventures. Our goal is to increase our market cap, the industry, and also become a leader in the United States, in California, in Toronto, in Canada.
ESTNN: Similarly, what gives New Wave Holdings an edge in terms of making an impact on the gaming community itself?
Daniel Mitre: From a community perspective, I’m coming from a very enriched background of gamers and the gamer mentality. We’ve seen the landscape change over many years. Ten years ago, YouTube and Twitch wasn’t nearly as prolific as a revenue source or exposure vehicle as it is now.
Now, we’ve seen a big saturation in those spaces and we’re starting to see that gamers and influencers, who are very proficient in their games — because they’ve maintained channels, maintained a brand and a personality — need to find new avenues for revenue.
So, they’re turning to esports. They’re turning to, “Maybe I should consider getting on a team. Maybe I should blend my audience and the content that I’ve worked so hard at building into my proficiency within a video game. Whether I’m playing Overwatch in a league or a team.”
With our experience here and knowing the trends of gaming, knowing the trends of esports, and knowing what this audience needs, we’re building a portfolio that allows for new innovations and new avenues for revenue.
So when we build up, say, a Canadian Super Smash Bros. Ultimate tournament scene in Toronto, this will allow more people to come out, enjoy the game, and also [give] a platform for them to rise up through the ranks and become an esports personality that they didn’t have access to before.
Not only are we building businesses and not only are we contributing towards revenue growth, which is the business side of things, we’re also giving back to the community that we’re very passionate about — that we’re here for the long haul and we’re committed to [it]. We want to grow with the gaming and esports communities as well.
ESTNN: Why is it important to have these communities be part of New Wave Holdings?
Daniel Mitre: Communities and their passions go beyond business. It’s a lifestyle. There’s different people within the community that have different motivations — whether they want to be a part of something, need access to tools that help them achieve their goals, whether they [want to] make new friends, or they just feel comfortable there.
There’s a lot of different motivators and attractors to why someone would be a part of the community, and also why I would want to start one and grow one. Knowing different benefits and the different needs, it’s important for me to bring everything I can together — whether it’s the resources, the money side of things, establishing proper strategies, and executing towards building stronger and more retention-based communities.
Esports is emerging. It’s been here for a while, it has been here on the Asian side of the world for a good 20+ years, in Europe for a good 10-15 years. Now, it’s just [emerging] here in North America, and New Wave is a strong proponent and building those communities here within the U.S. and in Canada.
ESTNN: What would you say are the most challenging aspects of running New Wave Holdings, and how have or are you overcoming these challenges?
Tolga Onuk: For us, it’s been very busy. The biggest challenge is that I wish we had 50 hours in a day, so we could actually meet as many people as possible. There’s so many things to do. For now, the biggest challenge is not enough time to do enough networking and marketing. But we are also working on our marketing plan. I think we are going to see, in the next three to six months, so much New Wave everywhere.
Daniel Mitre: From my perspective, just knowing how gaming industries have evolved, esports for North America is in a relative “infancy stage,” and because its full definition hasn’t taken on as a full characteristic yet, we see a lot of movement in traditional sports teams and investing in esports teams.
We see a lot of big movements in companies placing a lot of money into teams. We see celebrities putting money into teams. So you’re seeing a lot of celebrities getting on board, you’re seeing a lot of big money being moved, but where is the culture going to be defined?
I think we have to be very, very close to that and listen to it very carefully. It is going to evolve and it’s going to help dictate and shape where we market and who we market to.
ESTNN: Recently, New Wave Holdings attended the Game Developers Conference. How was that experience for you in terms of reconnecting with industry veterans from Unity, Epic, and EA?
Daniel Mitre: It was awesome. It was incredible. Coming out of my time at EA and the previous years leading up to that while I was working at Sega, THQ, and Sierra Online, I’ve built a very comprehensive network of friends and colleagues — a lot of them I consider family. They’re all very interested in this new adventure that Tolga and I have kicked off.
It’s a very unique adventure. There’s only a handful of esports and gaming investment companies. As far as we know it, we’re going to be one of the first on track to be publicly traded. So that alone stokes up conversation. Going to GDC and meeting with colleagues at Nvidia, Logitech, and EA — they’re all very interested what we’re doing because they want to be a part of it. Being able to collaborate with them from a very top level and share what we’re doing plants those seeds. We’re along this ride together.
ESTNN: On that note, what is your philosophy when it comes to choosing which teams, games, and esports startups to invest in?
Tolga Onuk: The main thing for us is that it has to be very ethical and professional. For example, our investment in PlayLine. I really understood their business model and what they wanted to accomplish in fantasy sports betting. Fantasy sports and esports betting can grow exponentially as well. PlayLine is one of the pioneers right now in the Canadian and North American market. We met their team, and their team is extremely responsive, very ethical, very hardworking, people connected, and very, very focused.
ESTNN: Now, looking ahead, you will both be attending E3 this June. What would be your plans and expectations going into the event this year?
Daniel Mitre: We will continue to network, continue to build partnerships, continue to find great companies that are looking for investments. We know that in order to establish the main objective that Tolga just detailed, we need to be a part of the community and we need to contribute to these esports and gaming businesses just as much as anybody else. Being there and rubbing shoulders with colleagues and new business contacts is going to be very important for us.
But also to be there as a fan. We are fans of video games. We play video games. We’re not just a business. Being there and learning about breaking news behind Cyberpunk 2077 or what Epic Games is doing with their new Fortnite season is going to be not only interesting to us from a personal level, because we play these games, but also interesting to hear where the industry is moving. It’s very important for us to listen to these movements. It definitely spells it out where esports may be heading.