The Clutch Success Stories: iTero Gaming
The Clutch Success Stories is a short series that tells the stories of some of the start-ups that have taken to the stage and emerged victorious at Esports Insider’s live pitch competition.
The first edition sees Doron Tsur, a Creative Writer at software company Overwolf, detail the journey of The Clutch’s 2021 champions, iTero Gaming.
A data scientist’s love for League of Legends
When Jack J Williams, a seasoned data scientist in the UK’s finance industry, announced his plan to quit his job and apply his skills to help League of Legends players pick better characters at the beginning of a match, his friends and family were worried that he had lost his mind. Not all responses were negative though; for example, his father had some words of encouragement as he assured him that “at least when it doesn’t work, you’ll have a real job to go back to.”
Flash forward to 2023, and Williams is now the CEO and Chief Data Scientist of his brainchild company, iTero Gaming. Notably, the company has gone on to produce The iTero Drafting Coach on the Overwolf platform — an app that helps League of Legends players make better decisions during the game’s drafting phase to enhance win rates.
Williams first presented his idea at Esports Insider’s The Clutch, a gaming startup pitching competition, and, to his surprise, won first place. With that headwind, he freed up his schedule and set out to develop his own League of Legends draft-picking algorithm. However, Williams still had a long way to go before succeeding; in fact, there were many points along the way that it seemed his Dad and friends might have been right.
His initial plan was to build a drafting tool that could help professional esports teams win more games, optimising their decision-making. Given his many years of experience in both playing Riot Games’ MOBA title and building AI models, creating a draft recommendation algorithm to improve game results wasn’t the issue for Williams.
The real problem turned out to be navigating the often difficult esports waters. Above all, finding early customers proved to be an issue. “I started out working with some big names in esports to build the models and demonstrate their potential,” said Williams. “But even though our pilot showed significant promise for in-game performance, there simply wasn’t enough funding in the ecosystem to justify working on it full-time.”
Ultimately, Williams was left with three options. He could stick around until the esports market reached a maturity that would make in-house data scientists a common phenomenon; alternatively, he could build an app that would bring his cutting-edge algorithm to the everyday player, but lacking experience in UX/UI (user experience/ user interface), marketing and other skills needed to develop an app made it a daunting task. As for the third option, he was considering it, but he didn’t want to give his friends and family the satisfaction.
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Whilst considering his options, Williams was approached by Kesem Fine a Business Development Manager from Overwolf, a company that, among other things, helps creators develop third-party apps that improve gameplay in many different games. One of these games happens to be League of Legends.
“We have many different League of Legends apps in the store,” said Fine. “But Jack’s idea and technology was something brand new, with a unique value proposition for our audience.”
Williams was happy to learn that using Overwolf’s platform to develop an in-game app for League of Legends made development much more approachable. However, Overwolf had an even better suggestion.
“Kesem helped me apply to the Overwolf accelerator programme,” recalled Jack, “and after I got in, they set me up with a frontend developer to create the app and a designer to make it look great; all I had to do was the stuff I do best — develop the AI.”
Signs of Success
And develop he did, launching the iTero app on the Overwolf platform less than 3 months after being approached by the company, gaining over 75,000 users only months after its launch. “Progression in League of Legends is a numbers game,” explained Jack. “Giving players a 5% higher win rate may be all that takes them up to Diamond this season.”
With his early success naturally came challenges and Williams found out that he needed help. His app was already making him enough money to make a living for himself, but it was yet to be at the stage that would support his ambitious goals. Luckily Overwolf stepped in again and, through its $50m (~£39.8m) fund dedicated to financing in-game creators, provided Williams with a grant that enabled him to take his initiative to the next level.
Today, with four employees and a growing audience, iTero is on the highway to success, and Williams has big plans for the future: “Currently, we only provide value in the draft stage, but there is still the rest of the game left to optimise; there is so much that data and AI can contribute to players and we’re exploring these options and intend to develop the next generation of iTero very soon.”
Meanwhile, his work schedule seems like an endless League of Legends tournament, which, as he explains, is a significant part of working in iTero. “We all work remotely, and our meetings are held while playing League of Legends and testing our app in real-time.”
As highlighted, iTero Gaming, which is available to download for free on the Overwolf Appstore, still has even more potential to grow. The company’s story is certainly not finished, however, Williams’ journey emphasises that if you have a crazy idea for an app that benefits the esports ecosystem, then ignoring your dads’ advice — at least for a little while — could be worth it.