Pandemic pivot will lead to new jobs at esports startup Player Epic (by Alex Soderstrom)

Five years ago was the first time Johnny Williams, a former college football player at the University of Kentucky, heard about college scholarships for esports players.

That jumpstarted Williams’ interest in the esports world and led him to found Player Epic Inc. last year. The Orlando-based startup will tap into the booming esports arena, where growth has accelerated during the pandemic, and offer services common in other sports but rare in the esports sector.

The company is at an early stage, but Williams plans to hire at least 10 employees this year. Williams’ focus is on data scientist positions, which pay a local average annual salary of $76,840, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That is much higher than the Orlando metro’s average annual wage of $46,140.

“With the increase of participation and adoption [of esports] since the start of the pandemic, I see a continued increase moving forward,” he told Orlando Business Journal. “Once more people become aware of the opportunities and diversity available in the gaming space, it has the potential to grow exponentially.”

To help grow his business, Williams joined the University of Central Florida Business Incubation Program’s downtown Orlando Innovation District so he could access mentors and other entrepreneurs. Though Williams has worked for a high-tech logistics firm and runs a real estate company, building a tech startup is a new experience.

Joining the incubator program already paid off. Leaders at the incubators connected Williams with Ryan DeVos, the director of Orlando Magic’s esports team Magic Gaming. DeVos in February joined Player Epic as a strategic adviser.