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Disguised Toast on Founding, Running DSG: "The reason I started in this venture is because it kind of reignited my passion for the space."

Disguised Toast talks to Esports Illustrated about how to fund DSG, lessons from his first venture, and winning the NACL 2023 championship

August 9 – The Riot Games Arena had hosted the finals of the North American Challengers League Playoffs before, but the finals this summer were unlike any other. League of Legends esports fans packed the arena to the brim to see Disguised, an amateur team founded and run independently by streamer Jeremy “Disguised Toast” Wang, take on Evil Geniuses Challenger in a best-of-five series to crown the champion of the 2023 NACL Summer season.

It’s a rarity that an amateur team is favored over a League Championship Series affiliate, but that was the case for DSG vs. EGC, and DSG delivered. After Disguised’s 3-1 victory, Disguised Toast sat down with Esports Illustrated to discuss the latest triumph of the organization he founded at the beginning of the year. “I've been following League for the longest time, and it's really cool to be able to participate in some way,” said the streamer.

A Dream 10 Years in the Making 

Disguised Toast has been following League since the inaugural season of the NA LCS in 2013, but this is his first competitive venture in the scene as an owner. When seven of the 10 LCS franchises abruptly cut their entire Challenger Program before the Summer Split, Toast saw an opportunity to do some good. “I heard about the news of all the orgs pulling out, I felt like I could at least save a couple of jobs for these kids trying to go pro,” Toast told NAmen’s Arsh Goyal after DSG joined the NACL. “We’re not paying that much, but hopefully it keeps a few dreams alive.”

Disguised was able to accomplish more than just that in their first NACL split, to say the least, and Toast was quick to attribute that to his head coach/general manager Greyson “Goldenglue” Gilmer and his five players, three of whom won the 2023 NACL Spring title with Cloud9 Challenger. Furthermore, the org’s casual approach to branding and transparency regarding the amount of resources they’re working with has breathed fresh air into the space.

“It really just feels like five guys and their coach,” support Tristan “Zeyzal” Stidam told ESI after being named the NACL Summer Final MVP. “Not five guys, their coach, their manager, the general manager, the CEO, the CEO’s dog – it’s much more grassroots.”

Disguised Toast shakes hands at NACL Championship meet and greet

In his first venture as the owner of a competitive team, Toast started a VALORANT program under the Disguised brand in January and made waves when he signed North American phenom Jaccob “yay” Whiteaker. The squad got off to a good start, but began to struggle and was ultimately dissolved by June. Throughout that time, Toast learned many lessons from what he refers to as the ‘implosion’ of his VALORANT roster.

“One thing I learned is now that I’m paying everyone’s salary, anytime I say something, it might come off as more serious than I planned. Like, if I say ‘Oh, have you considered this play or doing that strategy?’ it sounds for me like I'm just throwing out ideas, but for a coach that isn't really familiar with the power dynamic it might feel like I’m telling him to do that,” Toast explained. “So one thing I’ve been learning is just telling them ‘Hey, I got full faith in you; I got full trust.’ Ultimately, I don't play the game. I just watch it and make them feel more confident.”

Goldenglue echoed this sentiment to ESI after DSG’s win over EGC. “I really enjoy working with Toast. He was just mainly there to support us,” said the head coach/GM. “He wasn’t there asking why I picked a champion; he’s not there trying to micromanage us. He trusted me and he trusted the team was going the right way.”

DSG’s Impact on Toast’s Life and Career 

Disguised’s first venture into VALORANT (the org recently signed a new roster for Game Changers, Riot’s secondary league for marginalized genders) also taught him not to overspend.

“We're kind of going through an esports winter, right? One thing I learned is you have to be responsible with your spending because you might be able to pay players a lot, but they’re only gonna be around for a short time and you kind of screwed over your own finances,” said Toast.

It’s not just handling organizational finances that Toast has changed. As the sole funder of Disguised, he’s changed the way he spends his money in his personal life, too.

“Before this venture, I was happy, just you know, going on Uber Eats every day for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I didn’t mind paying $20 in fees every time I want to call an Uber. I didn’t mind paying like $10 to get it two minutes faster,” Toast said. “I think when you're a big streamer, you can lose touch on the financials that a lot of people go through.”

To fund Disguised, Toast has been more open to taking on more sponsors than in the past. Cooking at home more and waiting longer for Ubers can certainly reduce spending to a point, too, and so can paying more modest salaries. However, that doesn’t change the fact that from a financial perspective, Disguised Toast’s choice to start an esports team is essentially siphoning money from his lucrative career as a successful streamer.

“My accountant keeps telling me every week ‘Hey, I'm not sure this is a good idea. For the first time in a while, you're in the red for this month. And if you keep this up, you're going to start trending downwards,” Toast admitted with a chuckle. “So I'm doing what I can to be more conscious because I know all these players, like they're taking a pay cut. Right? So it's not fair that I'm not changing my lifestyle. Because if they're changing their lifestyle and living more humbly, I thought I should do that as well.”

It’s evident that running DSG requires Disguised Toast to invest a lot of time, money, and effort. The way he approaches streaming has changed, as has the way he lives his life outside of his career. But for him, it’s all worth it for moments like DSG’s NACL championship run last week.

“The reason I started this venture is because it kind of reignited my passion for the space,” said Toast. “Being a streamer, throughout my career, I've kind of done everything a little bit. I’ve played all the cool games; did all the cool collabs – at this point, it's fun and nice to see other players going through that.”

Disguised Toast being interviewed at NACL Championship

Streamers and the Future of Esports Ownership 

Toast isn’t the only streamer to dip his toes into esports. Ludwig Ahgren has independently produced multiple Super Smash Bros. Melee tournaments in 2023 following Nintendo’s continued efforts to stifle the 22-year-old game’s competitive scene. Charles “MoistCr1TiKaL” White Jr.’s organization Moist Esports, who brought on Ludwig and Nick Allen as co-owners at the beginning of the year, boasts competitive programs in several esports titles.

These ventures, like that of Disguised, have started a discussion regarding streaming-owned organizations as a potential way forward for the financially struggling esports industry in North America due to their brand visibility not being tied solely to competitive results. The pressure to ‘win now’ that forces many esports orgs to overspend on salaries and import fees has created an arms race of financial inflation in the industry. From Toast’s perspective, the industry as a whole needs to focus on spending less as much as they focus on making more money.

“I was talking to someone the other day about this esports party they went to that ended up costing $800,000,” the streamer recalled. “Apparently it was a banger with great performers, but when I heard that, I just thought to myself, ‘Wow, $800,000 you can fund an NACL team for like, the whole year…’

Or you can have one banger party. That’s what’s been happening the past couple of years. I wouldn't say it's anyone's fault. Everyone just thought the golden goose wouldn't stop laying its eggs, but now it has.”

Disguised Toast has been crystal clear about his gratitude for his fans supporting Disguised, and the organization’s Patreon is currently bringing in an average of over $7,000 per month.

“They're financially supporting people I care about like the players and staff, right?” explained Toast. “Which means a lot to me. Ideally, Disguised will be able to live in itself without me one day. I always want to be super involved and front-facing, but one day, I want the fans to all be fans of the players and what the org stands for.”