The Rising 25 class of 2019, presented by AB InBev, represents some of the brightest young professionals in the sports industry. Over the next several weeks, we’re proud to introduce you to this year’s winners and highlight some of their achievements to date.
Today, meet Justin Warden: Co-Founder & Chief Executive Officer of Ader. Growing up in Marin County, California, Warden discovered a love of gaming and esports at a young age. This instilled a desire to find a career within the gaming industry.
“I played ‘Starcraft II’ and hit masters on a really crummy laptop that would crash or freeze three times a match, but I still was able to do it because I was really competitive,” he recalls. “That’s when I realized I wanted it to be in the ecosystem.”
Warden carried that love of gaming and the unique competitive playing field esports provides through college.
“I decided to go into esports because it offers a way to compete that truly levels the field. I wanted a place where anyone can compete regardless of physical attributes.”
Warden founded Ader, an influencer network and agency with a gaming focus, in 2014. For accruing more than $7 million in revenue, Warden was recently named to Forbes’ 30 under 30 list for gaming. Warden credits much of his success to the team he has built within Ader. He advises other young professionals to learn from this and surround themselves with a quality team.
“Find the right people. I got really lucky. My team is phenomenal. The reason people struggle early in their careers is that they can’t find the right people. Surround yourself with people who actually want to succeed and see you succeed.”
Working in esports, Warden can attest that any preconceived notions of esports being for the lazy or faint of heart are incorrect. The industry is getting more and more competitive by the day and doesn’t slow down for those who can’t keep up.
“I think people perceive it to be an easy life. It’s not just playing video games all day. They think that these people stream a few hours a day and they’re making millions,” he states. “The truth is that whether you’re a competitor, content creator, or a manager, you should be working your tail off every day. Lazy people are being pushed out of the industry and the ones that are coming up are the ones that are working 12-hour days. It’s not easy.”
After seeing the benefits of working hard, Warden embraces the grind of being an entrepreneur and where it has gotten him. Other young entrepreneurs would be wise to follow that example.
“It can be really exhausting to think about the entrepreneurship life and the 60-80 hour weeks you put in,” he says. “But when people see you working hard, they want to back you. They’re much more likely to support you than if you were just doing the traditional nine to five grind. I wish I’d had that kind of insight when I was younger.”
Meet the full class of 2019 here.