Innovating CS2 esports: Rivalry CEO Steven Salz talks Launders LAN, strategy, and impact

“We’ll invest in your concepts and projects, it’s not just about financing your ideas but working together to achieve them.”

Sports wagering and media company Rivalry is teaming up with Counter-Strike 2 (CS2) pro Mohan “Launders” Govindasamy to organize the Launders LAN CS2 esports competition slated for between April 20 and 21. Steven Salz, Rivalry co-founder and CEO, shared exclusive info about the event, the competitive CS2 scene, Rivalry’s esports strategy, and much more in a pre-event interview!

Launching Rivalry: Transitioning from finance to CS:GO to esports wagering

From his earliest encounters with competitive gaming at gaming events like Fan Expo in Toronto – such as Major League Gaming (MLG), Rainbow Six Siege, and Halo events – Rivalry’s founder and CEO, Steven Salz entered the world of esports. He continued to learn as much as possible about the burgeoning esports industry well into his adult life.

Highlighted games on Rivalry’s esports betting platform (Image via Rivalry)

During Salz’s time in finance, he started drawing connections to the trading of CS:GO skins and financial markets. This led to a unique combination of his profession and devotion to gaming. This unique combo led to a business venture with Loot Market’s founders, an e-commerce platform for Dota 2 and CS:GO items. The ultimate aim was to develop a long-lasting, administered online betting platform deeply rooted in the esports community, which led to Rivalry’s inception in 2018.

Ryan White, Steven Salz, and Kevin Wimer (Images via Rivalry)

“Amusingly, Ryan was also based in Toronto at the time,” Salz revealed to He was referring to Rivalry’s co-founder and chief technology officer (CTO) Ryan White. “We first came together in 2006, intending to branch Loot Market and concurrently boost investment in the esports ecosystem.”

In addition to that, Salz mentioned his collaborations with Kevin Wimer, Rivalry’s co-founder and chief operating officer (COO), who used to be a professional StarCraft player based in Korea.

Rivalry’s CEO Steven Salz discusses on CS2 esports

At the beginning of 2024, Rivalry supported the FragFest CS2 LAN at the Red Bull Gaming Studio. To Salz, despite several logistical issues like power shortages and practical installations, the event was highly successful. The down-to-earth CS2 esports event captivated him due to its unique social aspect, as significant as the competition itself. He found people collaborating freely to keep the tournament running.

Red Bull Gaming Studio’s TD Player Lounge (Image via Rivalry)

Based on Salz’s point of view, people can expect advanced operations, logistics, and activations at the forthcoming Launders LAN CS2 tournament. Drawing from the experiences of FragFest, he saw that people relish non-competitive activities alongside esports competitions. As a result, the upcoming LAN will showcase a plethora of activities like Mario Party and Mario Kart games, Launders’ merchandise, numerous giveaways, and a more home-friendly experience for remote viewers.

FragFest took place in January 2024 (Image via Rivalry)

“We anticipate better production value, fewer technical issues, and lesser unforeseen hurdles,” said Salz. “We’re also planning for various giveaways and unique content pieces for our streaming audience, guaranteeing an immersive online experience akin to the LAN event.”

“Apart from giveaways and unique content, our livestream will boast of an imaginative theme. Our quirky and strange branding style reflects in the aesthetics and visuals, alongside the eccentric environment we like to build, similar to Alice in Wonderland’s world. We’re trying to emulate that as much as possible in the livestream broadcast,” Salz added.

Launders LAN poster for April 2024 (Image via Rivalry)

Rivalry, Launders, and collaboration with brands

Discussing Rivalry’s collaboration strategy with content creators like Launders, Salz highlighted his company’s motto. He stressed that Rivalry’s mission is to add value beyond just financial gains in esports. Instead of just being the highest bidder, Rivalry aspires to innovate with unique activations that vibrate with their partners and audiences, much like Red Bull in extreme sports.

“We have a very direct approach with creators,” Salz shared with “We may not be the most lucrative offer, but we show them all the things we’ve done and how we plan to work with them. We deeply comprehend their brand and their community. We understand their end goals.”

“Launders serves as the perfect example here,” Salz expanded. “Born and bred in Toronto, Launders has always been keen on promoting grassroots esports. So, we decided to team up with him as a brand and said, ‘Yes, you’ll be a brand associate of ours. There’ll be various financial perks. But in addition, we’ll support your projects and your objectives. It’s not always about financial gain. We’re highly creative and competent. And we believe in performing on the level that corresponds to your caliber.’

By creatively and logistically aiding Launders’ projects, Rivalry facilitates community engagement, raises the CS2 player’s brand visibility above typical sponsorships. This approach nurtures long-term development and loyalty to both Rivalry and Launders.

The evolving scene of CS2 esports

To Salz, expansion of the Canadian CS2 esports scene is just Rivalry’s starting point. His vision is to extend Rivalry’s international outreach by stepping into new markets and building on its ongoing presence in Ontario, South America, and Southeast Asia.

Salz clarified that the stronghold of Rivalry’s business model is grounded in gambling which, to him, presents a scalable and profitable mechanism that can endure long-term esports ecosystem investments. This technique aims to ensure Rivalry’s gainfulness while also boosting the broader esports community, benefiting creators and fans alike.

“At the end of the day, it must make financial sense,” Salz argued. “It’s not an evil intent. If it’s financially sound, it means it can last. If it lasts, people will continue to enjoy the product they want. That’s what we strive to achieve with these types of events.”

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