Corsair Gaming Inc. set sail on the Nasdaq today, officially becoming a public company. The company, which makes PC components as well as peripherals, originally intended to price itself at $17 on the Nasdaq, but opened at $15.12 and closed at $14.25 – down over 16%.
But one day, the company feels, isn’t defining. In fact, Harry Butler, director of PR and marketing communications at Corsair, thinks it’s in its best position ever.
“This is just one day, Butler said. “We’re delighted to be listed as a publicly traded company.” The Nasdaq was down overall (about 3%).
Butler is optimistic. The company, he said, is going to use the money for three things: to pay down debt and reinforce the balance sheet; to have funding for continued expansion, with new product lines and potential new acquisitions, and to continue investing in the existing business. But he also wanted to assure customers that there would be no sudden changes.
It’s a business that has grown rather rapidly, with the acquisitions of both boutique builder Origin PC and premium controller Scuf Gaming. That’s on top of Corsair’s best known acquisition, Elgato.
Corsair is having a strong 2020, thanks in part to the global novel coronavirus pandemic that has people staying at home more often to game, with many working there, too.
“I hate saying that we’re benefitting from it, because it feels uncomfortable to do that,” Butler said. “But people are at home and want to spend money on how they enjoy spending their time. They want to invest in their hobby, invest in their pastime. The one pastime everyone can continue, if not grow, during a pandemic, is gaming.” After all, he added, someone who didn’t spend $3,000 for a family vacation may be able to get a $3,000 gaming PC.
And that, Butler said, makes for a very solid business model, even in a less chaotic time. He referred to PC gaming as “a very sticky hobby,” and suggested that Corsair sees that people upgrade parts to better, more expensive options as their income grows.
He referred to keyboards - people might start with a Corsair K55, and then later to a K70. Then, they could go from a K70 to… well, a number that hasn’t been announced yet, he teased. The same could apply to power supplies, RAM, mice and many other areas where the company has product.
Besides the components, peripherals, PCs and streaming gear, Corsair seems to have ideas to expand. Butler had me look at my desk and PC, and suggested that if he could see it, there’s plenty of things both in my rig and the rest of my setup that Corsair doesn’t make… yet.
But Corsair is also going public as Google, Microsoft, Nvidia and others attempt to get cloud gaming off of the ground. The company itself listed it as a risk in its initial IPO filing, but Butler (and the company, in its S-1), are more positive. That’s not PC gaming, it seems to suggest. It’s a stepping stone to the real stuff: the best fidelity or the highest frame rates for competitive advantage:
“That isn’t to say cloud gaming doesn’t have a place in the industry. It’s a fantastic gateway [to major titles]. If they have the opportunity to try them over Google service or Nvidia service, that’s fantastic.”
Corsair’s competitors, like Razer, have moved into mobile gaming by making controllers for phones. Butler didn’t stress that as a growth area, but said he’d never say never.
He also pointed at streaming’s effect on the business. Kids coming up today are watching games on streaming services, seeing games being played on PC. Then they may want their own rig, which could involve something pre-built from Origin or with lots of parts from Corsair, including the peripherals. If they want to stream themselves, they may do so with accessories from Elgato. In that way, they’re diversified. Premium controller seller Scuf, he suggested, is the console play.
Most of these sales - pre-pandemic and in our current situation, come through Amazon. In its S-1, the company wrote that 26.8% of sales came from the online retail giant up to June 30 of this calendar year.
“There’s clearly an opportunity there for us to diversify our retailer supplies where we can. But at the end of the day we have to go where our customers want to buy our products,” Butler said. “If our customers want to buy them from Amazon - which clearly many of them do.” He did, however, suggest that an increase in brand awareness could help the company’s direct-to-consumer business, from its own website (and those of its several acquisitions).
Investors in Corsair will have a huge partner in EagleTree Capital, a New York City-based private equity firm, which is still by far the majority owner.
“I believe there are 90 million shares of Corsair - just over 90 million,” Butler said. Reports have pegged the exact number at 91,849,366 shares outstanding. 14 million are being listed, and the underwriters of the stock can list an additional 2 million for a total of 16 million shares.
That suggests that, based on shares, investors outside of EagleTree will own roughly 17% of the company.
“I think EagleTree has been a fantastic partner since they joined us in 2017. With their consistency, Corsair has been able to grow year-on-year.” He said the firm is involved at Corsair’s board level, but beyond that, Corsair and its subsidiaries have “pretty much free reign.”
As for those 17%? Corsair says going public is the culmination of 26 years of work. Esports, then, was extremely niche. YouTube didn’t exist, but when streaming started, it was people in their bedrooms. Now they have massive setups.
Corsair believes it has the portfolio to continue growing and push the enthusiast end of gaming for years. It’s a bold claim that sees far beyond the rough waters of day one. Corsair, and Butler, clearly see better seas over the horizon.