How My Queer Non-Profit Experience Prepared Me to Lead Partnerships at a Web3 Gaming Studio

Welcoming students for the first time as an Admissions Director

What do a queer non-profit and a Web3 gaming studio have in common? Seemingly nothing, but my involvement in Out for Undergrad (O4U) Business for almost 10 years has been pivotal in approaching partnerships at Mighty Bear Games. From community building to collaborative partnerships, I will share more about the invaluable skills and values learnt from my transformative time at O4U.

Out for Undergrad is a non-profit organization dedicated to empowering high-achieving LGBTQ+ undergraduates to reach their full potential. Every year, O4U hosts conferences where a diverse class of students are invited to explore their career potential with industry leading companies and professionals. I’ve been most involved in the Business conference, initially as a participating student, then Admissions Director, Sponsorship Director, and finally as Conference Lead.

Community Building: Authenticity and Inclusivity are Key

A cute little blue creature once said, “Ohana means family, and family means nobody is left behind or forgotten.” O4U was my queer family, my chosen family, and while it wasn’t the perfect inclusive space (nothing’s perfect, really), it was always the exact thing I needed at various points in my life. At O4U, we recognize the importance of creating inclusive spaces where everyone can authentically be themselves. It wasn’t just about organizing career fairs and industry panels; it was about valuing every person’s unique stories and experiences. As the first point of contact for many students and professionals, I prioritized making folks feel welcomed and accepted, fostering deep friendships that transcended the professional realm.

Speaking on a panel focused on presenting authentically in the workplace, physically and mentally

Similar to O4U, inclusivity lies at the core of Mighty Bear Games’ ethos. We recognize its importance in Web3 gaming, where community is paramount. Embracing every holder as a valued community member ensures that no one is left behind. Our team is not only incredibly diverse, as highlighted in Simon’s 2022 Review, but we also prioritize inclusivity in our gameplay and strive to be a place where different types of gamers can come together. Just as O4U welcomes individuals with varying degrees of familiarity with LGBTQ+-inclusive spaces, our gaming ecosystem caters to a wide range of preferences.

Whether you’re a casual gamer seeking quick action, a crafting enthusiast, a collector in search of rare treasures, an achievement hunter driven by winning tournaments, or a trader strategizing for lucrative opportunities, there’s a home for you in our world. Mighty Action Heroes goes beyond just the typical battle royale action layer, incorporating MOBA and MMO elements to create a much more comprehensive gaming experience. Moreover, we place a strong emphasis on accessibility, ensuring that individuals of all gaming skill levels can find their home in different pockets of our ecosystem.

Having witnessed firsthand the life-changing effects of bringing together individuals who share a common purpose at O4U, today I prioritize building genuine connections with partners who align with our values and vision. Our goal is to create industry transforming gaming experiences for the gaming community via the utilization of Web3 tools and infrastructure. Onboarding Web2 folks to Web3 might be another (cheesy!) way to say it, but really we are focused on innovation and experimentation in gaming.

Effective Partnerships: Negotiating Win-Win Solutions

Beyond community building, my involvement at O4U provided ample opportunities to foster strategic partnerships and develop negotiation skills. As a Sponsorship Director, I had the privilege of working with 100+ of the world’s top finance, consulting and tech companies. It was an experience that taught me the importance of being organized, empathetic, and solution-oriented.

Negotiating partnerships with these companies was a delicate dance, where I had to balance the offerings of O4U with the goals and needs of the sponsors. It required standing my ground when necessary while also being flexible and creative in finding win-win solutions. Sometimes, this meant crafting bespoke sponsorship packages tailored to each company. The result: nearly $1 million in sponsorships, transforming humble $20,000 checks into substantial financial support for conference programming.

Fortunately, Web3 is generally a collaborative space. Most teams are willing to work together even if the opportunity is not immediately obvious. The tricky part is to get creative with structuring solutions that give each party their core requirement. This tweet perfectly describes it:

Make sure every negotiation has three variables:
– your non-negotiable
– their non-negotiable
– something you don’t actually care about

Sharon Lourdes

Most of the time, if both parties get their non-negotiable, a deal can be struck. Between my experiences as Sponsorship Director at O4U and prior finance role structuring investing and M&A deals, this is actually one of my favorite parts of the job.

Results-Driven Execution: Efficiency and Organization

My involvement in O4U was purely in a volunteer capacity, on top of my career in finance, which sometimes equated to 80–100 hour workweeks. Juggling these commitments required a high level of time management and efficiency. Whenever possible, I would try to streamline processes, optimize workflows, and leverage technology to maximize productivity. Having to balance both responsibilities instilled in me a strong sense of discipline and the ability to thrive in fast-paced, demanding environments.

When I led the sponsorship team, we kept ourselves organized with a CRM and strict categorization of sponsors. With that, we created “tracks” in which we could clearly strive for discrete outcomes based on sponsor type. Standardizing presentation materials, limits for sponsorship customization, and email language meant that the sponsorship team could divide and conquer efficiently, while all remaining aligned.

At Mighty Bear Games, I’m building out the partnerships function from scratch. Previously, the company primarily collaborated with Apple Arcade and Disney, and a dedicated partnerships team was not required. However, the Web3 gaming landscape presents a multitude of collaboration opportunities, which I’ve classified partnerships into three categories:

  1. Strategic & Commercial Partnerships: IPs, Brands, Ecosystem Partners
  2. User Acquisition Partnerships: Guilds, Game Discovery Platforms, Gaming Communities
  3. Vendor Partnerships: Product and Operations-Related Solutions

Since each category of partner requires a different outcome and involves other functional teams (e.g. marketing, art, engineering), it’s important to have streamlined processes to assess the various opportunities. We create an internal matrix to prioritize partners, since we can’t catch ’em all. It’s also really important to have a basic understanding of other team members’ roles and goals, since that will reduce miscommunication and optimize problem-solving — and yes, O4U gave me my first opportunity to develop cross-functional collaboration skills.

Stay Tuned 👀

O4U was a life-changing experience and those who know me or the organization understand this well. I am immensely grateful for all the experiences and amazing folks I’ve met along the way.

As I continue to shape the partnerships function at Mighty Bear Games, I carry the invaluable skills and values learned from O4U. The ability to create inclusive spaces, negotiate strategic partnerships, and effectively prioritize meaningful collaborations has become the cornerstone of my approach. I’ve only just begun my journey in this role, I’m sure there’ll be many new lessons to learn from our community members, my peers, and other Web3 gaming industry leaders.

If you’re reading this, I’d love to hear your thoughts — share them with me @ziddyten

My favorite photo ever — taken at O4UB 2019 in the lobby of Goldman Sachs’ NYC HQ

How My Queer Non-Profit Experience Prepared Me to Lead Partnerships at a Web3 Gaming Studio was originally published in Mighty Bear Games on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.