The Download: Caleb Smith, Co-Founder, Triangle Esports Academy

Caleb Smith grew up in Durham and loved the youth sports model that helped develop him into a professional soccer player. Combined with his passion for video games, he and his co-founder opened up the Triangle Esports Academy in Cary in 2020. The 2,400 square-foot youth video game center has served 1,400 students, offering parties, esports tournaments, and coding workshops. [Editor’s Note: GrepBeat first profiled the company in August, 2021, under its previous name, Contender Esports Cary.]

Triangle Esports Academy’s core focus is on education in innovative tech industries and workforce development. Caleb has led Triangle Esports Academy to be engaged with the community through participating with K-12 schools, colleges, and nonprofits. Caleb is a huge advocate for education, regularly volunteering his time to serve on various school committees, help students with elective projects, and coach soccer for a local high school. In November 2022, Caleb was awarded Forbes 30 under 30 recognition for the education category.

1. What is in your pockets?

Wallet, keys, and phone.

2. What exciting thing has happened recently for you or your organization?

Triangle Esports Academy is an education and youth development video game center. We host camps, birthday parties, and after-school programs and many customers just come and pay by the hour to play. We target and work with the youth in what we do. We do have adults come in, for instance, that do tournaments or practice or play. Obviously, we’re going to say yes and let them come here. Someone once did a bachelor’s party here. People do different types of events.

I was awarded a Forbes 30 under 30 in November for the education category. We’ve been doing really well in terms of moving forward with different partnerships locally in the area. We did get a chance for the Wake County Public School System to host their career academy coordinators and their career development coordinators for a meeting on three separate occasions. There were coordinators for both middle schools and high schools. We’re able to offer what we have to lots of different groups, and when there are larger Esports events in the area, we’re able to host the players for their practice and boot camps.

 3. What is your favorite coffee spot?

I don’t drink coffee, but I went to BREW Coffee Bar a couple of weeks ago and that was the first place that I had coffee and I was like, oh, I would actually pay for this without it being a business meeting.

 4. What keeps you up at night?

I like my sleep, so I don’t want anything to keep me up. As far as worries, I don’t really worry too much. I just want things to happen faster than they do and then I have to remind myself that I’m in this for the long run. I don’t have any plans of selling or going public, but I plan on having this company—doing what I do, obviously just on a larger scale—over the next 40-something years or more than that.

I’m not really concerned about me. I’ll make sure, moving forward, that everything’s in the right place in terms of people, process, and systems.

5. What is your favorite restaurant or happy hour?

I like Fount Coffee + Kitchen in Morrisville. I like supporting local independent businesses and to eat pretty healthy. I like that they’re organic and I eat mostly plant-based. They have a lot of plant-based options.

6. What is next for you or your organization?

Keep doing what we do. We could still do more just with the current location that we have. We have the goal of opening more locations and seeing that potential. Esports is growing. There’s now VR and sports tech, augmented reality, that are being incorporated into video games. Getting into that, and just overall continuing with our educational youth development programs, being able to offer more, and creating a true pipeline system.

It’s a process that’s going to take a few years but we’re going to stay focused and consistent with what we’re doing. We’re looking more towards 2024 (for our next location) because it does take about eight months to actually get one up and going.

About Brooks Malone 97 Articles
Brooks Malone is a NC CPA and Partner with Hughes Pittman & Gupton, LLP, and leads the Technology practice group. Brooks is also listed contributor to the National Fast Trac Tech Curriculum that was funded by the Kauffman Foundation. Brooks was named one of the 40 Under 40 in May 2005 by the TBJ, received the Outstanding service to Entrepreneurs Award in 2008 by CED, and named to the Leadership Raleigh Hall of Fame in October 2011. Brooks is a graduate of North Carolina State University and is active at American Underground and Raleigh Founded.