Risk of the Unknown – The Story of UMG’s Robert Terkla
Risk is inherent in all aspects of life, whether it be driving on the freeway or jumping out of a plane 13,000 feet in the air. For some, the unknown nature of risk is what makes it so petrifying, allowing some to only accomplish those tasks that deal with the least amount of risk. For others, taking risk head on is a thrill, one from which they achieve an adrenaline rush.
It goes without saying that those that serve in the military are, in most ways, risk or adrenaline junkies. The worst outcome of the risk they take on by serving is to make the ultimate sacrifice and die fighting alongside their brothers and sisters. There are other risks involved as well other than death: physical and mental illness, loss of loved ones due to frequency of deployments, delay of education, etc. These are the risks we service members and veterans take on, knowing full well the sacrifices we could potentially have to make in the future.
So when we come up with an idea, whether it be for business or for fun, we know the risks involved, but they pale in comparison to the ones we have encountered in the past. Oftentimes, we share these ideas with friends and family and they scoff at us, saying such things as “You’re crazy!” or “What if it fails?!” This is exactly the scenario that Sergeant Robert Terkla encountered when he and his wife initially came up with what some thought was an outlandish idea.
As a SOCOM II (a third-person tactical shooter video game for the PlayStation 2) junkie growing up, it was only natural that when the time came for Terkla to determine what he wanted to do in life, he chose the military. Awed by the stories he was told, service members he met, and his patriotic sense of duty to his country, Robert joined the United States Army as an 11 Bravo (11B), infantryman for those unaware, in 2008. Initially assigned to 1st and 30th as an infantryman, Terkla was sent out on a deployment to Kirkuk, Iraq. Shortly after returning stateside, he decided he wanted to continue to push himself in his chosen occupation and took on the arduous mission of becoming a sniper in the Army. His hard-charging attitude and unwillingness to give up were just some of the attributes that got him through sniper school and assigned to units such as Seal Team Three. Over the next few years, Terkla was assigned to various units and did multiple deployments to Afghanistan. If it weren’t for the toll the life of an infantryman takes on the body, he would have made a career out of the Army. But, as in many cases, his body could give no more. Against doctor’s orders, Terkla went to jump school and completed it. However, shortly thereafter, the Army told him no more. His back was a mess and he would no longer be able to continue on as a ground pounder. So, reluctantly, Robert agreed to be medically discharged from the Army in 2014.
But, fortunately, all was not lost. Terkla had the foresight to have plans in place to set himself up for a brighter future. While still in the service, he made certain that his gaming days were not over. To keep himself busy when he had downtime, Terkla began working as a Ticket Support Specialist for the biggest eSports host in town, Major League Gaming. After further research, he noticed something unusual in the eSports industry – MLG was really the only name in town with almost no competition. So, he started investigating a bit further and found a company named UMG that was just in its infancy within the eSports industry. Robert took the initiative and called the owners of the company to gauge their interest in additional financial investment. When he realized they were struggling and would appreciate any help, he decided to take a hue risk and jump head first. Initially, he reached out to friends and family to see if they would help him put together the funds necessary to invest in the company. After several “Are you crazy?” and “This will never work”, he and his wife decided to take the risk on themselves. They approached their bank, Wells Fargo, and acquired a personal loan for several thousand and purchased a large stake in the company. From this point forward, they were all-in. In 2012, UMG was a small company looking to make an impact in the eSports arena. A year under Terkla’s leadership was all it took. UMG’s profit rose more than 30 fold in just 12 months. To date, UMG has 750,000 users and hosts several in-person events along with several hundred events worldwide per year.
Terkla credits many things to the success of UMG but he points out several characteristics he took from his military experience, namely discipline, drive, and motivation. These three qualities helped him make fiscally sound decisions, build the staff from one to many, and drove him to stay up late at night to keep the company running. But there is one quality that he subconsciously acknowledges which dates back to his military service. Risk. Regardless of what the future held, Terkla was willing to take on a huge financial risk knowing full well what the consequences would be if he failed. In the military, failure could mean his life. In the civilian world, it could mean his family’s livelihood. But, the advice of his aunt from when he was just a little boy, kept him focused and helped mitigate the risk. “You can do anything you set your mind to.” And that he did.