Alumni profile: Cecile (Directo) Matthews, A.B. '98
Designing a marketplace for esports coaches
Cecile Matthews, A.B. '98, has built a successful career through the combination of opportunity, preparation, and luck.
A random encounter with an employee of the Los Angeles Dodgers led to a four-year career working within Major League Baseball (MLB), including with the Tampa Bay Rays. When she decided to start her own business, Matthews received initial support through the Tampa Bay Wave TechWomen Rising Accelerator. That experience positioned her to win a startup competition out of Louisville, which brought in enough funding to help grow the company after its 2021 launch.
“This competition that we won last year in Louisville, that was luck, but also preparation,” said Matthews, a biomedical engineering concentrator at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS). “We’d paid attention and applied ourselves, and were ready when the opportunity presented itself. The tech accelerator that we got into in Tampa Bay wasn’t the first accelerator that we’d applied to. You just have to keep trying.”
Matthews’ company, Gamerabble, is an esports coaching platform in which coaches of any experience level can advertise their services. Players can find coaches for a wide range of video games and use game analyzer software to analyze past sessions and produce highlight reels.
“It’s an opportunity for anyone to offer coaching on any game,” she said. “We thought that would be an interesting way to diversify, not focus on one game and let the market dictate what’s offered.”
Matthews’ father worked as a civil engineer, and family played a large role in the San Francisco Bay Area native’s choice to come to Harvard. After a cross-country trip to visit the Harvard campus, she knew she’d found the right school.
“I was at one point interested in mechanical engineering, but when I saw that biomedical engineering was an option at Harvard, it seemed like a really good fit for me, because I also had an interest in medicine and health,” she said.
Matthews stayed within the sciences for six years after finishing her degree, but focused on the investment side of the industry. She started with SoundView Technology Group, an investment bank focused on internet infrastructure and software companies, then moved on to PureTech Ventures, which focused on biotechnology and life sciences. Wanting more business education, she earned her MBA from the UCLA Anderson School of Management in 2006.
A lifelong fan of the Oakland Athletics and a student manager for the Harvard wrestling team, she joined a sports business student club at UCLA. She also joined a biotech club, but found herself more drawn to sports.
Through the sports business club, Matthews ended up working the event in which a UCLA alumnus told her about internship opportunities with the Dodgers. After her MBA, she joined the MLB Executive Development Program, then worked for the Rays.
“I was ready to get serious about finding a biotech job,” she said. “I was ready to go focus on that, and then my manager at the Dodgers asked me if I wanted to come back. I was getting ready to go on this big trip, and one of my friends in the sports business club told me about this development program that MLB was doing, which was an amazing, amazing experience.”
Much of Matthews’ work with MLB focused on youth outreach and special projects. She directed the Rays’ Kids Club and Seniors Fan Club, and with MLB helped organize events such as the Civil Rights Game and Chinese National Team training in the U.S.
Matthews ended her time with the Rays in 2009, and spent the next 12 years working in student recruitment and admissions for Pinellas County Schools in Florida and the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley, and ended up as an admissions coach. That love of coaching eventually led to her co-founding Gamerabble with her husband, an avid gamer.
“When we realized that synergy, we decided we should work together,” she said.
Video gaming and esports grew in popularity during the Covid-19 pandemic, as traditional sports were paused during the initial months and people spent more time in front of screens in their own homes. Matthews saw that as an opportunity for Gamerabble, but – as she always does – is also keeping prepared for changes that might occur.
“It kind of exploded, but as more people started doing things away from their screens, there’s been a little bit of a pullback.” she said. “It’s been really interesting and challenging, and a lot of fun to meet all these new people I’ve encountered since joining this industry.”
Matt Goisman | email@example.com