PlayVS picks up $50 million Series C to build out high school esports

PlayVS, the platform that allows high school students to compete on varsity esports teams through their school, has today announced the close of a $50 million Series C led by existing investor NEA. Battery Ventures, Dick Costolo and Adam Bain of 01 Advisors, Sapphire Sport, Michael Zeisser, Dennis Phelps of IVP and co-founder of CAA Michael Ovitz participated.

This brings the startup’s total funding to $96 million, the vast majority of which was raised in the last 13 months.

PlayVS launched in April of 2018 under founder and CEO Delane Parnell, who believes that the opportunity of esports is fundamentally broken without high school leagues. Through an exclusive partnership with the NFHS (the NCAA of high schools), PlayVS allows schools across the country to create esports teams and participate in leagues with their neighboring schools, just like any other varsity sport.

PlayVS also partners with the game publishers, which allows the platform to pull stats directly from the PlayVS website and track players’ performance across every game.

The startup charges either the player, parent/guardian or school $64 per player to participate in “Seasons,” PlayVS’s first product. It was launched in October of 2018 in five states and expanded to eight states this spring.

Since launch, 13,000 schools have joined the waitlist to get a varsity esports team through PlayVS, which represents 68% of the country. PlayVS says that just over 14,000 high schools in the United States have a football program, marking the idea of varsity esports as a relatively popular one.

With the upcoming fall Season for 2019, all 50 states will have access to the PlayVS platform, with 15 states competing for an actual State Championship in partnership with their state association. These states include Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Rhode Island, Virginia and Washington D.C.

States that have not gotten an endorsement from their state association will still compete regionally for a PlayVS championship. PlayVS supports League of Legends, Rocket League and SMITE, with plans to support other games in the future.

Not only does PlayVS offer high school students the chance to play organized esports, but it also gives colleges and esports orgs a recruitment tool to scope and scoop young talent.

But what about that funding? Well, Parnell says that the new round gives the company a war chest to not only hire aggressively — the company has gone from 18 to 41 employees in the last year — but also to consider mergers and acquisitions as a means of growth.

Perhaps most importantly, the company will use the funding to explore products outside of high school, with eyes squarely focused on the collegiate market. With esports still in its infancy, there is a huge opportunity to provide the infrastructure of these leagues early on, and PlayVS is looking to capture that.