Even before the COVID-19 shutdown, venture funding rounds and total deal volume of VC funding for esports were down noticeably from the year prior. The space received a lot of attention in 2017 and 2018 as leagues formed, teams raised money and surging popularity fostered a whole ecosystem of new companies. Last year featured some big fundraises, but esports wasn’t the hot new thing in the tech world anymore.
This unexpected, compulsory work-from-home era may drive renewed interest in the space, however, as a larger market of consumers discover esports and more potential entrepreneurs identify pain points in their experience.
To track where new startups could arise this year, I asked seven VCs who pay close attention to the esports market where they see opportunities at the moment:
- Peter Levin, Griffin Gaming Partners
- Beth Ferriera, Firstmark
- Ethan Kurzweil, Bessemer Venture Partners
- Jens Hilgers, BitKraft Ventures
- Doug Higgins, Sapphire Sport
- Rick Yang, NEA
- Kevin Baxpehler, Remagine Ventures
Their responses are below.
This is the second investor survey I’ve conducted to better understand VCs’ views on gaming startups amid the pandemic; they complement my broader gaming survey from October 2019 and an eight-article series on virtual worlds I wrote last month. If you missed it, read the previous survey, which investigated the trend of “games as the new social networks.”
Peter Levin, Griffin Gaming Partners
Which specific areas within esports are most interesting to you right now as a VC looking for deals? Which areas are the least interesting territory for new deals?
Everything around competitive gaming is of interest to us. With Twitch streaming north of two BILLION hours of game play thus far during the pandemic, this continues to be an area of great interest to us. Fantasy, real-time wagering, match-making, backend infrastructure and other areas of ‘picks and shovels’-like plays remain front burner for us relative to competitive gaming.
What challenges does the esports ecosystem now need solutions to that didn’t exist (or weren’t a focus) two years ago?
As competitive gaming is still so very new with respect to the greater competitive landscape of content, teams and events, the Industry should be nimble enough to better respond to dramatic market shifts relative to its analog, linear brethren. A native digital industry, getting back “online’”will be orders of magnitude more straightforward than in so many other areas.