July Investment Recap: More Celebrity Investments, LCK Franchising, and Seed Funding for Startups

July marks only the third month this year in which The Esports Observer tracked 10 or more investments disclosed during the month. In July, esports-relevant companies disclosed $435.7M USD raised in 12 investments, bringing the total sum of disclosed investments in 2020 to $1.56B.

A small trend of sports and entertainment celebrities investing in esports teams in June, including retired English soccer star David Beckham, South Korean musician Kim Hee-Chul, and South Korean athletes Jin Jong-oh, Park Yong-taik, and Kim Tae-kyun, continued in July. Former Polish NBA player Marcin Gortat, South Korean actor Bae Yong-joon, and Toronto Maple Leafs player Mitch Marner were among those seeking investment in esports.

Financial terms were not disclosed for all deals highlighted in this article.

Pushing Fortnite’s Transition into Broader Entertainment

Fortnite developer Epic Games secured a strategic investment of $250M from Sony Corporation. The investment is being made through “a wholly-owned subsidiary of Sony” and will give the Japanese entertainment conglomerate a minority stake in Epic Games.

The investment will be used to “broaden their collaboration” across Sony’s “portfolio of entertainment assets and technology,” and Epic’s “social entertainment platform and digital ecosystem.”

Preparations for LCK Franchising

South Korean esports management organization DRX, which operates a team in the League of Legends Champions Korea (LCK), raised a $10M Series A investment to strengthen its infrastructure and welfare for players, global content production, and marketing efforts. Participants in the financing round included KOSPI-listed global exporter of luxury handbags JS Corporation, Seoul Investment Partners, Quantum Venture Korea, Shinhan Capital, Wonik Investment Partners, and Devsisters Ventures.

Additionally, Korean actor Bae Yong-joon, who was awarded the Korean Hwa-Gwam Order of Culture Merit by the Korean Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism in recognition of his contribution to Korean culture, joined as a shareholder in DRX and will also serve as an advisor for DRX focusing on strengthening the team’s global branding.

Mobalytics Accelerates Growth

Esports analytics startup Mobalytics (Gamers Net, Inc.) closed an $11.25M Series A financing round led by Almaz Capital and Cabra VC. Further investors that participated in the round include HP Tech Ventures, General Catalyst, GGV Capital, RRE Ventures, Axiomatic, and T1 Entertainment & Sports.

Mobalytics, which launched its first personal gaming assistant and analytics platform for League of Legends in beta after winning TechCrunch Disrupt in 2016, plans to use its new funding to expand into further development of its services through better analytics and personalization.

Team Investments

Toronto Maple Leafs player Mitch Marner joined OverActive Media’s ownership group. OverActive Media owns the Overwatch League franchise Toronto Defiant, the Call of Duty League team Toronto Ultra, and multi-title esports organization MAD Lions. Marner is set to become an “integral part” of team-brand building and esports promotion for the company. 

French esports organization MCES (MonClub Esport) raised a €2.5M EUR ($2.8M) Series A investment. The investment was funded by regional co-investment fund Région Sud Investissement, Los Angeles-based soccer event company Lab Five, and more than 20 business angels including entrepreneurs Philippe Véran and Frédéric Gravereaux, and professional soccer player Clément Grenier. The esports organization intends to use the investment’s proceeds to improve its scouting, training, and supervision capabilities for its amateur and professional players.

South Korean musician Oh “Sehun” Se-hun, a member of South Korean-Chinese boy group Exo, invested in Seoul-based AP Esports (APE). APE owns and operates SeolHaeOne Prince, a team competing in the League of Legends Champions Korea (LCK), and plans to apply for a franchise when the LCK becomes a franchised league in 2021.

Financing League Operators

Recreational esports league platform Mission Control raised a $1.75M seed financing round led by Dundee Venture Capital. Mission Control is planning to use the proceeds of the seed investment to drive platform expansion and client growth to “bring the structure of traditional recreational leagues and the excitement of esports to social gamers and their communities across the country.”

Polish esports company Polska Liga Esportowa S.A., which runs the Polish Esports League, received an investment by former NBA player Marcin Gortat. While financial terms of the investment were not disclosed, a spokesperson for the company said the investment is said to be a five-figure to small six-figure deal.

Other Investments

Live streaming platform Caffeine closed a $113M Series D financing round to invest in new forms of real-time interactive entertainment. The round was led by media company Fox Corporation, privately-held conglomerate Cox Enterprises, and Saudi Arabian investment company Sanabil Investments. Caffeine, which is now valued at more than $600M, is a competitor to live streaming platforms such as Twitch, Youtube, Trovo, Huya, and DouYu.

Indian digital entertainment and technology company JetSynthesys has received an investment of ₹3B INR ($39.9M) to expand its gaming, digital entertainment, and interest-based social community platforms segment over the next 36 months. JetSynthesys developed mobile games such as Sachin Saga Cricket Champions and is invested in NODWIN Gaming, an Indian esports company known for organizing tournaments such as the ESL India Premiership, the PUBG MOBILE Pro League, and DreamHack events in India.

Sponsorship brokerage platform Athlane received a $3.3M seed investment. Participants in the financing round included Y Combinator, The Kraft Group President Jonathan Kraft, Fenway Sports Group President Michael Gordon, Global Founders Capital, Romulus Capital, and Seabed VC.

Isle of Man-based esports betting platform Luckbox raised a $5M CAD ($3.7M) investment in three tranches via its parent company Esports Limited. The investment was completed in connection to Esports Limited’s plans to go public on the Toronto Stock Exchange Venture Exchange (TSXV), a marketplace for emerging companies. In May, the Luckbox group signed a non-binding letter of intent with the capital pool company (CPC) Elephant Hill, a TSXV-listed shell company through which private companies can go public, to be acquired by the company.

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