As I’ve written about before in The Birth of a Venture Capital Investment Thesis and Why Invest in esports, the esports market is huge, has intense user engagement and is growing at an astronomical rate. There is great potential for incredible founders, with excellent ideas,to build businesses that generate out sized returns for early stage investors in the space.
So, who exactly, is investing in esports startups?
As I worked to answer this question, by compiling a list of investors, I was surprised at some of the results.
I found 421 VCs, angels, accelerators, family offices, and companies (strategics) that had invested in esports startups. Of the 421 total investors, most of them have made only one investment in the space (353 have only one — 84%). I am not considering the 1-time investors to be true “esports investors” as many early stage investors have made investments in sectors that are not a focus area, but they ended up in a deal for one reason or another (other than a thesis about the space).
16% (68 of the 421) of investors on the list have invested in more than one esports startup. Of those who have invested in more than one, there are quite a few notable names (see the list of the most active at the bottom of this post). Some of the investors who have invested in multiple esports startups are angels or accelerators (some notable, such as 500 Startups, Y Combinator, etc.). Often the angels are partners at large VCs who then later invest in the space, when the round sizes grow, and their fund’s minimum check size doesn’t preclude investment.
The geographic breakdown of the investors in this space is not very surprising. The bulk of the investors are in California, followed by New York and Europe. I did expect more to be in Asia, as a large percentage of the esports market exists in China, South Korea, Japan, etc.
The headline number of 421 total investors in the space makes it seem like everyone is piling into esports startups, and at times, it does feel like some of the rounds I’m seeing are oversubscribed, and/or competitive. However, I still believe the space is somewhat opportunistic for investors at this time (especially at the earlier stages, and certainly for those with some domain knowledge) due to a lack of institutional investors who are investing regularly in the space.
Who are the Most Active VCs in esports?
Of the 68 investors who have more than one esports investment, 50 of those are VCs (18 are angels, incubators, accelerators, or strategic investors). I’ve listed the VCs who are active (have invested in more than one esports startup) here as a resource for founders and whoever may be interested. If I’m missing someone, please let me know and I’ll update the list. Compiling this list was a lot of grunt work, so it is likely that I missed something (contact info is at the bottom of this post).
In addition to the most active VCs that I’ve listed below, I also compiled a Crunchbase list of all the investors in esports startups that I found who had Crunchbase profiles (link here). Note: you will likely need a Crunchbase account to view the list.
A list of a few representative portfolio companies showing esports exposure, is listed next to each VC’s name below. The list of investments is not intended to be inclusive of every deal in the space by each investor, rather a representative sample (and is listed in alphabetical order).
- Accel Partners (Raptr, smash.gg, Discord)
- Accomplice (Gamer Sensei, Skillz)
- Advancit Capital (Unikrn, Blitz esports, Sliver.tv, Gamer Sensei)
- Amplify.LA (Battlefy, AlphaDraft)
- Arab Angel Fund (Battlefy, Wonder)
- BDC IT Venture Capital (Battlefy, Repable)
- Benchmark (OutPost Games, Discord, Manticore Games)
- Bessemer Venture Partners (Twitch, Team Solo Mid)
- BITKRAFT (Kek, Boom.tv, Runtime.gg)
- BLH Venture Partners (KontrolFreek, Haste, Wavedash)
- BoxGroup (Scopely, Blitz esports)
- CAA Ventures (Vulcun, Sliver.tv, Kickback, Vision esports)
- Courtside (FanAI, GameCo, Haste, Beam.Pro, Wavedash, VY esports)
- CRCM Ventures (TurningSense, FanAI, VREAL, Gamer Sensei)
- Creandum (RFRSH, Armada Interactive, Resolution, Playraven, Small Giant, Future Play)
- Crosscut Ventures (Vulcun, Super Evil Megacorp, Blitz esports)
- Deep Space Ventures (Mobalytics, PlayVS, Haste, Battlefy)
- Everblue Management (G2 esports, Haste, Battlefy, FanAI, Epics.gg, Runtime)
- First Round (Boom.tv, BeyondGames, Mobcrush)
- Funders Club (Kickback, Guilded)
- General Catalyst (Mobalytics, Super Evil Megacorp)
- GGV Capital (Mobalytics, Curse)
- Great Oaks Venture Capital (Kickback, Blast)
- Greycroft (Scopely, Gunslinger Studios, AlphaDraft, FanAI, Sliver.tv)
- Hersh Interactive Group (Team EnVyUs, Maestro)
- Index Ventures (FaceIT, Super Evil Megacorp, Discord)
- Javelin Venture Partners (GAmeCo, Rixty)
- K Cube Ventures (Kokomo Games, Supreme Games)
- London Venture Partners (Dojo Madness, Future Play Games, Plexchat, Gawkbox, Polystream, Supercell, Shark Punch, Radiant Entertainment)
- Ludlow Ventures (Vulcun, Kickback)
- Machine Shop Ventures (Wavedash Games, Immortals)
- MACRO Ventures (G2 esports, Manticore Games)
- March Capital Partners (Genvid, Wavedash Games, Dojo Madness)
- QB1 Ventures (FanAI, Gameco)
- Queensbridge Venture Partners (AlphaDraft, Battlefy, Kickback)
- Raine Ventures (Dojo Madness, Super Evil Megacorp)
- Ridge Ventures (formerly IDG Capital Partners) (AlphaDraft, Discord)
- Right Side Capital Management (GameWisp, Sidelines, Matcherino)
- Rosecliff Ventures (YouStake, FanAI)
- Rubicon Venture Capital (Unikrn, Maestro)
- Sequoia Capital (Vulcun, 5211game, Skillz)
- Signia Venture Partners (Super Evil Megacorp, Funzio, Playdom, Drifter)
- Social Starts (Battlefy, Youstake, Sidelines, Gameflip)
- Spark Capital (Discord, Smash.gg)
- Sterling VC (Loot Crate, FanAI, Skillz)
- The Kraft Group (Skillz, Overwatch League)
- Third Wave Digital (Battlefy, Gunslinger Studios)
- Upfront Ventures (Loot Crate, AlphaDraft, VREAL)
- Vision Venture Partners (Echo Fox, Twin Galaxies)
- Vulcan Capital (VREAL, Matcherino, Taunt)
If I’m missing someone you know of, please let me know and I’ll update the list. I hope this can be a resource to founders and investors in esports space, and I will update this list and the corresponding statistics when new information becomes available.
The list of investors is going to change over time. I have worked with many VCs who are looking actively at early and late stage rounds in esports businesses on a daily basis. More and more investors will end up on the list in the coming months and years.
Stephen Hays is a venture capital investor that has invested in a number of esports teams and startups.