Just months removed from announcing a major partnership with the National Federation of High School Associations (NFHS), the PlayVS eSports platform has taken another major step toward solidifying its role in the high school eSports universe by finalizing a $15 million funding round that includes major investments from the San Francisco 49ers, Twitch co-founder Kevin Lin and the rapper Nas, among others.
As reported by The eSports Observer, PlayVS’ $15-million Series A financing round was led by a trio of investment groups: New Enterprise Associates, CrossCut Ventures — which has other professional eSports investments — and Cross Culture Ventures. Still, it’s the more celebrity-connected investment partners who are true head-turners, with the 49ers, NBA All-Star Baron Davis, L.A. Chargers Pro Bowler Russell Okung and rapper Nas all notable investors in the platform.
The 49ers’ investment is particularly notable, given their prior stated reservations about spending money on to field competitive eSports team. Perhaps they see PlayVS as a smarter, more broad investment opportunity in the eSports space. And there’s little question that the PlayVS platform is significantly more broad:
“There are 8 million kids today that don’t participate in any sports, and there’s an opportunity for them to get engaged, develop an affinity for their school, to just be a part of something that’s bigger than themselves,” PlayVS cofounder and CEO Delane Parnell told Forbes.
“I can’t wait to send hundreds of thousands of kids to college on esports scholarships in the future, keep kids off the street and out of gangs and, most importantly, help kids develop new friendships. I think there’s something to be said around the benefits of gaming and how gaming brings people together.”
The investment from the 49ers and entertainment celebrities mirrors some of the very early days of daily fantasy operations Draft Kings and Fan Duel, which crafted deals with individual teams and larger partnerships with the professional sports leagues.
Could those pro sports leagues be next for PlayVS, perhaps as a dedicated sponsored partnership between a sports-focused game and high school competitors? Will there be competition from the High School Esports League in the same pursuit? It’s certainly worth keeping an eye on.