THE LIST: THE MOST ACTIVE VC'S IN ESPORTS
TNL Industry Guest Post 006: Stephen Hays is the Managing Partner of Deep Space Ventures, a venture capital firm investing in eSports and B2B Enterprise startups at the seed stage.
Prior to Deep Space Ventures, Stephen spent 6+ years as an investment banker and relies on his prior experience advising companies of all sizes on capital structure, capital raising, M&A and strategic alternatives to be a value-added investor.
Stephen received his bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering from the United States Military Academy at West Point and received his MBA from the Owen Graduate School of Management at Vanderbilt.
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 outsized returns for early stage investors in the space.
SO WHO 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 352 VCs, angels, accelerators, or companies (strategics) that had invested in eSports startups. Of the 352 total investors, most of them have made only one investment in the space (298 have only one — 85%).
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).
Only ~15% of those invested in eSports have more than 1 eSports investment
15% (54 of the 352) 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.
WHERE ARE THE ESPORTS INVESTORS LOCATED?
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 352 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 VC'S IN ESPORTS
Of the 54 investors who have more than one eSports investment, 39 of those are VC's (15 are angel 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.
In addition to the most active VCs that I’ve listed below, I've also compiled a Crunchbase list of all the investors in eSports startups with profiles (link)
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:
- Accel Partners (Raptr, smash.gg, Discord)
- Advancit Capital (Unikrn, Blitz Esports, Sliver.tv)
- Amplify.LA (Battlefy, AlphaDraft)
- Arab Angel Fund (Battlefy, Wonder)
- BDC IT Venture Capital (Battlefy, Repable)
- BITKRAFT (Kek, Boom.tv, Runtime.gg)
- BLH Venture Partners (KontrolFreek, Haste, Wavedash)
- BoxGroup (Scopely, Blitz Esports)
- CAA Ventures (Vulcun, Sliver.tv, Kickback)
- Courtside (FanAI, GameCo)
- CRCM Ventures (TurningSense, FanAI, VREAL)
- 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)
- First Round (Boom.tv, BeyondGames, Mobcrush)
- General Catalyst (Mobalytics, Super Evil Megacorp)
- GGV Capital (Mobalytics, Curse)
- Greycroft (Scopely, Gunslinger Studios, AlphaDraft, FanAI, Sliver.tv)
- IDG Capital Partners (AlphaDraft, Discord)
- Index Ventures (FaceIT, Super Evil Megacorp, Discord)
- K Cube Ventures (Kokomo Games, Supreme Games)
- London Venture Partners (Dojo Madness, Future Play Games)
- Ludlow Ventures (Vulcun, Kickback)
- Machine Shop Ventures (Wavedash Games, Immortals)
- March Capital Partners (Genvid, Wavedash Games, Dojo Madness)
- MIT Play Labs (Esports One, Savvy Stat, Total Respawn)
- QB1 Ventures (FanAI, Gameco)
- Queensbridge Venture Partners (AlphaDraft, Battlefy, Kickback)
- Raine Ventures (Dojo Madness, Super Evil Megacorp)
- Right Side Capital Management (GameWisp, Sidelines, Matcherino)
- Rosecliff Ventures (YouStake, FanAI)
- Sequoia Capital (Vulcun, 5211game, Skillz)
- Signia Venture Partners (Super Evil Megacorp, Funzio, Playdom, Drifter)
- Social Starts (Battlefy, Youstake, Sidelines)
- 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)
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.