PlayBrain Secures $1.9 Million Investment from BITKRAFT Esports Ventures to Advance the Esports Industry in Japan
We are excited to announce BITKRAFT Esports Ventures led PlayBrain’s $1.9 million seed round. PlayBrain is the leading full-service esports tournament and media company in Japan, with the mission to help brands reach gamers and fans through large-scale esports event production.
PlayBrain will use the new funding to scale the team, accelerate growth, and support costs to lead the creative direction, operation, and commercialization of League of Legends Japan League (“LJL”). PlayBrain has partnered with Riot Games and Yoshimoto to lead in the operation of the LJL league, the largest esports league in Japan.
“With a $19 billion games market, Japan is a sleeping giant in esports and is finally waking up and recognizing its potential to become one of the largest markets globally next to China and the US,” said BITKRAFT Founding Partner, Malte Barth. “This investment comes at the perfect time, ahead of the 2020 Olympics when all eyes will be on Tokyo, and Japan’s quickly growing esports ecosystem.”
PlayBrain is a company dedicated to promoting the growth of gaming and esports in Japan and this marks the first Western investment in esports in the Japanese market.
Check out the coverage in The Esports Observer, Esports Insider, and VentureBeat.
We are excited to announce that BITKRAFT Esports Ventures led Tonk Tonk Games $2 million seed funding round with participation from Modern Times Group. Tonk Tonk Games is a mobile gaming company with a singular focus on providing players with continuous moments of delight through fun game play, personalized experiences, and high spectatability.
The company will use the investment to accelerate its global growth by scaling its talented team and establishing headquarters in Austin, Texas while working to launch uFighter, a competitive real-time multiplayer fighting game where the main player is a digitized avatar of the gamer. uFighter players can engage with people they know personally through highly expressive, customized 3D animations of themselves generated from uploaded selfies.
“We are deeply impressed with Tonk Tonk’s culture and their emotionally resonant, proprietary personalized facial animation technology, which make them a clear stand-out in the massive mobile games market,” commented BITKRAFT Founder and Managing Partner, Jens Hilgers. “uFighter is offering adrenalizing synchronous multiplayer matches and will ignite new excitement for the Fighting Game genre which we feel still craves for an iconic and innovative IP on mobile.”
Tonk Tonk Games is led by a distinguished team of game and animated-film veterans with decades of collective experience from Blue Sky, Wizards of the Coast, EA, Disney, and Pixar.
We can’t wait to see how Tonk Tonk Games will evolve in the future as their team expands. Check out the press coverage in VentureBeat and Esports Insider.
We are excited to lead Network Next’s $4.4 million seed round which will enable them to launch the internet fast lane for games. We agree with Network Next’s view that the internet is broken for games and has been optimized to deliver static and streaming content, not interactive, real-time applications like online multiplayer games. Game traffic is real-time, interactive, and much more demanding on the network.
The gaming industry is dependent on reliable, consistent network connections. Playing at your best for gamers means playing on a stable network with low latency - and that's where game developers don’t find great solutions. Network Next makes it easier for developers to operate on the highest quality infrastructure and make sure that gamers get the fastest and most consistent experience. As gamers as well as industry supporters, we at BITKRAFT could not be more excited to invest in this team and technology.
Network Next partners with game developers to specify their performance requirements and uses their technology to find the fastest, most consistent route for each player, delivering an unparalleled gaming experience. Together, we are creating a new internet for games.
Check out the coverage in VentureBeat.
The Esports Observer, Leading Esports Business Publication, is Wholly Acquired by American City Business Journals, Owner of SportsBusiness Journal
We are elated to announce today that The Esports Observer, the world’s leading source for esports business news and insights, has been wholly acquired by Advance Publications. This marks the first acquisition of a BITKRAFT portfolio company.
"The Esports Observer was one of our first incubation projects in BITKRAFT. We built the company to solve a specific pain-point in our industry: the lack of a central credible source for esports business news and insights. We were convinced that this was a real need and addressing it we could also accelerate the growth of the industry at large. Just three years in the making we have succeeded in the mission we set for ourselves and we are very excited to be selling this great asset to a leading North-American publisher and operator in the sports and media space, commented BITKRAFT Founder and Managing Director, Jens Hilgers. “If anything this further validates the industry focussed investment strategy of BITKRAFT which we continue to develop and expand across various segments in the esports industry."
This transaction is part of Advance’s continued investment in the business of esports, games and traditional sports. TEO will join Advance’s growing group of companies dedicated to serving the professionals that operate in and around these industries. These companies include the Sports Business Journal and Leaders, the leading brands in sports business news and events, and Advance’s recent majority acquisition of Newzoo, a market intelligence and analytics firm with a primary focus on games, esports and mobile. TEO’s facilitation of industry networking through curated events in the esports ecosystem will enhance the efforts of both SBJ and Leaders, which both cater to an audience trying to gain a better perspective on the growing global esports phenomenon. TEO will also now be able to offer its audience greater access to even more granular data in the business of esports and games through closer collaboration with Newzoo.
It’s a pivotal day in the world of esports as we work to see the global expansion of the industry.
Read more here.
BITKRAFT Portfolio Company, Quarterback, Raises $2.5M To Help Streamers and Pros Monetize Their Downtime
Today we announced that we lead Quarterback’s $2.5M round which included participation from Crest Capital Ventures, Deep Space Ventures, UpWest Labs and angel investors. Quarterback, an esports fan engagement platform for streamers, professional players and teams, will use the funding to further develop the platform and accelerate the company’s growth globally. We are optimistic about the impact Quarterback will have on the esports industry.
Quarterback is a first-of-its kind platform that enables streamers and professional players to continuously engage with their audiences by creating their own fan-club gaming leagues. These leagues can host daily challenges, give away prizes, compete against other clubs worldwide and offer other perks. Being able to foster engagement with the gaming community around the clock, not just when streaming, will help create a new revenue stream while simultaneously boosting community involvement.
Check out the press coverage in TechCrunch, Forbes, VentureBeat.
Runtime originally began as our incubated company and we continue to invest in its future plans to improve nutrition for gamers. The esports nutrition company recently raised a seven digit seed round that was led by Everblue Management with participants including BITKRAFT Esports Ventures, Döhler Ventures, Food Angels Germany, and angel investors. The funding will be used to expand operations, support marketing and sponsorship efforts, and further extend the range of products.
Runtime, the first complete nutrition solution specifically designed for esports athletes, produces products that eliminate sugar crash, supply vital nutritional benefits and stabilize performance to strengthen stamina. Nutrition experts work closely with teams to show how they can prepare for matches and achieve peak performance levels by maintaining consistent energy and focus.
View the official press release here. Don’t miss the international coverage in Esports Observer, Deutsche Startups, Games Wirtschaft, and Esports Insider.
We are excited to play a role in the success of FanAI, a platform that unlocks the value of fan data in order to optimize sponsorship engagement within esports. Recently FanAI announced the closing of a $2.5M round, for a total of $4.5M raised to date. Courtside Ventures and CRCM Ventures led the round with participation from BITKRAFT Esports Ventures and other key players.
As the esports industry grows, data is needed to tap into the fan base. FanAI gives brands the opportunity to optimize their market spend by supplying unique purchase behavior and lifestyle data on their fan base on a granular level. With actionable data unlocked, sponsors can improve their return on investment with targeted sponsorships, rights holders can turn audiences into a monetized asset, and consumers benefit from better segmented content.
The official press release can be found here. Don’t miss the coverage in Venture Beat, Tech Crunch, The Esports Observer, LA Biz Journal, Sport Techie and Esports Insider.
BITKRAFT Portfolio Company, H4X.gg, becomes the official apparel supplier of ESL and DreamHack events
We’ve worked with Moniker to develop and introduce H4X, high quality performance wear and casual streetwear for esports athletes and fans. Esports gamers have specific preferences when it comes to apparel and the H4X line was intentionally created with those needs in mind. From thumbholes to strategically placed padding, this apparel is designed to maximize comfort during those intense gaming sessions.
There’s an absence of esports apparel on the market, and we are excited that H4X is the official apparel supplier of ESL and DreamHack events. The collection will be available both online at H4X.gg and through select ESL One, Intel® Extreme Masters (IEM) and DreamHack circuits through 2018.
The official press release can be viewed by clicking here. Check out the coverage in Rolling Stone, Esports Insider, Heavy, UPROXX, and Keen Gamer.
Today we couldn't be more proud to announce the launch of The Story Mob—a dedicated esports communication consultancy—as well as our first investment in a women led team.
The Story Mob was founded by three esports executives (including a BITKRAFT alum!), with years of experience in the industry under their belts. Anna Rozwandowicz, formerly ESL’s VP of Communications at ESL, Nicola Piggott, formerly Riot Games’ Communications Lead for esports, and Kalie Moore, formerly Head of Communications at BITKRAFT Esports Ventures, have created their firm with the goal to fill a genuine gap in the market for brands, teams and companies who want to effectively reach esports fans and can't quite speak their language. Equally, The Story Mob recognizes the enormous B2B communications opportunity. In addition to reaching their fans, teams also need to attract attention from potential investors and sponsors. The Story Mob founders have vast experience with both.
In addition to being the first esports focused communication consultancy, The Story Mob is also in the unique position of having three female co-founders, in an industry still very much dominated by male voices. Even after the #MeToo movement has shaken up the venture capital industry, it has not resulted in women receiving more funding. Only 2.2% of VC funding went to female founding teams in 2017. At BITKRAFT, we could not be more proud to support this winning team.
You can read more about The Story Mob launch on Inc, The Esports Observer, Esports Insider, and Inven Global.
BITKRAFT Portfolio Company, Epics.gg, a Digital Trading Card Platform for Esports, Raises a $2M Seed Round
We couldn’t be more thrilled to announce our investment in Epics.gg, a digital trading card platform for esports. We've seen several successful trading card companies in traditional sports and entertainment space, and, up until now, trading cards have been completely missing from the esports market. BITKRAFT believes that Epics.gg is the perfect combination of games, sports, and entertainment intellectual property with a digital and mobile first approach, and we couldn't be more thrilled to help the Epics team bring this to market.
Each card includes an epic design, rich media, stats and can also include digital signatures and in-game items. For more information, you can check out the full release here. Don’t miss the coverage in VentureBeat and Forbes.