PlayVS, a Black owned Esports company which develops software used to operate high school esports competitions, announced recently that it had completed a $50 million Series C funding round.
The round was led by New Enterprise Associates, which also headed up the company’s $15 million Series A in summer 2018. Other investors in the round include Battery Ventures; CAA cofounder Michael Ovitz; early-stage venture fund Sapphire Sport; Michael Zeisser, former head of U.S. investments for Alibaba; Dennis Phelps of private equity firm IVP; and 01 Advisors, a fund run by former Twitter executives Dick Costolo and Adam Bain.
Bringing on new partners like Costolo and Bain is already paying off for PlayVS. “They’ve just been really helpful in terms of just helping me as a founder, just be a better CEO, be a better leader,” says founder and CEO Delane Parnell, who was featured on last year’s Forbes 30 Under 30 Games list.
The PlayVS software is used by high school administrations to build esports leagues for students. Integrating directly into partnered games, the all-in-one online portal auto-reports wins and losses, schedules matches and tracks player stats.
PlayVS is the exclusive partner of the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS), the body that sets the rules for most U.S. high school sports. Parents or schools pay $64 for each student participating in a semester of league play.
The new funding will go toward accelerating its growth—the company plans to double its head count of 41 by the end of the year—and expanding the offerings of the PlayVS app beyond the seasonal leagues. The company is also eyeing the amateur esports space beyond high schools.
“Our business vision has evolved,” Parnell says. “Initially, we were all about: How do we build out the best infrastructure for high school esports? We’re now thinking about how to build a 100 million-plus user subscription service around esports.”
PlayVS was used in five state associations in its inaugural season last fall. During this fall semester, 15 states will compete in sanctioned esports leagues, culminating in state championships, after eight states competed in the spring.
In addition, the company announced that beyond the state-sanctioned competitions, all U.S. states can use the platform, although schools will need to compete regionally based on time zone. The spring semester this year offered competition in League of Legends, Smite and Rocket League.
The demand to get more state endorsements is there. Teachers and administrators from over 13,000 schools have expressed interest in using PlayVS to build an esports program, the company says. By comparison, according to a press release from the NFHS this month, 14,247 high schools in the U.S. offered a football program. PlayVS is so far seeing an average of 15 students compete in esports at each school.
“Raising money is cool,” Parnell says, “but the impact that we’re having on kids today is way more important to us.”
Last fall, the investing arm of the Los Angeles Dodgers’ leadership group led PlayVS’ $30.5 million Series B and was joined by Adidas, Samsung NEXT and Sean “Diddy” Combs.