'Dark Absurdist' Online Game Blaseball Is Going Mobile After Its $3 Million Seed Round

Francesca Billington

Francesca Billington is a freelance reporter. Prior to that, she was a general assignment reporter for dot.LA and has also reported for KCRW, the Santa Monica Daily Press and local publications in New Jersey. She graduated from Princeton in 2019 with a degree in anthropology.

'Dark Absurdist' Online Game Blaseball Is Going Mobile After Its $3 Million Seed Round

In the self-described "absurdist horror fantasy" video game Blaseball, almost anything goes: the antagonist in the first season was a giant peanut. A squid named The Monitor makes an appearance from time to time.

"When players die, they're usually incinerated by umpires," said Sam Rosenthal, founder and CEO of the video game startup behind Blaseball. "There's a lot of this dark absurdism."

Rosenthal said the baseball simulation game that lets players bet on fake teams and win currency went viral quickly after launching in July of 2020. On Tuesday, his Highland Park-based startup closed a $3 million seed round to expand into mobile.

Instead of playing baseball themselves, gamers place bets and vote on changes to the virtual league. Rosenthal compared his game more to the ESPN app than to a traditional video game. The "text-based game" flashes stats and score updates of the virtual league, but most of the drama comes from Blaseball's community of players, who make up stories and conspiracies about the simulated baseball games.

"Since it is so stripped down, the fans create their own artwork," he said, likening Blaseball to other tabletop role playing games like Dungeons & Dragons. "They show us what they think they're seeing."

Gamers can use their earnings to vote on whimsical changes to the sport like adding an extra base or dropping the number of strikes batters get in each inning.

The startup also uses that format — and its sense of humor — to weave in sponsorships from podcasts to video game brands to coffee subscription companies like Yes Plz. Apart from a crowdfunding campaign, which closed with Tuesday's round, sponsor deals remain the startup's primary business model.

"All the players have a favorite type of coffee that you can see in their stats page," Rosenthal said. "It's not like a programmatic ad; they're deeply embedded into the game."

Rosenthal started the company to build out his thesis project from USC's Games Program, which he called "Where Cards Fall," in which players solve logic puzzles to slowly build a house of cards. Each step unlocks new memories from the protagonist's past.

"We don't tell you too much and we ask the player to put the pieces together themselves," he said. "It has that in common with Blaseball."

Makers Fund is behind the startup's first fundraising round, which will be used to hire and adapt Blaseball to an app format, as well as other undisclosed projects. 1UP Ventures and Matthew Ball also participated in the round.

A previous version of this article stated the company will hire 15 employees. The Game Board will grow its team to 15 in total.

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Venture Firm Backstage Capital Cuts Three-Quarters of Staff

Kristin Snyder

Kristin Snyder is an editorial intern for dot.la. She previously interned with Tiger Oak Media and led the arts section for UCLA's Daily Bruin.

Venture Firm Backstage Capital Cuts Three-Quarters of Staff
Photo by Jp Valery on Unsplash

Venture firm Backstage Capital laid off nine employees, reducing its staff to just three.

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Keerthi Vedantam

Keerthi Vedantam is a bioscience reporter at dot.LA. She cut her teeth covering everything from cloud computing to 5G in San Francisco and Seattle. Before she covered tech, Keerthi reported on tribal lands and congressional policy in Washington, D.C. Connect with her on Twitter, Clubhouse (@keerthivedantam) or Signal at 408-470-0776.

A New Tide of LA Startups Is Tackling the National Childcare Crisis
Courtesy of Brella

The pandemic exacerbated a problem that has been long bubbling in the U.S.: the childcare crisis.

According to a survey of people in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers conducted by the city’s WiSTEM Los Angeles program and shared exclusively with dot.LA, the pandemic exposed a slew of challenges across STEM fields. The survey—which consisted of 181 respondents from L.A.County and was conducted between March 2021 and 2022— involved respondents across medical fields, technical professions and science industries who shared the pandemic’s effects on their professional or education careers.

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MaC Venture Capital Raises $203M for Its Second Fund

Decerry Donato

Decerry Donato is dot.LA's Editorial Fellow. Prior to that, she was an editorial intern at the company. Decerry received her bachelor's degree in literary journalism from the University of California, Irvine. She continues to write stories to inform the community about issues or events that take place in the L.A. area. On the weekends, she can be found hiking in the Angeles National forest or sifting through racks at your local thrift store.

MaC Venture Capital Raises $203M for Its Second Fund
Courtesy of MaC Venture Capital

While venture capital funding has taken a hit this year, that hasn’t stopped MaC Venture Capital from raising $203 million for its second fund.

The Los Angeles-based, Black-led VC firm said Monday that it had surpassed its initial $200 million goal for the fund, which dot.LA reported in January, over the span of seven months. MaC said it expects to invest the capital in up to 50 mostly seed-stage startups while remaining “sector-agnostic.”

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