Shawn Gunn has been waiting for gaming to get to this moment for 20 years.
He ran e-tournaments from his college dorm in the 1990s, long before esports exploded. Since then, Gunn has worked on Wall Street as a trader, at Nokia as the head of monetization and at HERE Technologies, before founding his first company, GUNN Inc, in 2008.
All the while, he watched as video games became lucrative for top competitors. And he decided to find a way to make them profitable for average gamers like himself.
Last year, Gunn founded PLLAY Labs Inc. with Christine Krzyzanowski. The video game wagering app lets users play video games like Fortnite and Call of Duty against each other for money. Since its launch in June, PLLAY has added 10,000 users, bringing its total user base to 60,000.
Skill-Based Betting<p>PLLAY uses an artificial intelligence-driven platform to monitor video game matches, detect cheating and guarantee payment to winners. It is not considered gambling under federal law because players make bets on their own performance in a skill-based game.</p><p>Gunn said there is already a lot of peer-to-peer betting happening online, with or without the app. The wagering is often informal and done through game chats, with no guarantee the other player will send money via CashApp or PayPal. PLLAY ensures that each player is paid appropriately from pooled money that PLLAY secures in escrow.</p><p>PLLAY's background check process also ensures wagering laws in users' states are honored and confirms users are 18 or older.<br></p><p>Beal — a PLLAY investor, two-time NBA All-Star and shooting guard for the Washington Wizards — is a gamer off the court and away from his day job, as is Easterling.</p><p>"They're both gamers, in their own regard, and they fit our profile. So they're not professional gamers, obviously, they have other really cool day jobs," said Gunn. "But they know how big the gaming market is and where it's going."</p><p>Gunn said he sought out high net-worth investors that were passionate about gaming.</p><p>"I'm not just investing in a product; I'm investing in people. I believe in supporting minority- and women-owned businesses," said Beal in a statement, adding that Gunn and Krzyzanowski "have built more than a gaming platform, they've built a diverse and creative culture at PLLAY that fuels their vision."<br></p>
Santa Monica-based PlayVS, a platform that organizes high school esports leagues, raised $10.5 million, SEC filings show.
The injection of money comes just as PlayVS is making a push to expand across all 50 states and diversify their offerings. The two-year old company raised $50 million this summer and with the most recent round, the company's total funding jumped over $100 million.
PlayVS declined to comment on the raise, but a spokeswoman for the company said it's "currently focused on growing its business, partnering with schools and continuing to strengthen its mission."
PlayVS partners with the National Federation of State High School Associations and 23 state associations, where it's recognized as a varsity sport. Students can play competitive team games like Rocket League, a game in which a player drives a car to play soccer, to earn a varsity letter and compete for state championships.
Over 21,000 schools and 143,000 students have registered so far. Like with varsity sports, a faculty member is required to supervise. Students register online under their school team, to compete in two seasons during the academic year, aligned with fall and spring sporting seasons. The cost is $63 for each participating student, $1,024 for 16 players per season.
The platform has seen interest rise as COVID keeps school-aged children at home.
Over the summer, PlayVS added Overwatch to their available games, partnering with the game publisher Activision Blizzard for the first time. The company also partnered with Riot Games and Epic Games, and students can compete in League of Legends or Fortnite.The esports industry was valued at over $1 billion last year, and is expected to grow 24% annually from 2020 to 2027.
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