With March Madness weeks away, investors are placing their bets on Manhattan Beach startup Blok Sports.
Next week, the company will close a $1.3 million seed round to polish its blockchain-powered betting platform designed to help users place wagers without doling out their credit card information.
"We run a peer-to-peer sports betting exchange built on blockchain," said CEO and co-founder Mitchell Chun. "We're gamifying sports betting and making it more of a social experience. Our goal is to make this readily accessible for folks who aren't crypto-savvy or hardcore sports betters."
The company launched its platform in early 2019 for some 800 subscribers of the Las Vegas betting site VSiN. Next month, it'll roll out a free March Madness platform with a new media partner.
Unlike traditional sports betting, Blok's model sets up bets between users without taking their payment information. Instead it uses a decentralized exchange service that records transactions and supports cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Litecoin.
"When it comes to online sportsbooks, there's been a preponderance of fraud," said Chun, a former Fox Interactive Media and Yahoo executive who sold 5:1, an ad platform, to Yahoo in 2011 for about $28 million. He's more than doubled his team within the past two weeks, taking on six new developers.
On Blok, users can "make wagers directly with other people," he said "without the involvement of a middleman."
The company makes money by taking a small fee from each peer-to-peer wager. Chun plans on inking sponsorships to help support the free March Madness platform.
Chun declined to disclose the media and sports investors who participated in the round, which was oversubscribed by $300,000.