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Place your bets on Esports

Place your bets on Esports
 May 29, 2020

Sports are (slowly) coming back! The NBA has signed a deal with Disney to play without a live audience. UFC has tossed out the idea of a fight island to properly isolate fighters. Until then, the sports channels are replaying past recordings, while esoteric sports are having a hard time gaining traction.

But sports betting is taking off. The industry is positioned well for a post-COVID world with no live audience but plenty of interactions in the form of sports betting.  

This Thursday, DraftKings Sportsbook has announced it will offer live-streamed sports games within its mobile app. In collaboration with Sportradar, the global provider of sports data and content, DraftKings Sportsbook will provide customers with a seamless entertainment experience in one convenient location.

DraftKings Sportsbook customers who are logged in to their active accounts will have the ability to live stream games directly within the mobile app. At launch, DraftKings Sportsbook offers only a small selection of live stream sports, including the Korea Baseball Organization and Bundesliga Soccer across all states except Iowa. With over 100 different leagues in total on the DraftKings platform and as additional sports leagues return to resume play, DraftKings Sportsbook will explore potential expansion live-stream opportunities.


Despite the COVID outbreak, Esports has gained ground in viewership. Even before the lockdown, League of Legends had been drawing more viewers than the Super Bowl. As the quarantine drags on, however, the gaming and esports scene has risen to the challenge of filling that void. The numbers speak for themselves: According to a study by Streamlabs and Stream Hatchet, in the first quarter of 2020, Twitch reached all-time highs for hours watched, hours streamed, and average concurrent viewership. In addition, Twitter reported a 71% increase in conversation volume and a 38% increase in unique authors of gaming content in the second half of March. Meanwhile, Verizon has seen a 75% increase in gaming usage since the quarantine went into effect.

In short, the gaming/esports industry is having a moment, and it’s not just gaming companies that are taking steps to adapt to the unprecedented circumstances while still connecting with fans. Major traditional sports leagues are turning to esports as well, getting some of their biggest athletes to get behind a controller or keyboard to continue to create content. NASCAR, for instance, introduced the first-ever NASCAR iRacing Pro Series Invitational on March 22 to get its drivers on the virtual road, airing on Fox Sports through the summer.

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Esports Players:

As fantasy sports startup, Sleeper, looks to push beyond its 1M active users, the company is bulking up on funding reserves. The fantasy sports app has closed a $20M Series B funding round led by Andreessen Horowitz.

Esports One is a startup betting that there’s a big opportunity in bringing a fantasy sports approach to the world of esports — particularly at a time when traditional pro sports are on pause. Backed by Eniac Ventures and Xseed Capital, the company was also part of the first class of startups to participate in the MIT Play Labs accelerator, and it says it uses computer vision technology developed at MIT and Caltech. 

Players Ntwrk is a new gaming-focused production company that will look to compete with other upstarts angling to tap into esports and competitive gaming’s newly dominant place in the entertainment firmament. Players Ntwrk will feature original programming, unscripted series, celebrity gameplay, and live events tapping talent from music, traditional pro-sports, and the esports gaming world.

Statespace launched out of stealth with Aim Lab in 2017. Aim Lab is meant to mimic the physical rules of a game to give gamers a practice space where they can improve their skills. Moreover, Aim Lab helps gamers identify and overcome weaknesses in gameplay — one person might struggle with his visual acuity in the top-left quadrant of the screen, while another might have trouble spotting or aiming at targets on the bottom-right side of the screen.

Simplebet is a B2B product development company using machine learning and automation to make every moment of every sporting event a betting opportunity.

Funding & Deal Highlights:

Stringr, a video-focused startup that says it can help news organizations adapt to the challenges of COVID-19, announces that it has raised $5.75M in new funding. 

Orbita, the leading provider of conversational AI-powered voice and chatbot solutions for healthcare, announces that it has secured $9M of venture funding as part of the company's Series A round. Orbita's award-winning voice and chatbot platform are used by leading healthcare, life sciences, and medical technology companies to improve patient care and clinical efficiency.

Decibel, a London, UK-based provider of digital experience analytics solutions, closes a $40M Series B.  Decibel provides digital customer experience analytics solutions for companies to convert, engage, and increase customer loyalty across their digital offerings. The technology crunches billions of data points to automatically identify poor experiences on websites and apps and provides digital teams with the insights they need to optimize them. It is used by 250 of the world’s largest brands spanning the retail, financial services, travel and hospitality, and media industries.

Hybrid brick-and-mortar, virtual care women's health company Tia scores $24M. Tia is a full-stack women's healthcare startup building a new model of reproductive healthcare for women, by women. They build products, tools — and soon services — designed to help every woman be her own patient advocate.

Pie Insurance raises $127M in latest financing. Pie Insurance is a Washington D.C.-based startup offering workers’ compensation insurance to small businesses.

Novavax will ramp up its manufacturing capacity for the COVID-19 vaccine candidate it began to test in humans on Monday, as a result of acquiring Czech-based Praha Vaccines from the India-based Cyrus Poonawalla Group for $167M cash.

Emigrant invests in Pure Financial. Emigrant Partners has made a minority investment in Pure Financial Advisors Inc, a financial planning and investment advisory firm. Pure is a fast-growing financial planning and investment advisory firm that manages over $2.4B in client assets.

Swiss chocolate maker Barry Callebaut buys Australia's GKC Foods. 

Ontex announces plans for its first U.S. manufacturing facility and the acquisition of U.S. feminine hygiene assets. New plant and production capacity acquisition in North Carolina demonstrates Ontex’s commitment to further develop its North American business.

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