Investors want into esports, and now they are betting on one of professional gaming’s biggest teams.
Cloud9 has closed out a Series A funding round for an undisclosed amount of money. The organization owns and operates some of the top pro teams in games like League of Legends, Counter-Strike, and Hearthstone, and it wants to expand its presence in the esports market that analysts predict will grow 41 percent to $696 million this year. FunPlus Ventures led the funding. Cloud9 plans to use this influx of cash as well as its partnership with its new investors to build larger sponsorship deals in the future.
The series A round also saw participation from a plethora of major names in game developer. professional sports, and investing. Those include San Francisco Giants outfielder Hunter Pence, Signia Venture Partners cofounder Rick Thompson, Founders Fund cofounder Ken Howery and partner Brian Singerman, Reddit cofounder Alexis Ohanian, Bonfire Studios cofounders Min Kim and Rob Pardo, Jam City cofounder Josh Yugado, L.A. Dodgers co-owner Todd Boehly, United Talent Agency, Hall of Fame San Francisco 49ers QB Joe Montana, NBA star Andrew Bogut, Golden State Warriors co-owner Chamath Palihapitiya, and Tesla board director Antonio Gracias, Kimbal Musk, and Bill Lee.
“We’ve formed a fantastic group of investors to help push Cloud9 to the next level,” Cloud9 chief executive officer Jack Etienne said in a statement. “With this investment you can expect Cloud9 to continue our expansion into the esports market while maintaining an exceptional experience for our players.”
In his own statement, Reddit’s Ohanian said that investing in esports was a chance to live out a childhood fantasy of owning an NFL team. The Reddit cofounder also praised Cloud9 and Etienne’s leadership in the esports space.
Joe Montana also dropped some esports knowledge of his own.
“Cloud9 is a fantastic organization that has shown throughout the years that it has what it takes to continuously contend for championships in multiple esports titles,” Montana, who cofounded and runs Liquid 2 Ventures, said. “The players of Cloud9 work hard to always compete at the highest level and the organization’s leadership strives to provide a positive atmosphere that allows its players the opportunity to be in a position to do their best.”
Update, 11:28 a.m. Pacific: According to Cloud9, this was actually a seed round not a Series A.