Bitkraft Esports Ventures, an early stage investor and incubator exclusively focused on the competitive gaming sector, has launched what it calls the world’s first pro gaming-specific fund.
Based in Berlin and Los Angeles, Bitkraft Esports Ventures has raised €18 million, or $19.6 million, to invest in and incubate esports startups. The company hopes to hit a final close of €30 million, or $33 million, and it will invest €100,000 to €400,000 ($109,000 to $436,000) in each startup. Esports will generate as much as $696 million in revenues this year, according to a market report from intelligence firm Newzoo, and a host of companies (including pro sports teams) are eager to invest into the sector.
The team’s lead is Jens Hilgers, a 20-year esports veteran and the founder of ESL, the world’s largest esports company which was acquired by MTG in 2015. Markus Fuhrmann, cofounder of Delivery Hero, and Minard Hamilton, a senior executive who previously held roles at EA Mobile/JAMDAT, ESPN and Activision, are also founding partners.
“Esports happens at the intersection of video games and sports, where new opportunities and excitement exists. This fund is the culmination of building and scaling esports and creating outstanding services and products that increase enjoyment for both players and fans,” says Hilgers, Bitkraft founding partner, in a statement. “This fund is also about living my passion and creating a platform to support those who share this dream and have the drive to create intrinsic value in esports. Everyone involved in Bitkraft has had outstanding entrepreneurial success in esports or closely related industries. I am very excited about the talent that our group brings to the table for the startups and entrepreneurs we support.”
Bitkraft has already been investing since March 2016, and it has backed ten esports companies in Europe, Asia, and the United States. The investments include Boom.tv, Kek.tv, and Dojo Madness. The firm plans to add four more startups to the portfolio in 2017.
Esports has become a global phenomenon, and Bitkraft has a worldwide investment strategy.
The fund’s limited partners include several leading investors and entrepreneurs in the world of sports, entertainment, and gaming including Sumit Gupta, Fabrice Grinda, Hany Nada, Rick Thompson, MTG, Segerstrale Family Trust, aXiomatic Group, Bertelsmann’s BDMI, Inner Circle Sports, among others.
“Esports is rapidly becoming a key pillar of the gaming industry and a form of mainstream entertainment in its own right, across all gaming platforms, from mobile to PC,” said Kristian Segerstrale, CEO at Super Evil Megacorp, the maker of mobile esports game Vainglory, in a statement. “However, the esports ecosystem is still very young. With its seasoned investment team who bring a mix of expertise across technology, media, and games, as well as deepest possible esports experience, Bitkraft is incredibly well positioned as an accelerator and fund to support this rapidly emerging ecosystem.”