Taunt announced today that it has raised $1.75 million in a seed financing round to build an esports fan competition platform. It’s a kind of fantasy sport for esports, where fans compete with each other to predict what will happen in real-time during an esports match.

Esports is a fast-growing industry with an enormous global footprint. According to research firm Newzoo, the estimated 2017 global audience will reach 385 million
people. The 2016 League of Legends World Championship Finals alone had 43 million unique viewers, as reported by Riot Games.

With Taunt, you can watch a League of Legends match on your favorite broadcast platform. Then, on your phone or in another browser window, you open up Taunt to join a room. You can be in a room with your friends or with strangers. Every few minutes, you are surfaced a challenge based on the current state of the game such as, ‘Which team will get the next kill,’ or ‘Will a tower go down in the next two minutes?’ Fans earn reputation in the community and collect badges for making calls correctly.”
“In all of our testing, the thing that fans loved the most was that the challenges are all real-time, and adapt to the changing gameplay,” said Ben Gilbert, cofounder of PSL and interim CEO of Taunt, in an email. “For example, Taunt uses machine learning to know that a game is snowballing, and it switches gears to offer challenges around when the game will end, or how big the gold difference will be.”

Taunt is the fifth spinout from Seattle’s Pioneer Square Labs, whose founders — Geoff Entress, Greg Gottesman and Mike Galgon — participated in the round. In addition to Foundry Group and the Pioneer Square Labs co-founders, Paul Allen’s Vulcan Capital and multiple angels invested in the financing.

“We’re looking to make watching esports a much richer experience,” said Gilbert. “The status quo today is an unreadable river of chat messages and message boards. The fans deserve a real social layer with competition, reputation, and statistics to engage
around the game. Being an esports fan is still largely a single-player experience. With Taunt, it’s a multiplayer one.”

Above: Taunt’s alpha version of its app.

Image Credit: Taunt

As part of the financing, Brad Feld of Foundry Group will be joining Galgon and Gilbert on the board. Foundry Group was previously an early-stage investor in Zynga, and sees a similar opportunity here.

“Zynga built social games on top of the tidal wave of social networks,” Feld said, in a statement. “The phenomenon of esports provides a new frontier for similar types of interactive experiences.”

“Esports will dwarf traditional sports in global viewership,” said Galgon, in a statement. “A competitive social fabric like Taunt will be foundational to this growth as it electrifies the game experience for experts while also providing an on-ramp to esports for new fans. And, importantly, it connects all of these fans in a single experience.”

Gilbert said the company has five employees.

Taunt will be releasing an alpha product to fans for feedback during the League of Legends World Championship.

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