FanAI has raised $2.5 million in seed funding for its platform that uses artificial intelligence to monetize esports fans.

Esports ventures are getting a lot of funding these days, and market researcher Newzoo believes esports will grow to $1.5 billion to $2.5 billion in 2020. Santa Monica, California-based FanAI figures out the value of fan data in order to optimize sponsorship engagement within esports.

Courtside Ventures and CRCM Ventures led the round, with participation from Bitkraft Esports Ventures, BDS Capital, Catalyst Sports, Deep Space Ventures, Everblue Management, Greycroft GC Tracker Fund, M Ventures, Rosecliff Ventures, and Sterling VC.

FanAI is already being used by esports teams Cloud9; OpTic Gaming; Overwatch League’s LA Valiant and NYXL; and Cav’s Legion GC, the Cleveland Cavaliers’ NBA2K League team. The additional funding will be used to expand the product and data science teams and round out the client engagement structure needed to support the startup’s growth.

While esports continues to grow rapidly, esports enthusiasts still spend significantly less than fans of traditional sports. As a comparison, in 2017 the average esports fan is expected to spend only $3.64, while NBA basketball fans spend, on average, $15 each. FanAI wants to change that by driving monetization across the entire esports ecosystem, while providing a personalized experience for fans to engage the most effectively with sponsors.

“Brands and sponsors are flooding the esports industry, but are still struggling to prove return on investment in order to justify marketing spend. Until now, this was next to impossible within the esports ecosystem,” said FanAI CEO Johannes Waldstein, in a statement. “FanAI unlocks the value for our esports clients by providing unique purchase behavior and lifestyle data on their fan base, opening the doors for sponsors and brands to invest with confidence.”

Above: FanAI CEO Johannes Waldstein.

Image Credit: FanAI

FanAI enables esports teams, leagues, game publishers, event organizers, broadcasters, agencies, and brands to understand, grow, predict, and monetize esports audiences by analyzing purchasing behavior, psychographic details, and social and demographic information. With this data, sponsors can improve their return on investment with targeted sponsorships, rights holders can turn audiences into a monetized asset, and consumers benefit from better segmented content.

FanAI tracks the fans, influencers, players, teams, tournaments, and games that make up the esports ecosystem. It collect first-party data where available, overlays digital fan profiles with exclusive payment purchase behavior data, and so provides insights and recommendations to help everyone involved make better decisions. Beyond these insights, FanAI makes fan audience data actionable to facilitate marketing activations and measure results.

The company said it helps customers understand and custom segment the global fan audience. It measures behavior, purchase likelihoods, social engagement, true reach, fan loyalty, brand affinity, and results of digital marketing campaigns.

It measures where audiences are on digital channels and how a company should spend it marketing dollars, how fans differ, and why sponsors should target a particular audience.

“As esports investments have grown by orders of magnitude, the sponsorship ecosystem remains an enormous and untapped opportunity. From teams and publishers to agencies and brands, the lucrative demographic of the gaming industry has sparked a lot of interest,” said Deepen Parikh, partner at Courtside Ventures, in a statement. “Johannes and the FanAI team have created a rapidly growing and scalable platform that for the first time enables all parties in the ecosystem to apply actionable data and measurement to their purchasing decisions.”

To date, FanAI has raised $4.5 million, and it has 14 employees.

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