Esports pioneer Alexander Garfield has started Popdog, which is developing products and services to help brands and other companies get into esports and gaming livestreaming. Popdog is announcing it has raised $9 million from Makers Fund, with participation from Korea Investment Partners.
The Los Angeles-based Popdog is targeting its work at brands, publishers, talent, teams, tournaments, and other stakeholders.
Garfield is best known for his work in building Evil Geniuses and Alliance into big global esports organizations. He sold the teams’ parent company GoodGame to Twitch in 2014, and is now Popdog’s founder and CEO. He is the winningest individual team owner in esports history by prize money, and the only person to have won The International, esports’ most valuable tournament, twice.
Popdog’s cofounders include fellow esports legend Andreas Thorstensson, Popdog’s chief technology officer and chief producer office. Thorstensson is a former Counter-Strike world champion who cofounded SK Gaming, the most successful esports organization and social platform of its era, and SoGamed, the storied online gaming community.
Others include Niles Heron, Popdog’s chief strategy officer, a serial entrepreneur and startup consultant who has taught and mentored at accelerators such as TechStars, Gener8tor and Detroit’s TechTown; and Colin DeShong, Popdog’s chief creative officer and the former chief operating officer of GoodGame, Evil Geniuses, and Alliance, where he was Garfield’s long-time partner.
“We’re building our company around the core belief that esports and gaming video content, born more from technology than any other sports or entertainment verticals we’ve seen, need better technology in order to be properly understood, monetized, and optimized. The industry needs a backend, and our mission is to be that backend by supporting the ecosystem as a whole with a comprehensive offering of technology and services. This funding brings us one step closer to fulfilling that mission,” said Garfield, in a statement. “We’ve already assembled an incredible team of industry leaders, product experts, and esports veterans, and we’re excited to begin rolling out a suite of products that we think will make operating in the space transparent and scalable, as opposed to opaque and speculative.”
Popdog’s business has three initial components:
- Loaded: a division which handles sponsorship sales, creative, and merchandising services for gaming influencers. Brandon Freytag, Loaded’s founder, will help expand its services to the esports vertical. Loaded is a gaming influencer management platform representing the biggest players in gaming and live streaming including Ninja, Shroud, LIRIK, connecting them with global brands and major media companies.
- NoScope: an enterprise Twitch discovery and analytics solution. NoScope gives users the ability to discover broadcasters, create and manage campaigns, track fulfillment and attribution and provide performance metrics for games and channels. It’s built for game developers, publishers, influencer marketers, broadcasters and anyone who need to make Twitch data accountable. NoScope’s founders, Justin Malara and Kyle DeWitt, will continue to evolve the product’s data and reporting tool set as it adds new features tailored to the needs of esports and other industry stakeholders.
- The esports division of Catalyst Sports & Media, which was created to be the preeminent advisory firm to businesses seeking to enter and thrive in the esports industry, is also now part of Popdog. Josh Swartz, cofounder of Catalyst Sports & Media, will serve as Popdog’s COO, while key Catalyst esports personnel will join to support the company as it expands services and rolls out new technology.
“Makers Fund believes gaming influencers will usher a new era of growth and engagement in live, interactive entertainment,” said Jay Chi, founding partner of Makers Fund, in a statement. “Popdog is well positioned to pioneer new methods of engaging users and creating value for influencers and ecosystem stakeholders across the globe.”
This is the first institutional round of funding for Popdog. The funds will be used to support a number of key areas for Popdog, including new hires in technology, services, and product development, helping the company continue to innovate and expand its team and technology offerings for all constituents in gaming and entertainment.
In an email, Swartz said that Popdog has 25 employees.
“Popdog handles talent management and analytics for gamers and live streamers, as well as advises companies looking to enter and engage in the esports industry,” he said.