Venture capital firm GFR Fund announced it has raised $20 million to launch its second fund, GFR Fund II, with a focus on technology startups disrupting the digital entertainment sector.
The new fund will invest in virtual reality, augmented reality, esports, livestreaming, artificial intelligence, and blockchain. Multiple strategic investors from Asia are backing it, and it is an affiliate of leading mobile gaming company Gree, based in Japan. San Francisco-based GFR Fund hopes to distinguish itself with its deep connections in Silicon Valley and business opportunities in Asian markets.
“We are looking beyond traditional game developers to invest in disruptive entertainment technologies,” said Teppei Tsutsui, managing director of GFR Fund, in a statement. “There is a new wave of founders and creators who are creatively combining existing technologies to offer new, scalable experiences, and that is very exciting. We have seen this already in products like Discord, and the market is ready for more new innovations.”
Some of GFR Fund’s notable investments to date have blended emerging technologies in creative ways to produce new opportunities in entertainment. For example, Sliver.tv combined blockchain and livestreaming content to create the next generation esports entertainment platform for top games like Fortnite, League of Legends, and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.
The first two investments under GFR Fund II are in the esports category. The fund invested in the Los Angeles-based ProGuides, a freemium esports platform for gamers to learn, connect, and play together.
“We enjoy working with GFR Fund, and the guidance they provide when navigating Japanese video game publishers is extremely valuable to our business,” said Sam Wang, CEO of ProGuides, in a statement. “GFR invested in our pre-seed stage round, which will be used to expand our platform to include more games and influencers.”
And GFR Fund also invested in Santa Monica-based Fan.AI, an audience monetization platform for sports and esports. The platform increases franchise and sponsorship revenues by making audience data actionable. GFR has invested in FanAI’s latest multi-million dollar round that will be announced in the next two months.
“GFR Fund has a deep understanding of gaming and esports in both Asia and U.S. markets, that combined with their focus on entertainment makes GFR a great partner as we expand into new verticals,” said Johannes Waldstein, founder and CEO of Fan.AI. “We will use the investment to expand our team and scale our business from an esports-focused SaaS model to a platform that encompasses sports and entertainment.”
Virtual Beings at Game Developers Conference
GFR Fund is bringing together industry experts from the U.S. and Asia, investors and entrepreneurs to share their views on what Virtual Beings bring to entertainment. This invite only event will take place on March 21 in San Francisco, during the Game Developers Conference.
The earlier fund, dubbed GVR Fund, was created in 2016, as part of Gree VR Capital. The GVR Fund invested in 30 companies, including VRChat, Spaces, Sliver.tv, Littlstar, Insidemaps, YBVR, Experiment 7, TheWaveVR, Sturfee, InsiteVR, Streem, DottyAR and Torch3D. In 2018, the fund rebranded itself as GFR Fund, as it added augmented reality and virtual reality investments.