GameOn Technology has raised $10.5 million in growth capital in the form of a convertible note financing. That means investors are loaning the company money, and the investors will have the option to convert the loan into ownership in the company.
Andrew Ogawa of Quest Ventures led the financing, with participation from Mirae Venture Partners and Silver Lake founder Jim Davidson. One of the features of convertible note financing is that it enables investors to put money into a company without haggling over valuation.
The San Francisco-based GameOn Technology makes the proprietary ChatOS platform, which enables sports and gaming companies and brands to create their own exclusive chat applications. The company started with sports, but in 2019, it added esports/gaming customers such as Riot Games and PUBG. The customer base is still about 70%, but esports/gaming represents a big chance for growth in 2020, said Alex Beckman, CEO of GameOn, in an interview with GamesBeat.
The company will also use the money to expand into new content verticals and increase sales efforts. The latest funding round brings the company’s total to $18.5 million to date.
“We built a platform called ChatOS, which is akin to Amazon Web Services for chat functions,” said Beckman. “The NBA uses its to take its existing content and to chat with users on applications like Facebook Messenger and many other platforms so they can engage in voice or social, in real time.”
GameOn works with the NBA, NHL, PGA TOUR, FIFA, and PUBG on chat applications. But don’t call its platform a “chat bot.” Beckman said that users got confused by the “bot” word, as they viewed it as something that got Donald Trump elected or a fake Twitter user.
“We felt that chat bots were getting a bad reputation,” Beckman said. “We naturally engage with our favorite stuff by voice or by typing. So we just use the words ‘chat application.'”
Beckman said the past year saw a significant increase in engagement with its existing chat application partners, including the Sky Sports Jeff Bot and the Arsenal Bot, GameOn’s most popular chat applications by total and daily users.
Chat applications let fans connect with their favorite content when they want to do so, while enabling brands with huge fan bases to provide content-rich experiences customized for each fan, Beckman said.
Analyst group Gartner said companies are using chat applications for customer service and support at an accelerated rate. GameOn’s ChatOS platform helps brands realize new opportunities, enabling them to connect with fans organically, where they are, on the platforms of their choosing, and with content they want.
Ogawa said in a statement the company has proven itself for its fluency in the behavior of fans, and it provides a chat tool that lets major global brands communicate in new, engaging ways with their evolving fan bases.
In addition to investment from Quest, other investors participating in GameOn’s note financing round include Ed Zander (former CEO of Motorola), returning investors Innovation Global Capital, Asahi Media Lab Ventures, Claytonia Capital, as well as first-time investors and NBA stars Mo Bamba and Andre Iguodala.
GameOn previously raised $2 million in a seed funding in 2016 and $6.5 million in 2017. Back then, the investors included Joe Montana, Snoop Dogg, Gary Payton, Lawyer Milloy, and Mark Attanasio. GameOn has 20 employees. Those employees help train the companies’ in-house teams to implement ChatOS.
“We’re going to be able to expand and tackle more of the opportunity of content owners doing more with their fan bases,” Beckman said. “We are seeing that our clients have more engaged fans, and sponsors are interested in reaching them. There are 3.5 billion people on these chat platforms, and most of them now have an application framework you can publish to.”
Beckman said the company makes money from license fees for ChatOS, which supports 12 chat platforms such as Discord. A customer like Riot Games could use ChatOS and then reach those platforms more easily. ChatOS makes it easy for customers to engage in chat across different social platforms. The company also sells advertising, which can connect a user directly with a company from inside a chat app.
Beckman said,”Our chat solution we create is really robust thing. Chat is the screen that most people will watch their content on. It’s like watching TV for a generation that doesn’t want to pay $200 a month for Comcast or even $60 a month for Hulu Live. We’re sending out enough highlights using our filtering and our relationships with these different clients to create a full-on viewing experiences.”