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Startups net more than capital with NBA players as investors

Posted by on Jun 1, 2019 in Alexa, Andre Iguodala, Basketball, Carmelo Anthony, Column, Dan Porter, david stern, Facebook, Golden State Warriors, Google, Kevin Durant, Messenger, national basketball association, NBA, overtime, player, SMS, Snap, Snapchat, snaptravel, Social Media, Spark Capital, Startups, stephen curry, TC, Telstra Ventures, toronto, twitch | 0 comments

If you’re a big basketball fan like me, you’ll be glued to the TV watching the Golden State Warriors take on the Toronto Raptors in the NBA finals. (You might be surprised who I’m rooting for.)

In honor of the big games, we took a shot at breaking down investment activities of the players off the court. Last fall, we did a story highlighting some of the sport’s more prolific investors. In this piece, we’ll take a deeper dive into just what having an NBA player as a backer can do for a startup beyond the capital involved. But first, here’s a chart of some startups funded by NBA players, both former and current.

 

In February, we covered how digital sports media startup Overtime had raised $23 million in a Series B round of funding led by Spark Capital. Former NBA Commissioner David Stern was an early investor and advisor in the company (putting money in the company’s seed round). Golden State Warriors player Kevin Durant invested as part of the company’s Series A in early 2018 via his busy investment vehicle, Thirty Five Ventures. And then, Carmelo Anthony invested (via his Melo7 Tech II fund) earlier this year. Other NBA-related investors include Baron DavisAndre Iguodala and Victor Oladipo, and other non-NBA backers include Andreessen Horowitz and Greycroft.

I talked to Overtime’s CEO, 27-year-old Zack Weiner, about how the involvement of so many NBA players came about. I also wondered what they brought to the table beyond their cash. But before we get there, let me explain a little more about what Overtime does.

Founded in late 2016 by Dan Porter and Weiner, the Brooklyn company has raised a total of $35.3 million. The pair founded the company after observing “how larger, legacy media companies, such as ESPN, were struggling” with attracting the younger viewer who was tuning into the TV less and less “and consuming sports in a fundamentally different way.”

So they created Overtime, which features about 25 to 30 sports-related shows across several platforms (which include YouTube, Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, Twitter and Twitch) aimed at millennials and the Gen Z generation. Weiner estimates the company’s programs get more than 600 million video views every month.

In terms of attracting NBA investors, Weiner told me each situation was a little different, but with one common theme: “All of them were fans of Overtime before we even met them…They saw what we were doing as the new wave of sports media and wanted to get involved. We didn’t have to have 10 meetings for them to understand what we were doing. This is the world they live and breathe.”

So how is having NBA players as investors helping the company grow? Well, for one, they can open a lot of doors, noted Weiner.

“NBA players are very powerful people and investors,” he said. “They’ve helped us make connections in music, fashion and all things tangential to sports. Some have created content with us.”

In addition, their social clout has helped with exposure. Their posting or commenting on Instagram gives the company credibility, Weiner said.

“Also just, in general, getting their perspectives and opinions,” he added. “A lot of our content is based on working with athletes, so they understand what athletes want and are interested in being a part of.”

It’s not just sports-related startups that are attracting the interest of NBA players. I also talked with Hussein Fazal, the CEO of SnapTravel, which recently closed a $21.2 million Series A that included participation from Telstra Ventures and Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry.

Founded in 2016, Toronto-based SnapTravel offers online hotel booking services over SMS, Facebook Messenger, Alexa, Google Home and Slack. It’s driven more than $100 million in sales, according to Fazal, and is seeing its revenue grow about 35% quarter over quarter.

Like Weiner, Fazal told me that Curry’s being active on social media about SnapTravel helped draw positive attention and “add a lot of legitimacy” to his company.

“If you’re an end-consumer about to spend $1,000 on a hotel booking, you might be a little hesitant about trusting a newer brand like ours,” he said. “But if they go to our home page and see our investors, that holds some weight in the eyes of the public, and helps show we’re not a fly-by-night company.”

Another way Curry’s involvement has helped SnapTravel is in terms of the recruitment and retainment of employees. Curry once spent hours at the office, meeting with employees and doing a Q&A.

“It was really cool,” Fazal said. “And it helps us stand out from other startups when hiring.”

Regardless of who wins the series, it’s clear that startups with NBA investors on their team have a competitive advantage. (Still, Go Raptors!)


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Fortnite Season 8 is now available, and it includes pirates, cannons and volcano lava

Posted by on Feb 28, 2019 in Christmas, epic games, fortnite, fortnite battle royale, Gaming, player, Software | 0 comments

Fortnite, the world’s most popular game right now with some 200 million players, has just announced that its much anticipated Season 8 is available.

For those of you who don’t play Fortnite, the title takes on an episodic approach with new features, tools and maps released every few months. That keeps things fresh, gamers engaged and the money flowing since each new season offers a Battle Pass which costs around $10 and unlocks a load of goodies, including skins and emote dance moves.

Season 8 is pretty much what the leaks this week suggested. The theme is pirates with new skins that include a gigantic banana suit, pirates and snakes, and pirate cannon is a new weapon that’s been added. Cannons can dish out 100 damage when there’s a direct hit, or administer 50 damage of those in the impact area — it can also be used to fire players to new locations.

The map is also a major Fortnite focus, and Season 8 has added lava to the existing volcano. Stepping on lava gives players one damage point per touch while there are volcanic vents that can be used to send a player or vehicle into the air using a gust of hot air. There’s also a range of treasure to be found inside pirate ships, another new addition which is where the cannons can be found.

On the gaming playing side, the major addition is ‘Party Assist’ mode which lets players bring their friends into Fortnite’s daily or weekly challenges. Those challenges are important to players since they unlock treasures, including skins, and, in fact, those who played Season 7 could earn a free Battle Pass for Season 8 by completing the right challenges. That might have saved a few million parents $10.

(By the way, if you’re struggling to load the game, that’s because scheduled maintenance kicked off at 4am EST in preparation for the new season launch — you can find more info on the status page here.)

Those are the main additions, though game-maker Epic Games has chucked in a few little touches — including extending the somewhat comical ‘infinite dab’ feature from 11 hours to 12, meaning that your character will keep dancing a little longer when left in the lobby.

I can’t help but think Season 7 was a greater leap — since the addition of planes and ziplines really changed how players get around — but we’ll have to see how the gaming public reacts. This time around, a lot of the focus is on skins and emotes, rather than features.

A recent report suggested Fortnite’s revenue had dipped in January, but that was pretty unfair because its the month that followed a surge in spending around the December Battle Pass and also, more generally, a surge around the Christmas holidays.

Sources told us recently Epic Games banked $3 billion in profit across its entire business in 2018, thanks in particular to Fortnite, and it needs to keep its season releases compelling if that streak is to continue. There’s a lot riding on Season 8, particularly as credible rivals emerge.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Zynga to acquire Small Giant Games, the maker of Empires & Puzzles, for $700M

Posted by on Dec 20, 2018 in analyst, ceo, computing, Creandum, eqt ventures, farmville, Frank Gibeau, Fundings & Exits, Gaming, helsinki, player, profounders, Startups, Venture Capital, Zynga | 0 comments

Social game developer Zynga has entered into an agreement to acquire Small Giant Games, the startup behind the popular mobile game Empires & Puzzles, in a deal expected to total $700 million.

Zynga, which has tumbled since its 2011 Nasdaq initial public offering, will initially acquire 80 percent of Small Giant Games for $560 million, composed of $330 million in cash and $230 million of unregistered Zynga common stock. Zynga will fund part of the transaction with a $200 million credit facility.

“We’ve been impressed by the quality and momentum of Empires & Puzzles as we add another Forever Franchise into Zynga’s portfolio,” Zynga chief executive officer Frank Gibeau said in a statement. “Small Giant has created an innovative game that delivers a unique player experience that engages over the long term.”

The deal is expected to close on January 1. Zynga will purchase the remaining 20 percent of Small Giant over the next three years “at valuations based on specified profitability goals.”

Helsinki-based Small Giant Games had raised $52 million in equity funding from EQT Ventures, Creandum, Spintop Ventures, Profounders and others since it was founded in 2013. The company reported $33 million of revenue for Empires & Puzzles, its most popular game, 10 months after its launch in 2017. Small Giant, which is also behind Alliance Wars and Season 2: Atlantis, says they exceeded 2017’s revenue just four months into 2018.

“Our studio was founded on the idea that small, skillful teams can accomplish giant things, and I am confident that partnering with Zynga is the right next step in our evolution,” Small Giant CEO Timo Soininen said in a statement. “We will now operate as a separate studio within Zynga, maintaining our identity, culture and creative independence. By leveraging the expertise and support from the wider Zynga team, we will amplify the reach of Empires & Puzzles and the new games in our development pipeline.”

Zynga, founded in 2007, is the developer of FarmVille, Zynga Poker, Words with Friends and several other mobile games. The company reported revenues of $248.88 million for the quarter ended September 2018, failing to meet analyst estimates.

Zynga expects to bring in $243 million in revenue in the fourth quarter of 2018.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Mass shooting at Madden Championship Series event in Florida leaves several dead

Posted by on Aug 26, 2018 in Electronic Arts, Florida, Las Vegas, madden nfl, player, steven, TC, twitch | 0 comments

At least eleven people have been shot and four people were killed in a mass shooting attack at a livestream event debuting the new “Madden NFL 19” game at an arcade in Jacksonville, Fla., according to local news reports.

The Jacksonville Sheriff’s office confirmed on Twitter that one suspect was dead at the scene and the police were still investigating.

“We just finished clearing The Landing of potential witnesses and victims there,” said Sheriff Mike Williams in a statement broadcast on Facebook Live. “We have no outstanding suspects,” Williams said. “We have one suspect in this case. He is deceased at the scene.”

According to a report in The Los Angeles Timesthe shooter was a player who had lost during the competition and then shot other attendees at the event before killing himself.

The event was live-streamed on Twitch and there are multiple audio streams that broadcast the sounds of the shooting live.

Multiple participants in the event took to Twitter to describe the scene.

The sheriff’s office confirmed via tweet that there witnesses to the shooting were hiding in locked areas in the shopping area where the event — and shooting — occurred.

“This is a horrible situation and our deepest sympathies go out to all involved,” said Electronic Arts in a statement about the shooting.

In a direct message to The Los Angeles Times, one witness, Steven “Steveyj” Javaruski, said that the gunman had targeted “a few” people  and shot at least five before shooting himself.

The event was a Madden tournament with about 250 people in attendance. It was intended to be a competition that would select attendees for a final tournament in Las Vegas.

This story will be updated with additional information


Source: The Tech Crunch

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