EMAILED ON February 26, 2018 BY Lindsey Quinn

Real-life sports stars invest $38m to build esports empire

New esports team Vision Esports LP (VELP for short?) just closed a $38m round from investors led by VC firms Creative Artists Agency and Evolution Media — plus some huge names in real-life sports, who can no long deny that this esports thing is, well… a thing.

Professional gaming leagues are gaining viewers faster than you can say “first-person shooter”: 296m people watched esports around the world last year — up 40% from 2015. For context, in spring 2017, 63.2m million people had watched an NBA game in the last 12 months.

If ya can’t beat ’em, back ’em

VELP’s investors include NBA star Kevin Durant, the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team, and New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.

The company itself is led by both tech and sports insiders, including Stratton Sclavos, former CEO at Verisign, and Rick Fox, retired NBA player-turned-actor, who apparently saw the writing on the wall after attending an esports game at Madison Square Garden.

Esports teams are small potatoes — leagues are where the money is

According to Sclavos, “leagues make 27 times the revenue” of teams.

But, where esports leagues like gamemaker Blizzard’s Overwatch have avoided outside brand partnerships, VELP has taken a majority stake in a few others, like Vision Entertainment, which produces livestreams for esports events.

So, if all goes according to plan, VELP’s conglomerate will own the players and the content generated around it.