We are pleased to announce that Foundry Venture Capital 2016, L.P. has completed its initial investment in Taunt as part of a $1.75 million financing. Based in Seattle, Taunt is a social competition platform for eSports fans. Fans communicate and compete to show off their game knowledge, earning bragging rights in the community. The really cool part: it’s all in real-time, so you can see stats and call events as they’re unfolding live.
Taunt is the latest spin-out from Pioneer Square Labs. Ben Gilbert and the gang at PSL have been taking different stabs internally at the esports market since the moment they started two years ago. With Taunt, we believe that they have discovered a unique angle and a really fun approach.
There are a number of similarities to the original thesis behind our investment in Zynga in 2007 – building game mechanics around social interactions online with a virtual goods business model on top. Since it’s 2017, Taunt is also based on a lot of data and machine learning under the hood to power the experience.
If you don’t know much about esports, the stats on this market are staggering: the estimated 2017 audience will reach 385 million, and 43 million people tuned in last year to watch the League of Legends Finals. Over 20% of Americans now engage in fantasy sports. It serves as the social fabric that gives people a reason to follow and care about games. There is an enormous opportunity for such a gamified social fabric in esports, and Taunt is building just that.
We think Seattle is an awesome place to build Taunt. The city is a powerhouse of endemic PC gaming know-how with Valve, Amazon, and Microsoft. Seattle also has hugely successful mobile gaming companies (DoubleDown, Big Fish, PopCap, and Z2) and is rich in gaming talent.
We are excited to be joining the team. They’re launching an early alpha product to get feedback from the esports community for the League of Legends World Championship. If that sort of thing is your fancy, you can sign up to take part here.