Japanese esports startup PlayBrain secures $6m in Series A funding

PlayBrain's founder Mike Sheetal.

PlayBrain, an esports content provider in Japan, on Tuesday announced that it has raised $6 million in a Series A funding round that will finance the expansion of its esports and entertainment properties in the Japanese market.

In a statement, PlayBrain said the funding round was backed by existing investor BITKRAFT Esports Ventures, a gaming-focused investment firm. BITKRAFT led the firm’s $1.9 million seed funding in February 2019.

Established in 2016, PlayBrain specialises in esports planning, branding, creative, event management, product development, and marketing. It partners with Riot Games and Yoshimoto Kogyo to operate the League of Legends Japan League (LJL).

The Tokyo-headquartered firm said it will use the fresh funding to grow its footprint, expand into additional esports and entertainment properties, and further support the operation and commercialisation of LJL.

The esports market in Japan is expected to grow 250 per cent over the next four years, said PlayBrain founder Mike Sheetal.

“We are proud to play an integral role in establishing and building the esports market in Japan and helping it gain more ground in the global esports industry,” Sheetal said.

Globally, esports revenue was estimated to grow to $1.5 billion this year, from just $696 million in 2017, with the Asia-Pacific region accounting for 51 per cent of the user base that year, according to Newzoo, a market intelligence firm covering global games and esports.

There has also been increased investor interest in esports in Southeast Asia, which saw Singapore-based Evos Esports raising a total of $4.4 million in its Series A round last year.

Also, Sky Mavis, a blockchain-based video game development studio, raised $2 million from 500 Startups, Animoca Brands, and others in November, while Singapore’s Team Flash raised $1.5 million in a seed round led by family office Octava.

PlayBrain said it helps global games and brands reach Japanese audiences by producing esports events and by creating its own portfolio of major esports platforms and formats tailored to the Japanese market,

“We not only saw the momentum and growth of the Japanese esports market as a whole but also witnessed PlayBrain’s instrumental role in establishing the esports-ecosystem in Japan,” said BITKRAFT founding general partner Malte Barth.

BITKRAFT is an early and mid-stage investor focused on the esports sector. In 2018, the firm launched a venture fund that is active in Berlin, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, the epicentres of the western esports world.

Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
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Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.