Champions Round, a fantasy league startup targeting Gen Z sports fans, announced today that it has raised $7 million in new Series A funding.
The funding round will go towards the development of a new ‘Creator Rooms’ feature, which gives sports content creators the opportunity to connect more with younger players by creating content and fantasy sports games, whether hosting a combined NHL and NBA two-week snake draft. , create polls, and more.
The Series A was co-led by Point72 Ventures and Goodwater Capital, with additional investment from Pipeline Capital, Quest Venture Partners, Mana Ventures, Band of Angels and Gaingels. To date, the company has raised $10 million.
Users, particularly Gen Z users, are moving away from traditional fantasy sports, where leagues are tied to entire seasons. Instead, many users opt for daily fantasy sports (DFS), a subcategory of fantasy sports games, where players compete for short periods of time rather than an entire season. The Fantasy Sports & Gaming Association (FSGA) reported that more than 30 million people in the US participate in DFS, a 12% increase from 2019.
Champions Round offers a version of this it’s dubbed “micro-fantasy sports,” which are short games that users can play on a daily, weekly, monthly, or quarterly basis. For example, users can build and manage a team around a single event, such as the NFL draft, eliminating the need for a season-long commitment.
FanDuel and DraftKings currently dominate the daily fantasy sports industry. However, most DFS games require money to play. Meanwhile, Champions Round offers two options: free or buy-in.
“Fantasy sports traditionally require long-term commitments, rarely reward their players, and can be very inconvenient and cumbersome to play,” said Champions Round co-founder and CEO Carter Russ in a statement. “With a rock-solid game loop, we’ve developed short games that invite friends to play with each other again and again.”
As Champions Round continues to invest in its Gen Z-focused app, it will launch a new Creator Rooms feature in July 2023. The upcoming feature will help creators monetize a wider audience, the company claims.
Champions Round explained to AapkaDost that it rewards content creators for playing fantasy league games with their followers. The company did not specify how much the influencers earn, but said they are based on engagement and the number of signups.
Ultimately, within the platform, Champions Round will automatically pay creators for “engagement, signups, cosmetic items sold in their rooms, revenue share, and ad revenue,” the company told us.
Some notable creators of first and third party content include Dom2k, Fantasy Football Analyst, Dan Titus, Jeff HasleyTrell Jones, Spencer Aguiar, Steve Smalls and more.
“[Gen Z] does not watch full sports matches but consume sports on social media by following content creators, athletes, teams, personalities and highlights. By making games that fit this bite-sized serialized sports fandom, we really cater to their needs,” the company added.
Champions Round has also received support from professional athletes, according to the company. This includes former NBA point guard Baron Davis, Kansas City Chiefs running back Melvin Gordon, New Orleans Saints safety Tyrann Mathieu, and basketball player Zaire Wade (the son of former Miami Heat shooting guard Dwayne Wade).
The recent funding will be spent on the content business, including social media platforms (Instagram, TwitterTikTok and Discord), podcasts and YouTube channel.
In addition, it will allow the company to build a new marketing department and double the total team size from approximately 30 to 60 employees. Recently, former president and COO of Activision Blizzard, Coddy Johnson, joined the board of directors.
Champions Round was founded in 2018 by Russ, an entrepreneur who has been commissioning his fantasy basketball league for over a decade, and Chase Payne, who has over 15 years of experience with gaming companies such as Electronic Arts and Zynga. Payne was also a founding member of Major League Fantasy, a daily fantasy sports network that was acquired by Latitude 360 in 2015.
“We wanted to find ways to create social sports moments at any time of the year,” Russ told us. “We felt empowered to return to the core that gave sports games the most meaning: playing with our friends. What used to be an annual cadence, fantasy sports firmly believed that it should be available at any time regardless of cash prizes.
The app was launched to the public in September 2021. In 2022, the app had an average growth of 28% month over month, which was organic growth according to Champions Round. The new marketing department will likely help increase the user base. The average user is 22 years old.
Data.ai estimates that Champions Round has been downloaded more than 10,000 times on the App Store and Google Play to date.
The company also praised that it recently turned profitable. “We did something that very few fantasy sports operators have ever done: turn a profit,” Russ and Payne noted.
Champions Round has six game modes: ‘Daily Dozen’, in which users can choose from 12 props each day; “Boost Ball”, the typical snake draft format; “Big Board”, which allows users to create a selection of incoming prospects; “Spicy Slips”, a prediction game; “7 Stakes”, where players answer questions to earn points; and “Sunday’s Best,” a game designed especially for draft players on Sunday-only NFL teams.
Users can play private matches with up to 16 friends or be assigned to public competitions with strangers.
At the moment, Champions Round mainly offers games for the NFL and NBA. It also offers games for esports fans. By 2024, it will expand to more leagues, such as the English Premier League, La Liga, Serie A, Bundesliga, Formula 1, League of Legends, Rocket League, Apex Legends, Fortnite and more.
Like sports betting apps, Champions Round users in the US can only play for money in over 35 states, including Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Utah, Virginia and more.
In addition to cash prizes, Champions Round features in-game memorabilia and digital collectibles such as jerseys and helmets, as well as leaderboards, other gamification features, and more. As users participate in more competitions, earn points, or make in-app purchases, they eventually become eligible for exclusive competitions that offer bigger cash prizes.
In addition, Champions Round plans to add more “personalization, progression, and metagame achievements” for its game modes.
Champions Round is available worldwide. The app can be downloaded on iOS and Android devices.