North American eSports organization Cloud9 announced on Tuesday a Series A round of funding, one that includes San Francisco Giants outfielder Hunter Pence, NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana and NBA center Andrew Bogut.
Pence, who is an avid gamer himself and has a Twitch channel, joined other sports figures like Golden State Warriors co-owner Chamath Palihapitiy and Los Angeles Dodgers co-owner Todd Boehl.
The round was led by Daniel Fiden of FunPlus Ventures and consists of wide-ranging sports and entertainment figures, team owners and well-known individuals at the intersection of technology, media and entrepreneurship.
Currently, Cloud9 fields 10 teams and players across eight eSports titles like League of Legends, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Call of Duty, Vainglory and Hearthstone. The $7-plus million investment will be used to attract new sponsorships and potentially be used to support entry fees and fund a more central headquarters, according to the Los Angeles Times.
“Cloud9 is a fantastic organization that has shown throughout the years that it has what it takes to continuously contend for championships in multiple esports titles,” Montana, who is the co-founder of investment fund Liquid 2 Ventures, said in a statement. “The players of Cloud9 work hard to always compete at the highest level and the organization’s leadership strives to provide a positive atmosphere that allows its players the opportunity to be in a position to do their best.”
Added Jack Etienne, co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Cloud9 said in a statement: “We’ve formed a fantastic group of investors to help push Cloud9 to the next level. With this investment you can expect Cloud9 to continue our expansion into the esports market while maintaining an exceptional experience for our players.”
“Growing up, I wanted to own an NFL team. Now, the obvious move is to invest in an esports franchise and I’m thrilled it’s Cloud9,” Alexis Ohanian, co-founder of Reddit said in a statement. “Jack Etienne has done an impressive job building a world class organization. He’s thinking long-term, regularly engaging with his fanbase, and continuing to lead Cloud9 toward a bright future.”
Other Cloud9 investors include United Talent Agency, Tesla board directors Antonio Gracias and Kimbal Musk, investor Bill Lee, Signia Venture Partners co-founder Rick Thompson, Founders Fund co-founder Ken Howery, Founders Fund partner Brian Singerman, Jam City co-founder Josh Yguado and Bonfire Studios co-founders Min Kim and Rob Pardo.
Beyond Cloud9, current and former athletes have tied themselves to eSports organizations, including Brooklyn Nets point guard Jeremy Lin, Boston Celtics forward Jonas Jerebko, Los Angeles Rams offensive Rodger Saffold and most recently ex-NFL player Hank Baskett.
“It’s very similar to watching any physical sport that we’ve watched on ESPN because there’s a story, there’s the moment, there’s the big plays just like in a game of basketball,” Pence said in a recent eSports documentary. “It’s like creating that great move or creating that great path…If you’re going to reach for that level, it’s going to take determination and discipline, a persistence — just like succeeding at anything in life.
“It’s not going away. It’s only going to get bigger and better, and we’re going to get bigger and better at it.”