Digital chat startup GameOn has raised $35 million in Series B funding, which will support its mission of allowing sports brands to message with their fans.
Founded in 2014, the company has helped the likes of Arsenal, the NBA and the Las Vegas Raiders send and receive messages on platforms ranging from SMS to Skype. Milwaukee Brewers owner Mark Attanasio and the Minnesota Vikings-owning Wilf family are among GameOn’s Series B investors, in a round co-led by Mirae Asset Venture Investment, Mighty Capital and B3 Capital.
GameOn founder Alex Beckman said in an interview that the new money would go towards the company’s expansion internationally and beyond sports, and also to further develop GameOn’s platform as artificial intelligence becomes a more common component of messaging.
“There are over three billion people chatting every day,” Beckman said in a statement. “GameOn has unlocked the chat experience and turned it into an offensive, revenue-generating machine for a wide variety of teams and industries to develop a deeper and more substantial relationship with their consumers.”
Rather than the automated, customer-service oriented experiences that define most online corporate chatbots, GameOn encourages its clients to open up ongoing conversations with fans that could move from requests for scores and highlights to real-time alerts and direct retail shopping. The goal is also to integrate those back-and-forths into the chat apps fans already use to talk with friends instead of driving them to a property-owned app or site.
Many teams are increasingly focused on developing those direct connections to fans and building out databases of follower data, given the uncertainty around major social platforms.
“I think a big reason for the excitement around our investor base in this round is that the landscape is changing,” Beckman said. “You want fans that are opted in, that are directly connected to you.”
New forms of interaction, from voice assistants to VR, have popped up in recent years, but a bulk of the fan experience still lives on phones—and in apps like Messages.
Last week, the Elon Musk and Microsoft-backed project OpenAI gave a peek into the potential of automated chatbots by releasing ChatGPT, a conversational UI with the apparent ability to write poems, create code or even discuss the merits of AI for the future of sports fandom.
Beckman said “a big part” of the new funds would land with GameOn’s data science team as it experiments with more advanced automation. However, Beckman added, “AI is still in its infancy.”
With a software-licensing business model, GameOn is also looking to make its offering more affordable for the thousands of smaller teams with fandoms of their own.
“I view chat as an amazing way for these different organizations—whether it’s leagues or teams or content owners—to broadcast to young fans,” Beckman said. “This is an old way to deliver content, but it just hasn’t been done as well as we’re doing it.”