On the eve of the first ICE North America event (May 13-15, Boston, Massachusetts), Wayne Kimmel, managing partner of the venture capital platform SeventySix Capital, described the American betting market’s potential and his thoughts about the material and digital worlds coexistence.
2018 was a landmark year for those interested in sports betting. How do you think the industry has changed 12 months after the abolition of PASPA?
It is the most exciting period in the past 20 years for both entrepreneurs and innovators who want to achieve something in a new large-scale US market. It reminds me of the beginning of the 90s when the Internet was invented. After all, this opens up new opportunities for entrepreneurs, innovators, and thinkers who can enter this market and revolutionize it. Previously, gaming used to be completely concentrated in Nevada, and now the industry is scaling across the entire country, so the prospects seem endless.
Do you think that new entrepreneurs have more potential in the land-based or digital segment?
Of course, technology development opens up new prospects for online gambling, but this does not exclude prospects for the land-based segment. Our investment thesis at SeventySix Capital is to merge the material and digital worlds. We need to use a comprehensive approach to figure out what can be improved. We explore and invest in truly unique opportunities, especially with regard to data collection and analysis, as well as the media sphere.
Can you explain why you invest such significant resources in eSports?
It's simple. The market continues to underestimate the number of people playing games. If you look at social gaming, you will see a whole world of new people, who the experts would never have included in the “gamers” category. The same applies to eSports. The sector finally comes out of the shadows. Experienced gamers and children playing somewhere in the house basement are beginning to realize that they can take part in tournaments and leagues or even get a college grant while being an eSports player. Parents are shocked when I tell them that their children can get a grant to study at more than 100 colleges throughout the United States thanks to eSports. They usually answer: “But my child is not an eSportsman, he just plays League of Legends.” All this is so new that people can’t understand it. This is so exciting!
SeventySix Capital has attracted a lot of attention to the amateur eSports network N3rd Street Gamers. Why is that?
The eSports professional level has been growing very rapidly. New arenas appear, and top-level teams receive significant financial support from investors. SeventySix Capital invests in the amateur segment as well. The most interesting thing is that there is as yet no formal infrastructure for this sector. Most sports are developing gradually – from sports schools to professional leagues. In case of eSports, large professional leagues appeared first, so now we need to build a foundation – small leagues, children's programs, tournaments in schools and colleges. We are happy to invest in these opportunities. You can’t just go to the local gym, place 12 computers and other equipment there, and play Overwatch with each other – it is not eSports. Playing online does not mean as much as the opportunity to be with your friends, fans and other players.
This sector has completely turned the idea of traditional sports. Nevertheless, it is a sport, and it requires skills. This is something that your parents can be proud of if you succeed in it. Moreover, in eSports, you can make a dizzying career! We hope that the sector will continue to expand similarly to the AAU Basketball Championship and small football tournaments. That is why we cooperate with company leaders, influential industry representatives and professional athletes helping us to realize our plans. We offer them unique opportunities for investing in eSports startups, as businessmen create a foundation for eSports development. We live in a wonderful time and look forward to discussing it all with enthusiastic industry representatives when we meet with them in Boston later this month.