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Mobile Premier League becomes unicorn after lockdowns drive growth

Mobile Premier League becomes unicorn after lockdowns drive growth

Mumbai: Esports and online gaming platform Mobile Premier League (

MPL

) said it has raised a fresh round of funding led by Legatum Capital, a UAE-based investment firm —-at a valuation of $2.3 billion. While the company did not offer details on the size of the fundraise, sources in the know said it had raised $150 million as the company’s valuation jumped 2.5 times compared to its previous fundraise.

The three-year-old startup was valued at $945 million in its Series D round, which it closed in February this year, as ET had reported.

“I think a large part of the valuation increase has to primarily do with the potential that MPL has. We are not a single country and category player,” cofounder and chief executive Sai Srinivas told ET.

“Our focus has always been to build this global competitive gaming platform because we see a world in which eventually games will be competed in by folks from various countries. MPL is in the business of building out infrastructure which is going to enable people from all of these countries to compete in global world-class tournaments,” he added.

Existing investors including Sequoia Capital India, SIG, RTP Global, Go-Ventures, Moore Strategic Ventures, Play Ventures, Base Partners, Telstra Ventures, and Founders Circle Capital also participated in the round.

Times Internet, a part of the Times group which publishes this paper, is an early investor in MPL.

MPL will use the fresh capital to reach meaningful scale in the United States, grow its user base in Indonesia where it has a million monthly paying customers, and invest in original gaming content as well as hire talent.

ET reported in July that MPL entered the US in a bid to capture one of the largest mobile gaming markets. The Bengaluru-based startup launched in the US market with a vision to become a ‘super app’— a unified gaming platform with multiple offerings.

Founded in 2019 by Sai Srinivas and Shubham Malhotra, MPL will become the 26th startup and the second online gaming company to join the unicorn club of privately held firms, which are valued at $1 billion or more.

ETtech

Graphic: Rahul Awasthi

Rival Dream 11’s parent Dream Sports was valued at nearly $5 billion in March this year when its executed a $400 million financing round from TCV, D1 Capital Partners and Falcon Edge in a secondary round.

The Bengaluru-based startup launched in the US market with a vision to become a ‘super app’— a unified gaming platform with multiple offerings.

It opened an office in New York to oversee operations in the region. Srinivas said the company is focused on scaling up in the US market.

“Over the next four to five months I think our number one goal is to prove that we can scale and scale the US meaningfully,” he said, adding that growth in the US has been strong and if the trend continues it will leave India behind as the largest geography in the next 12-18 months.

“What we’re seeing in the US is significantly higher average revenue per user and significantly better retentions than what we see in India. So, honestly, it’s been a pleasantly surprising ride for us so far,” he said.

“There is no other equivalent platform of similar value proposition, currently operating in the US. The market for competitive gaming or esports is already validated there,” Srinivas told ET in an interview in July. “From our perspective, we see that if MPL can provide the same value proposition in the US on both Android and on iOS, then we’re probably the only gaming platform in the world that’s available in three out of the four largest markets in the world.”

The mobile gaming company has over 85 million users in India accessing the platform in over 70 games. Its offerings include a mix of fantasy sports, real money games such as rummy, poker, and card games.

Srinivas said the company has seen significant momentum on the back of Covid-19 pandemic and its active user base has grown by 3-3.5 times since March 2020.

“We’re at about $1.5- $2 billion annual revenue run rate. We believe that the Indian market will grow at least another 40-50% for us over the course of the next 12-18 months,” he added.

Srinivas said that China’s recent restrictions on online gaming companies could put the Southeast Asia market on the radar of investors.

“From our perspective, it ensures that the capital that was previously not even looking at India will now start taking India and Southeast Asia seriously. But I don’t believe that it will change anything for companies there, maybe at least the bigger ones,” he said.

MPL’s revenue has jumped significantly compared to last year, a momentum it seeks to carry onto the next, Srinivas had told ET earlier.

MPL is based in Bengaluru, with offices in New Delhi, Pune, Jakarta, Singapore, and New York. It has more than 800 employees across these cities.

Earlier this year, MPL acquired esports firm Gaming Monk to develop a suite of esports and live streaming capabilities.

Even as the online gaming industry has heightened investor interest in India, the real money gaming sector has been under heightened regulatory scrutiny. It received some respite when the apex court held that rival Dream11’s fantasy format was a game of skill and did not amount to gambling. However recent reports suggest that Karanataka may join Kerala and Andhra Pradesh and ban online gaming.

India ranked first in global mobile games downloads, according to Sensor Tower, totalling about 840 million, which is 18.7% of the total downloads worldwide.

( Originally published on Sep 15, 2021 )

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