Sleeper has raised $20 million to increase from its base in fantasy sports activities to the adjoining market of fantasy esports and online game chat. Andreessen Horowitz led the spherical, and different buyers embody Twitch cofounder Kevin Lin, retired NBA participant Baron Davis, and NFL vast receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster. NBA All-Star Kevin Durant participated in an earlier spherical.
Sleeper CEO Nan Wang mentioned the corporate is launching a fantasy esports chat service across the League of Legends Championship Series, the annual esports match for Riot Games’ widespread title. The LCS is now the third-most-popular main skilled sports activities league within the U.S. for 18-year-olds to 34-year-olds.
“Sleeper is a messaging and a gaming platform for sports and esports,” Wang mentioned. “It’s one of the only apps in the world that has both the messaging layer and an activity layer, which is the games that people play on it. The one other one that comes to mind obviously, is WeChat, where the utility is there for people to communicate, but they also play social games directly built into the app. And that’s what we’re doing in the sports and esports vertical.”
Sleeper’s goal is to create an area the place followers can bond over sports activities and esports. Sleeper integrates chat features and an animated interface, so gamers are immersed with their associates in a sport of soccer or League of Legends. It’s a distinct expertise from simply watching numbers change on a display, Wang mentioned.
Sleeper’s chat means that you can watch a sport and chat on the similar time with out bouncing between completely different apps — that makes for a smoother participant expertise. It additionally makes it simple to attach each together with your shut buddies (and smack discuss with emojis particular to LoL and different video games), and with individuals it’s possible you’ll not know properly or not have as associates on different platforms (like office colleagues). And, it offers gamers a single supply for all information and information about your fantasy gamers and groups — you possibly can drop information in your group chats concerning the newest roster swaps and free company rumors, and instantly swipe to examine on participant stats and the way this impacts your workforce.
Moving to esports
Above: Players draft their very own fantasy workforce in Sleeper’s esports app.
Later on this yr, Sleeper intends to increase into extra conventional fantasy sports activities resembling basketball and soccer. But with sports activities on pause and LCS now being broadcast on ESPN, Sleeper is sort of a bridge between the 2 worlds of sports activities and esports, Wang mentioned.
“Sleeper is building a messenger and a gaming platform for you to play with your friends around the sports and esports that you follow and watch,” Wang mentioned. “With sports, over the past two years, we’ve been the fastest organically growing sports app in the U.S.”
Above: Sleeper CEO Nan Wang
Players can start drafting their groups at present, with official competitors kicking off on Saturday, June 13 — the beginning of the LCS summer time season.
Sleeper launched its first fantasy sports activities league in 2017 with season-long leagues for NFL soccer. Over one million lively customers performed on the platform throughout the latest NFL season, 40% to 50% of customers coming again each day. Seventy-eight % of customers play on Sleeper greater than twice per day, and 28% of customers play greater than eight instances a day, with 10% enjoying greater than 10 instances a day. The launch of fantasy League of Legends opens up a big and rising alternative inside esports and is a pure extension of the workforce’s missions, Chen mentioned.
Above: Sleeper’s League of Legends Championship Series fantasy app.
Roughly 30% of the customers are girls. “The key differentiator for us is the social piece of it,” he mentioned. “The communications piece is embedded directly into the game is central to the experience. And as a result, you don’t have to jump around from place to place email, text, and threads. You just use it to hang out with your friends. And that translates into much higher activity on our platform because it’s all centralized.”
The firm has 23 staff, up from simply 10 in January. Wang mentioned the cofounders have identified one another since they have been 5 years outdated.
“Our upbringing has always centered around these group chats, and these fantasy leagues that we’ve played really as an excuse to activate our friendship every year,” Wang mentioned. “I moved away in third grade and that friendship is persisted this entire time.”
What’s a sleeper?
Above: A Sleeper fantasy esports participant card.
The identify “sleeper” is a fantasy time period about undiscovered, latent expertise that is able to escape. Rivals embody firms resembling DraftKings, however Sleeper has no real-money playing or betting. It’s monetized via the sale of beauty property and different digital items, like digital mascots.
“Our mission is to impact the billions of sports fans out there in the world and create something that children and parents can pick up together and have fun,” Wang mentioned.
Davis really reached out to Wang via the app, as he was a fan and needed to study extra concerning the firm behind it. He finally invested.
In the fantasy esports league, every participant will undergo the lively roster for the league and decide 5 esports gamers for a workforce. Then you watch the outcomes are available because the season unfolds.
The pandemic has clearly shut down conventional sports activities, and that prompted Sleeper to speed up its plans for esports to provide followers a brand new place to attach. I requested if Wang would take into account including esports for Madden NFL Football and 2K NBA video video games, however he mentioned he believes followers have been extra more likely to watch these as precise sports activities than esports.
“Our view is that in the long term sports are going to come back and that experience is not going to go away,” Wang mentioned.