Nas, 49ers invest $15 million in high school esports startup

PlayVS, a high school esports startup in the United States, has received $15 million worth of investments from the likes of famed rapper Nas, the San Francisco 49ers, NBA All-Star Baron Davis, Twitch COO Kevin Lin, and New York Jets offensive tackle Kelvin Beachum, among others, to introduce esports programs across the United States.

PlayVS has recently partnered with the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) to introduce esports programs to 20 states across the US. The startup is set to kick off its inaugural esports seasons in October of this year.

The startup is planning to use the investments to expand and develop its esports infrastructure. The investments were gained in a Series A funding round led by New Enterprise Associates, a venture capital firm with interests in technology and healthcare.

PlayVS will introduce esports programs to 5,000 high schools and five million students, with the participating schools and esports titles to be announced in July. PlayVS will be accommodating three genres of esports titles—MOBAs, fighting games, and sports games.

“Our exclusive partnership with the NFHS and NFHS Network was the first step toward creating a league system that will impact millions of kids’ lives in an extremely positive way,” said PlayVS founder and CEO Delane Parnell in a statement.

PlayVS cofounder and CEO Delane Parnell. Image courtesy of PlayVS.

The startup’s $15 million Series A funding round is now also the largest ever amount to be raised by a black founder in the consumer internet industry.

“Now, with our Series A, we can take all the steps necessary to ensure that our inaugural season is a massive success while being affordable for schools, parents and students across the country,” added the 25-year old Parnell.

Collegiate esports tournaments and programs have become increasingly popular across the United States recently, with companies and teams sponsoring collegiate teams and universities even offering scholarship programs for esports athletes.

READ MORE: A US university is offering a Fortnite scholarship

“PlayVS is uniquely positioned to organize high school esports in a clear and constructive way, shepherding more esports stars to the main stage through career-driven options,” said Twitch co-founder and COO Kevin Lin.

For Parnell, esports programs are not only about the universities and the esports industry, but more so the players themselves.

“Esports is about more than just playing games—it can be used to help students grow their STEM interests and develop valuable life skills and since there are more high school gamers than athletes, it’s about time we foster this pastime in an educational setting,” said Parnell.

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