Business Standard

MPL enters unicorn club with $2.3-billion valuation

Company says it will use capital to finance its global expansion

- PEERZADA ABRAR Bengaluru, 15 September

Mobile Premier League (MPL), Asia’s largest esports and skill gaming platform, said it had raised its Series E round of financing led by Legatum Capital at a pre-money valuation of $2.3 billion. This has made it India’s second gaming unicorn or startup valued at over $1 billion.

Bengaluru-based MPL recently began operations in the US and completed two years of operations in Indonesia, making it the only mobile gaming platform from India with a growing internatio­nal presence.

MPL currently has over 85 million registered users globally. It is endorsed by Indian cricket team captain Virat Kohli and earlier this year signed up Indonesian actor and internet celebrity Baim

Wong as its brand ambassador in Indonesia.

The latest fund-raise was led by Legatum Capital.

Existing investors, including Sequoia, SIG, RTP Global, Goventures, Moore Strategic Ventures, Play Ventures, Base Partners, Telstra Ventures, and Founders Circle Capital, also participat­ed in the round. The firm didn’t disclose the funding, but according to sources, MPL raised $150 million.

“This investment is a recognitio­n of the potential of the Indian gaming and esports industry and an endorsemen­t of the capability of MPL to expand globally,” said Sai Srinivas, co-founder and chief executive officer (CEO), MPL, adding, “MPL’S proven success in India and Indonesia encouraged us to launch in the US, one of the world’s largest gaming markets. Our US operations are off to a promising start. We’re thus fulfilling our resolve to make our platform the esports and gaming hub of the world.”

In February, MPL was valued at $945 million after raising $95 million in a Series D round. Its valuation had reached to around $450 million after raising $90 million from investors, last year in September. MPL has raised a total funding of $375 million from various investors, according to the data platform Crunchbase.

Investors such as Tiger Global Management and Sequoia Capital have backed India’s first gaming unicorn and MPL rival Dream11.

MPL will use the fresh infusion of capital to finance its global expansion, invest in its home-grown technology, and drive continued growth in the Indian market. MPL has offices in Pune, New Delhi, Jakarta, Singapore, and New York.

“We are seeing strong traction globally as a function of our direct-to-consumer approach,” said Joe Wadakethal­akal, senior vice-president, corporate developmen­t, MPL, adding, “We’re thrilled to partner Legatum Capital as we continue to work on our vision of building the world’s largest esports platform.”

Legatum CEO and new MPL board member, Mark Stoleson, said Legatum is delighted to have led this latest round of funding for MPL as it continues its incredible growth trajectory and becomes the world’s leading esports and skill gaming platform.

Legatum’s investment in MPL is another example of our strategy to invest in world-class teams building world-scale companies that define categories and serve customers with integrity,” said Stoleson.

Henric Suuronen, founding partner at Play Ventures, said the organisati­on has been very impressed by the speed that the MPL team is progressin­g with on its mission to bring competitiv­e gaming worldwide. We have no doubt that its entry into the US market will further strengthen its position as the No. 1 competitiv­e gaming platform in the world,” said Suuronen.

Galina Chifina, partner, RTP Global, said, “It was clear to us from the beginning that MPL had the potential to become one of India’s major start-up success stories. Srinivas, Shubh Malhotra (MPL co-founder), and the team have taken the platform to new heights in 2021 and this next round of funding has secured its well-deserved status as a unicorn. We are delighted to be supporting the company on its next stage of growth.”

Earlier this year, MPL acquired esports firm Gamingmonk to develop a full suite of esports and live streaming capabiliti­es. In early September, the platform announced a partnershi­p with Play Magnus Group, founded by young chess genius Magnus Carlsen. With this partnershi­p, MPL will host the official Indian circuit for players to qualify for the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour. This is the first-ever regional expansion for the Champions Chess Tour.

The Covid-19 pandemicin­duced lockdown in 2020 provided a fillip to an alreadyboo­ming esports industry in India and the world. With approximat­ely 300 million gamers, India sits among the top five gaming markets globally. Further, there has already been a surge in online gaming in recent months, as a result of the impact of Covid-19 on society. With social distancing measures in place, telecommut­ing becoming the new norm, and physical sporting events remaining limited, esports and mobile gaming have received a boost.

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