Black Millennial esports Entrepreneur Delane Parnell Raises $96M After Series C Funding

PlayVS is disrupting the gaming industry.

Electronic sports (esports) experts estimate that the esports market will exceed $1.6 billion by 2021.

This is huge considering critics have questioned in the past whether this industry can be scalable.

Meanwhile, the increase in interest and value in esports have garnered the attention of several big-time celebrities and business owners like Michael Jordan, Steph Curry, Odell Beckham Jr., and Drake.

Aside from this, in recent years, we’ve seen a rush of startup founders entering the space. One of which is a Black millennial from Detroit who is notably one of the most promising, consumer internet startup founders to date.

26-year-old Delane Parnell who is the Founder of PlayVS recently raised a $50 million Series C led by existing investor NEA. Battery Ventures, Dick Costolo and Adam Bain of 01 Advisors, Sapphire Sport, Michael Zeisser, Dennis Phelps of IVP and cofounder of CAA Michael Ovitz.

Parnell’s Series C round brings the startup’s total funding to $96 million – a historical milestone considering he launched PlayVS in April of 2018.

Amongst others who have invested in PlayVS includes Sean “Diddy” Combs and major companies like Samsung and Adidas. Within just a little over a year, 13,000 schools have joined the waitlist to get a varsity esports team through Delane’s startup, which equates to 68% of the country.

“One of the reasons we’re most excited about esports is accessibility,” Parnell told a news outlet. “With this new round of funding, we’re able to take another huge step forward as we open the pathway for more students to compete and be recognized in the burgeoning esports industry.”

For Parnell, esports is a promising industry because of its flexibility and scalability.

“[esports] is intended to be a lot different than traditional sports and it’s completely scalable. High school sports, by nature, isn’t scalable because there are a limited number of teams and roster spots. For the other kids who want to develop an affinity for their school, esports has no cut list and no limit to the number of teams that can represent a school. Everyone plays at the varsity level, and boys and girls can be teammates or opponents — we use software to make the matchups extremely fair and give every kid a chance to actually win,” Parnell shared.

With his new round of funding, Parnell has plans to add on to PlayVS’s rapidly growing team, and consider mergers and acquisitions as a means of growth. Parnell also has plans to explore other esports markets outside of high school, with a keen focus on the collegiate market.

Nonetheless, Parnell’s company growth and impact are definitely influential for startup founders all over – especially those that are minorities and may sometimes feel discouraged due to difficulties in obtaining capital.

However, in an interview, Parnell encouraged his fellow minority entrepreneurs to essentially “just be fearless.”

Parnell shared with Crains Detroit, “A lot of people consume themselves with what people say isn’t possible, like ‘Oh, you’re not supposed to raise that because no one else has done that’. Our company never consumed ourselves in it and don’t believe it. Most importantly, don’t subscribe to the notion that it’s hard for black founders to raise money. I know there is systemic oppression that we deal with, things like pattern matching and we don’t usually meet many investors’ ideal vision of a successful entrepreneur.

It hasn’t changed across the board, but there are people who do believe in us and the companies that we want to build — find those people. Get in those circles and don’t subscribe to the notion that you need to validate your idea to go out and build it yourself or that you can’t do it, because you can. That’s the best advice I can give someone. I love that quote that [music mogul and entrepreneur] Diddy says: ‘Everybody wanna shine like Diddy, but don’t wanna work like Puff.’ You’ve gotta be willing to make sacrifices. You’ve gotta be willing to go to the club less. You’ve gotta be willing to read more, to put yourself out there and share your ideas and talk to people to get feedback. You’ve got to be willing to make sacrifices and take risks and put it all on the line. Even PlayVS can still fail, so every day we are hella paranoid about the potential of that.”

We’re excited to see more growth from Parnell. To keep up with him and his new startup, connect with him on IG here.

*feature photo credit: Photo: Molly Cranna; Illustrations: Totto Rena

Written by Mogul Millennial Staff