The single most important role of sports (and esports) in society is its unique ability to bring people together.
Some of our fondest memories include Super Bowl parties with coworkers, watching the annual League of Legends Worlds tournament with friends, and going to NBA games on Christmas Day with family. Sports allow us to hang out and create lasting memories with the people we care about.
Every sports fan has a group of friends where sports are the social glue holding them together. Whether it is a fantasy league to stay in touch with college classmates, or a group chat at the office, sports are the perfect excuse to keep us connected and reinforce lifelong friendships.
Capturing this sentiment is exactly what we set out to do with Sleeper. My co-founders and I are childhood friends. Sports kept us connected despite moving to different sides of the globe, first by mailing trading cards back and forth, and later, a fantasy football league which has been running for 18 years. We wanted to build a platform that would make it easy for everyone to connect through sports.
Sleeper is your social sports console—a platform offering games to play with family and friends, built on a modern messaging interface. Every league, tournament, or esport game on Sleeper is augmented with messaging at its core, taking an already fun activity to new heights by amplifying the number of interactions between leaguemates.
This approach has clearly struck a nerve with sports fans, as Sleeper has been the fastest organically growing sports app in the U.S. over the last two years, despite only previously offering one game—fantasy football. We surpassed 1 million active players on the platform in 2019, and the tremendous response has energized us to keep rolling out new sports.
To turn this vision into reality, we raised a new $20 million investment led by Andreessen Horowitz and with participation from some of the best in business and sports. New and existing investors also include 10x NBA All-Star and 2x NBA Finals MVP Kevin Durant and Thirty Five Ventures co-Founder Rich Kleiman, 2x NBA All-Star Baron Davis, NFL Pro Bowler JuJu Smith-Schuster, ESPN basketball analyst Ros Gold Onwude, Twitch co-founder Kevin Lin, the a16z Cultural Leadership Fund, and prior investors General Catalyst, Birchmere Ventures, and Rainfall.
The new investment allows us to grow our team and continue bringing new games onto the platform. We already started working on fantasy basketball for the NBA and a tournament game for March Madness. However, like much of the world these days, we’ve had to adjust our plan.
Fantasy esports was always on our roadmap. Most of the team at Sleeper are avid gamers and esports fans. With traditional sports on hold, we decided to hit fast forward and launch a fantasy game for the upcoming League of Legends season.
The launch of fantasy League of Legends is an exciting milestone for our company. LoL is the third-most popular professional sports league in the U.S. among 18-34-year-olds, yet a fantasy experience does not exist. We see tremendous opportunity to define this experience on a platform that will feel familiar to gamers. Staying connected has never been more important, and we hope fantasy esports will provide users with a fun new outlet to spend time with family and friends.
The new investment means that Sleeper will be here as a place for you and your friends to connect, both today as you explore a new world of fantasy esports, and in the future when traditional sports return.
We’d like to close with a heartfelt thank you to all of our team, our users, and our investors for supporting Sleeper’s mission to help people build genuine friendships through sports, and now esports as well.
Co-Founder & CEO