Veteran entrepreneur Shawn Gunn saw a weakness in video game wagering and decided to build PLLAY, a platform that allows players to take their love of the game to the next level. Recently closing a $3 million seed funding round led by Screen Play Ventures, Gunn and co-founder Christine Krzyzanowski are poised to enhance user experience, accelerate user acquisition, and become a formidable player in the video game wagering market. With the backing of NBA All-Star Bradley Beal, Screen Play Ventures and more, PLLAY is ready to play.
Black Enterprise recently sat with Gunn to discuss PLLAY, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the market, and advice for businesses seeking funding.
BE: Tell us a bit about PLLAY?
Gunn: PLLAY is the world’s most powerful video game wagering and data platform. With PLLAY’s mobile application and a gaming console, players have instant access to real money competitions. It allows users to wager on head-to-head video game matches and keep 100 percent of the winnings. Powered by artificial intelligence technology, PLLAY AI monitors matches, offers real-time analysis, identifies winners, and dispenses prize money within seconds of winning.
When was the ah-ha moment that PLLAY could go from an idea to a business?
Two moments. First, in early 2018 when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act. This Act laid the groundwork for skill-based wagering in the majority of U.S. states.
Second, I started investing in artificial intelligence technology in 2017 and researched it deeply to find an application for it.
How important is sponsorship and media deals?
Both are important, but secondary revenue drivers and user reward instruments for PLLAY. Our primary revenue model is based on users purchasing PLLAY Tokens, which are used on the platform to create or join video gaming competitions.
The coronavirus continues to impact the world. What, if any, impact has COVID-19 had on PLLAY’s go-to market strategy and entry into the market?
As devastating as COVID-19 has been on our larger public health and economy, it has in many ways accelerated the market opportunity for PLLAY. Verizon reported that gaming usage was up 75 percent during COVID-19, and we have seen a dramatic increase in the number of newly registered users to our offering. Another interesting trend is segments of our users reporting that they supplement their lost wages with winninsg from PLLAY cash competitions. Lastly, with professional esports events unable to operate, many brands have a growing interest in developing a relationship with PLLAY. Not only can we operate 100 percent virtually, but our user demographic of 18-to-34-year-old males is highly attractive and difficult to reach by traditional media.
What has been the most challenging aspect of getting PLLAY off the ground and running?
Like all start-ups, raising capital is always challenging and can be a time-consuming process.
From a purely sports-betting standpoint, what is it that sets PLLAY apart from other organizations?
Age and identity verification, which removes minors from using the service (gamers must be at least 18 years old).
PLLAY AI provides the industry-first, fully automated win verification, so gamers don’t have to prove they won the match. PLLAY does all the work for them.
Instant & Complete Cash Jackpot Payouts: We do not take a cut of your winning and do not require holding periods before you can withdraw cash.
What three key pieces of advice do you have for businesses seeking funding for their start-up?
- Think deeply about competitive advantages you can develop through technology, business models, or go-to-market strategies.
- How can you, as a founder of color, navigate some of the hurdles found during the traditional funding journey? For example, think about targeting investors in cities that normally don’t see tech deals.
- Lastly, build a community of believers! This will be your army spread across the globe helping you find the next investor, partner, employee, or customer. Never miss a chance to build this army.