Taunt esports startup raises $3M to build new platform for fan interaction

The Taunt team, from left: CJ Chaney, Josh Harrison, Jon David, John Crenshaw, Kevin Deng, Steven Myers, Abhishek Varma and Lance Harper. (Taunt Photo)

Taunt, a Seattle-based startup that allows esports fans to interact and predict game outcomes, announced Thursday that it has closed a $3 million seed financing round, led by Foundry Group.

Taunt is a spinout of the startup studio Pioneer Square Labs, whose new venture fund PSL Ventures joined in the investment along with Paul Allen’s Vulcan Capital and CRCM Ventures, an esports industry investor.

Taunt logoFoundry, which helped PSL get off the ground back in 2015, helped Taunt get started in September by leading a $1.7 million investment round. Taunt became the fifth startup to spin out of PSL, joining LumaTax, Jet Closing, AdLighting and Boundless.

Taunt’s goal is to harness some of the hysteria around esports and to help fans better engage with each other through game-driven social experiences. Taunt cited data that predicts a global esports audience of 589 million viewers by 2020. The 2017 League of Legends World Championship finals alone attracted 58 million unique viewers.

“We’re building a fresh and exciting way for esports fans to watch their favorite matches, teams, and players with their friends,” Taunt CEO Jon David said in a news release. “Fans can predict match events, answer live challenges, and brag about their victories. Traditional sports fans have so many options for rich, engaging social interactions. We’re bringing that depth to esports with Taunt.”

Taunt users make predictions, earn points and climb the leaderboard all while watching esports matchups. (Taunt screen grabs)

David is a former vice president at PopCap Games and later Electronic Arts, and served as executive producer of the “Bejeweled” and “Plants vs. Zombies” franchises. He told GeekWire that Taunt aims to be the “social and competitive fabric for esports,” and that bragging rights are the only currency at stake. The Supreme Court’s recent ruling around legalized sports betting has not caused Taunt to change its path toward real money gambling, David said.

“At the rate this industry is accelerating, it’s becoming clear that there’s a need for a more thoughtful social layer on top of the viewing experience,” said Brad Feld, Foundry Group managing director and a member of Taunt’s board of directors.

Matt Lee, managing partner at CRCM Ventures, called the platform a fun way to engage with esports beyond just watching a game stream.

“Communities of highly engaged users will form around Taunt’s platform, extending the ability for fans to get involved with the games, teams, and pro players,” Lee said.

Taunt will available for download this summer and curious fans can sign up now for more information.