StatusPro has raised $20 million in funding from Google Ventures and others to build its XR sports gaming empire.
New York and Miami-based StatusPro wants to take sports gaming into the realm of virtual reality, and it has already launched its NFL Pro Era and NFL Pro Era II titles for platforms such as Meta Quest 3, PlayStation VR 2, Pico, and the Steam Store. NFL Pro Era has surpassed a million users.
Signing up Google
Google Ventures led the investment round, solidifying StatusPro’s position as a standout player in the XR space. Founded by former football players Troy Jones and Andrew “Hawk” Hawkins, StatusPro focuses on leveraging real-time player data to create authentic XR experiences. StatusPro was also one of the finalists in the GamesBeat/Lightspeed Game Changers list of top game companies. I spoke with both founders in an interview.
“We’re really excited about the validity of GV backing StatusPro and our claim and our status as the leader in this space and sports and XR,” said Jones, who is CEO. “We’re defining first-person sports which is going to expand and innovate the way that sports fans consume their favorite sport. StatusPro is positioning ourselves to show that we’re we’re a leader in this space.”
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Hawkins added, “The ability to get Google to be a believer in the space and in StatusPro. We’re building a team. We put together the vision for what we believe is possible, bringing XR technology closer to ubiquity.”
Hawkins also said, “We went about building our first product and success came along with it. I think we have the right vision. I think as we fine tune what we’ve done so far, it’s only going to be more laser focused. And we realize that we are the de facto experts and this is unlike any other gaming experience and it doesn’t have a one to one comparison. It is a very unique proposition. We’re just excited for what’s to come.”
The Series A funding will propel StatusPro into new sports titles while enhancing existing features and technology. The round includes additional funding from India’s renowned sports-tech giant Dream Sports, Minnesota Vikings Owners Mark & Zygi Wilf’s Wise Ventures, JDS Sports, and Alumni Ventures, with participation from existing investors including LeBron James, Drake, Maverick Carter, Main Street Advisors, Haslam Sports Group and more.
NFL Pro Era, launched in 2022, introducing the world’s first NFL and NFLPA-licensed virtual reality simulation gaming franchise. The immersive experience allows players to step into the shoes of their favorite NFL team’s quarterback, bringing fans closer to the action.
“We’ve learned a ton. We’ve launched two iterations of NFL Pro since our last funding round” three years ago, Jones said.
“That was just laying the foundation for sports and what we’re calling first person sports,” Jones said. “We’re building the plane in the air. So while we’ve had a lot of success, there have been a lot of learnings. And a Series A round positions us to be able to scale so that we can iterate and apply some of those learnings as we continue to grow. What our vision is for NFL Pro era and StatusPro as a whole.”
The franchise has been a resounding success, boasting over one million users and an average playtime of 41 minutes, doubling industry averages. And it’s all been built with a team of just 32 people so far.
“No matter if its virtual reality or spatial computing, our vision at StatusPRO is to define first-person sports and deliver experiences that truly embody the emotion, competition and sense of community that comes with being a professional athlete,” said Jones. “The investment from GV, Dream, and all other syndicates in the round, further validates the opportunity to leverage emerging technology to innovate the way fans interact with their favorite sports and define a new form of engagement that brings current and future fans closer to the game.”
Other substantial new investments came from a diverse group of athletes, entertainers, firms, and industry leaders including Myles Garrett, David Grutman, Bobby Wagner, Jeff Stibel, Peter Delgrosso, Cameron Jordan, Kayvon Thibodeaux, Crystal Hayslett, Devale Ellis, TitletownTech, Black Angel Group, Life Line Family Heritage Fund, Sun Technology Investors, Andre Gaines of Cinemation Studios, and the Fuller Brothers of 6408 Ventures, among others.
“StatusPro is building the next generation of sports and gaming entertainment through cutting-edge virtual reality. The company’s unique technology-driven approach and meaningful partnerships have resulted in strong early growth and product traction,” said M.G Siegler, venture partner at GV, in a statement. “Troy Jones and Andrew Hawkins have built an impressive team and track record of execution in a short time, and we’re thrilled to support StatusPRO as they move the VR gaming industry forward.”
Last October, the franchise, which highlighted NFL MVP and All Pro QB Lamar Jackson as its cover athlete, saw an evolution that introduced new features such as head-to-head multiplayer gameplay so players could interact, connect, and compete against one another in the virtual world.
“As we expand, sports fans can come to and get an experience. We want to continue to drill into NFL Pro Era and apply the key learnings to expand the product and leverage the technology for what it is and its capabilities,” Jones said. “And as we think about other sports, we continue to evaluate those opportunities to deliver the best product to the market that truly embodies what we want to do. We want to capture the emotion, the excitement, the passion that comes with playing the sport and seeing it from the first-person perspective.”
The global VR gaming market is projected to see substantial growth, with a predicted increase from $7.92 billion in 2021 to $53.44 billion in 2028, at a CAGR of 31.4%.
After two years of laying a foundation in the sports gaming industry and establishing a new genre, first-person sports, StatusPro will use the additional capital to broaden development into new sports titles while continuing to enhance its modes and features and further improve its cutting-edge technology.
“As a former professional athlete, working with a dedicated team of people who have all participated in sports and worked for years across the sports business industry at a high level, we understand what it takes to compete and win,” said Hawkins. “We believe that VR is the innovative answer to help allow fans globally to see and experience what it’s like to be a Pro. This is just the beginning for StatusPRO and paves the way for us to enter additional sectors of sports VR, opening doors for us to explore other professional sports avenues and teams.”
The road ahead
Asked if the company will have a new football game every year, Jones said, “As I alluded to earlier, we’re building a plane in the air. We now have two products out and we’re learning about consumers and we’re learning about the VR market. As we can all see, there are more and more opportunities and new players coming into the space which is ultimately going to draw people to the platform. Our business model is going to lead to what allows our users have the best experience in NFL Pro air.”
“What that means is we’re evaluating anything and everything every day,” Jones said. “Over time, you’ll continue to get new information about how we think we need to position our products. But I can say that we are taking in the information and working closely with the platforms as to how we can give our consumers the best experience.”
Hawkins said we should expect more sports over time.
“We started with football because that’s where we were experts,” Hawkins said. “But we want to be bringing the athlete experience to basketball, baseball, tennis, golf, and cricket — you name it. We want to be the company that you look at when you want to experience this sport from a first person perspective.”
The company will work on marketing to get more people to enjoy VR and play sports on the new platforms, Hawkins said. StatusPro will reveal more about the roadmap in the coming months.
“We’re talking about it in real time. Our goal is to modernize and appeal to the younger audience and the current audience,” Jones said.
Growth during the gaming downturn
They said the macroeconomic dynamics affect everyone right now, whether it’s game companies or VC funds and how they do due diligence.
“We’re not numb to that,” Jones said. “We have to be responsible in how we spend the resources. We are developing a plan that will allow us to expand but we need to be efficient. As we watch other gaming companies to through layoffs, we have to keep our ear to the ground and make sure we are aware.”
The good thing for VR is that it’s a growing category, with a lot of exciting titles hitting the market. There has always been a question about whether VR was going to arrive or not, and it has, Jones said.
As for the competition among new headsets among the likes of Meta, Apple and probably companies like Google and Samsung, Hawkins said, “That’s good for us. You can read the tea leaves and follow the breadcrumbs of this space. They expect this will be the future. It’s great to be on the ground floor of that. But we have a lot more work to do before it’s an everyday thing. We absolutely believe that day is coming and we want to be prepared for it.”
The company will be agnostic when it comes to platforms, Jones said.
“Our goal is to serve consumers,” Jones said. “We will prioritize based on where the users are. We want to make sure that if we launch on a new platform, it allows us to showcase the product in a way that keeps consumers happy.”
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