Startups Venture

A Venture Friday: Two Rounds, As Much As $4.25B

What a morning!

Giant rounds are becoming more frequent these days, and while the tech world is becoming desensitized to rounds in the hundreds of millions, rounds in the billions still come as a bit of a shock.

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The two lucky winners of hypergiant rounds today are Epic Games and Bytedance.

First up is gaming, a money-making industry that has attracted the attention of kids and adults all over the world. Today, Cary, N.C.-based Epic Games closed a $1.25 billion round. According to Bloomberg, the capital came from KKR & Co., Vulcan Capital, Kleiner Perkins, and aXiomatic.

Epic Games is the creator of Fortnite, which, according to VentureBeat, has pulled in over $1 billion in revenue. It has also developed a game creation software called Unreal Engine, which can be used to design and implement games on many different devices including VR headsets. The company is also investing heavily in esports, funneling $100 million into gaming competitions for Fortnite.

Crunchbase News has followed the growing esports category as it floods into the mainstream. According to our September report, esports funding surged by 73 percent from H2 2017 to H1 2018. And as gaming becomes a more viable way to make money, investor interest will probably not fade.

Across the Pacific, investors remain heavy-handed as well. China’s Bytedance has reportedly closed a $3 billion round of funding from investors including Softbank, KKR, and General Atlantic.  

The company is now said to be valued at $75 billion. For reference, Uber is valued at $68.1 billion (though, it may reach a $120 billion valuation at its IPO). Of course, $75 billion is also technically just half the valuation of Alibaba fintech affiliate Ant Financial, which raised a $14 billion round in Q2 that brought its own valuation to around $150 billion.

To refresh your memory, Bytedance is the parent company of popular mobile Chinese news aggregator app Jinri Toutiao and Karaoke app TikTok (Douyin). According to Bloomberg’s report, Bytedance, which is unprofitable, pulled in $2.5 billion in revenue in 2017 with plans to triple that in 2018.

Of course, while Bytedance is a shining example of the eagerness of investors and startups in China, it is also a good example of the power that state entities can have over the private sector. In April, Jinri Toutiao was forced to temporarily suspend its operations and shut down part of its platform, namely Neihan Duanzi, which showed content that censors considered to be inappropriate and vulgar.

It seems that concern over the regulatory environment (and free speech) has taken a back seat to interest in tapping into China’s massive mobile market.

Illustration: Li-Anne Dias

Editorial Update: A previous version of this article stated that Epic Games is an esports company. The piece has been updated to reflect that it is a video game company that is investing in esports.