How a young entrepreneur from Detroit disrupted eSports and why Science got on board

After my Science co-founder Peter Pham met 24-year-old Delane Parnell at SXSW, he came back raving about, "a fantastic founder with big vision to bring eSports to high schoolers."

I was instantly interested. Since then, Science has incubated Delane's startup, PlayVS, which is building an eSports infrastructure to high schools across the U.S. It was publicly launched out of our studio this past April, and it’s the only gaming company bringing scheduled games, teams, and real-time stats through partnerships with the NFHS — the equivalent of the NCAA for high school — and game publishers. In June, PlayVS raised the third largest A round ever for an African American founder.

There is a value and a vision to disrupt big markets. Currently, there are 2.2 billion gamers and $109 billion in worldwide revenue in 2017.

At Science, our goal is to build and invest in technology businesses by coupling great ideas, strong talent, necessary resources, and financing through a centralized platform. And Science invests in its founders as much as the product; whether considering an applicant or founder to back, we prioritize character, intelligence, and drive. Delane is authentic and has a grand vision — which matches our thesis as easily as Michael Dubin’s idea did with Dollar Shave Club.

When I first met Delane, I knew we were cut from the same cloth of diligence and hard work. We’re both from similar working class neighborhoods in Detroit, and we swapped stories of my 10-year career in the auto industry and his experience working at the neighborhood cell phone retailer. His strong hustle and dedicated characteristics were apparent immediately; he was a young, agile and intriguing founder. As far as passion, Delane had excitement for filling an unmet opportunity for American youth.

We share Delane’s passion for creating opportunities for youth. With 72% of teens playing video games regularly, esports is about more than just playing games – it can be used to help students grow their STEM interests and develop valuable life skills. eSports engages students who might not otherwise participate in school activities, teaching teamwork and potentially opening new college and career opportunities.

The all-digital PlayVS platform fits our investment thesis of scale and disruption. PlayVS is the only eSports franchise that has partnered with the NFHS, the body that writes the rules of competition for high school sports in the U.S. We knew Delane and PlayVS were onto something when they took a legacy governing body and made it more than relevant for a 21st century gaming culture. Due to Delane’s work, the NFHS now recognizes and endorses eSports as an actual sport. It’s even currently being discussed for the 2024 Olympic Games. The NFHS is now going to be at the forefront of standardized gaming and has the ability to implement, run, regulate, and staff tournaments in high schools across the country. Talk about change.

The next year of growth will provide priceless feedback and valuable case studies as we generate interest and prepare a turnkey program that students can benefit from immediately.

Reaching young adults in a meaningful way has been the backbone of Science’s investments, and we’ll leverage our talent, resource, and financing to provide PlayVS with strong operational strategies and innovation. Products that eclipse traditional parameters and touch on needs have the opportunity to make a real difference.

We can’t wait to see what happens next.

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