Wednesday 28 July 2021 7:00 am

Exclusive: UK esports funding hits record high amid lockdown gaming boom

British esports startups enjoyed record levels of investment last year as surging interest in the sector during Covid lockdowns helped fuel a major cash injection.

Esports firms raised £42m in 2020, which was a record year for both value and number of deals. The momentum has continued into 2021, with eight deals worth £15m already secured.

The figures, compiled by tech campus Here East and Beauhurst, highlight the rapid growth of the nascent sector, which is now thought to be worth £1bn with a global fan base of 500m people.

The research showed startups and scaleups in the industry have raised £138m in the last decade, with more than 60 per cent of this raised in the last two years alone.

London-based Fnatic is Britain’s most successful esports firm, raising £51m across seven funding rounds from backers including Beringea and Crowdcube.

Faceit and Guild Esports have both raised around £20m, while Dele Alli-backed Excel earlier this month secured £17m from major City investors including ICAP founder Lord Spencer.

The interest from traditional Square Mile finance figures comes as a major boost to the burgeoning esports sector.

Over the last two years 45 per cent of the total funding rounds were secured by startups that had never previously raised investment.

The figures will also raise hopes that esports could become a major new subsector of the UK’s thriving tech industry. Here East has already unveiled plans to create a world-class esports cluster on Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

“Two record breaking years for British esports startup and scaleup investment is just the start of what will be a new age for British esports,” said Gavin Poole, chief executive of Here East.

“The scale of investment starting to enter British esports startups will accelerate the growth of esports teams, venues and production companies across the country. Combining the UK’s world-class expertise in tech, gaming and creative industries, I am confident that London can become a global capital for esports innovation.”