An early funding round is expected to help a new professional esports organization expand the creator economy alongside its own footprint, said Nate Schanker, announcing a $3 million seed round for Boston-based M80, a startup coded with Kansas City talent.
“We are building something special that the esports industry has never seen before and we aren’t slowing down anytime soon,” said Schanker, the KC-based co-founder, referencing the startup’s plans to “put power in the hands of fans.” “This is just the beginning of M80.”
Led by Santa Monica-based ExpertDojo, boutique investment firm VT Technology Ventures, and Silicon Valley-based Practical Venture Capital, the $3 million funding round solidifies M80’s plans to build the first web3-enabled gaming and esports organization, company officials said.
“In just a few short months, we’ve become one of the fastest-growing and most engaged-with esports organizations in the world,” said Marco Mereu, the company’s co-founder and CEO. “We are leaning into the creator economy to offer meaningful and rewarding ways for our community to engage with the M80 brand. And we’re just getting started.”
Mereu previously co-founded esports brand XSET, launching gaming-first video platform Framerate and building the influencer marketplace Roostr. Under his stewardship, M80 is building an interconnected, tech-forward ecosystem that prioritizes fan engagement through esports, content creation, and consumer products, the company said.
Of the startup’s team, only Schanker and his brother, M80 chief of staff Max Schanker (both co-founders of the Digital Sandbox KC-funded Overland Park startup SWOT, which wound down in 2022) are based in Kansas City.
M80’s esports teams have already achieved standout performance across VALORANT, Rocket League, Rainbow Six: Siege, and Street Fighter. In the few months following its competitive debut, M80 has garnered a global reach of nearly 12 million across social platforms — making it one of the top 10 most engaged-with esports organizations in North America less than six months from launch.
“With its launch, M80 is bringing a fresh, tech-forward approach to the gaming and esports landscape,” said Brian Mac Mahon, founder of ExpertDojo. “This initial funding round represents our confidence in M80’s innovative vision and seasoned executive leadership. Marco and the M80 team are building something truly unique in the space, and we are pleased to help them scale.”