By Riley Kaminer
It is in this context that Miami-based startup Grilla has launched out of its beta with 20,000 registered users and $3 million in funding from Tusk Venture Partners. Already in the beta, users hosted upwards of 1,000 tournaments through Grilla. This funding will enable the company to hire in the second quarter of this year across product and marketing roles.
While founder and CEO Evan Kaylin is currently the only member of Grilla’s six-person team to be based in Miami, Kaylin told Refresh Miami that he doesn’t expect it to remain this way. “As the company matures we will look to move team members to Miami and seek out Miami based talent.”
Grilla’s platform enables users to create, manage, and compete in video game tournaments. The platform includes a built-in wallet that lets users wager on any video game or skill-based competition like golf, backgammon, bowling, chess, or basketball. Users must be 18 or older and located in a US state where skill-based competitions are legal.
To start, Grilla is launching with hundreds of video games including high profile titles such as Call of Duty, Madden, Street Fighter, and NBA2K. The platform also has built the infrastructure to support a wide range of tournament formats and game genres. This spring, Grilla will launch features to also support in-person games – replacing offline tools like spreadsheets, whiteboards, and cash boxes. Eventually, the startup hopes to expand to additional markets and launch tournaments for mobile games, tabletop games, and VR/AR games as well.
“As someone who has always enjoyed competing against friends playing video games, shooting pool or playing a round of golf, it never made sense to me that there was no place to organize competitions and facilitate transactions,” Kaylin said. “Grilla was founded on the principle that you don’t have to be a pro to compete like one.”
“We want to make it easy for anyone to organize competitions for their communities while enhancing the experience for players with real-money features,” Kaylin continued. “Whether you challenge your opponent to a cash match in a video game competition, create a side pool in your golf tournament or simply collect entry fees and pay out prize pools for any skill-based games of your choosing, Grilla will have you covered.”
Bradley Tusk, managing partner and co-founder of Tusk Venture Partners, underscored the value of Grilla’s digital tools in a space that remains driven by pen and paper.
“The skill based game industry is massive, and encapsulates everything from golfing to drone racing to traditional video and mobile games, but there hasn’t been a platform that allows non-professionals to monetize their skills,” he said. “Grilla is the first company to build the critical infrastructure needed to host tournaments in real life and through video games.”
Kaylin, a Fort Lauderdale native who spent 10 years in New York City, moved back to Miami in 2017. “At that time, I was concerned that living in Miami would limit my career growth due to a lack of industry and networking opportunities,” he told Refresh Miami. “I was dead wrong!”
“With Miami being a newer tech hub, I have found that everyone in the ecosystem is really eager to make new connections, offer up introductions, and help where they can. There’s this ‘a rising tide lifts all ships’ type mentality. Everyone is working towards the same goal of seeing the next big tech companies built out of the 305!”
eSports and digital tools for sports management are an increasingly important part of South Florida’s tech ecosystem. Last year, Gemini Sports Analytics raised $1.5M to modernize the world of athlete management. In August, Jake Paul’s micro-betting app Betr landed a $50M Series A. And Boca-based Gaming Frog has developed a platform that allows video gamers to play for money and ensure payment.
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