StartPlaying raises $6.5M so table players can rent Dungeon Masters

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StartPlaying raised $6.5 million to let tabletop players rent professional dungeon masters.

The San Francisco company created an online platform that helps players find tabletop role-playing games to join and hire professional game masters.

It may be a nasty venture, but it says a lot that Andreessen Horowitz, one of the biggest gaming investors, chose to lead the round through its general partners Jonathan Lai and Andrew Chen.

The funds will be used to scale marketing to reach new players, expand StartPlaying’s network of industry partnerships, and recruit top talent. In an interview with GamesBeat, StartPlaying CEO Nate Tucker said the company aims to double the size of the team by the end of the year.

StartPlaying is letting people play tabletop games online.

“We’re investing in a world-class team,” Tucker said. “We believe this will be key to maintaining StartPlaying’s momentum.”

“More than 40 million people worldwide play D&D, and sales have grown by double-digit percentages over the past five years,” Lai said in a blog post. “D&D is no longer a fringe hobby and has an important place in mainstream and celebrity culture.” status.”

A16z’s commitment to the platform predicts that such games will become mainstream
And the rise of career paths for skilled players.

devon chulick
Devon Chulick is the co-founder of StartPlaying.

“Aside from growing the user base, it’s also about the community,” said co-founder Devon Chulick. “Whether it’s helping game masters and players find each other or working with industry partners, we’re proud of the opportunity to bring people together through the power of gaming.”

Since its inception in September 2020, StartPlaying has seen over 100,000 games hosted on the platform by over 1,000 professional game masters, earning $2.5 million and counting. The continued growth of StartPlaying indicates demand for professional game masters and long-term interest in tabletop RPG games. Almost half of all new users who join StartPlaying have never played the game.

“The tabletop role-playing community is at its best when it’s inclusive,” adds Chulick. “We hope StartPlaying continues to break down barriers for new players.”

Players can join StartPlaying at any skill level, with or without a group. They can choose games based on their genre preferences, play styles, whether they’re looking for a one-time session or a long-term event, and filter based on what works best for their schedule. The experience is highly customizable – at its core, StartPlaying is committed to reserving space for all players.

“We’re investing in a world-class team,” Tucker said. “We believe this will be key to maintaining StartPlaying’s momentum.”

origin

nate tucker
Nate Tucker is the CEO of StartPlaying.

A common question that started around March 2020 when the pandemic started.

“My friend (Jared Gollhardt) and I were having trouble finding an online game guru to run a Dungeons & Dragons game for us,” Tucker said. “We had a hard time finding one. We looked through a couple of Discord channels, we looked at a place called D&D Beyond, and they had a forum where we posted, which was embarrassing. My friend posted on Reddit and we still had a hard time finding it people.”

They eventually found two people, one of whom fell off completely. Another asked them to submit an application in the form of a one-page document describing why the game master should accept the job.

“We decided not to do it because it would be embarrassing. But we learned it was a common practice,” Tucker said. “Obviously when COVID happened, in-person things stopped. So we ended up bringing together a couple of people whose sites used to be in-person, Dungeons & Dragons. And we really believe we can do a better job of what’s on the internet today , namely Discord and Reddit and custom forums.”

They eventually found Chulic, known as the San Francisco Dungeon Master, and contacted him. He became a co-founder because they discovered they could start a company to meet that need. Chulick himself lists 30 or so people who can handle the duties of a game master.

Their roster grew, and they eventually built a platform that lets players pair online with trained game masters in a variety of games.

“I think, generally speaking, what payers really pay is a good host,” Tucker said. “They need someone to coordinate the group, make sure people are there on time and are ready to host meetings. In most cases, people just Pay a courteous host to keep helping them play these games and run them.”

The company got off the ground and initially built a platform for the player base. But they have to adapt.

momentum

StartPlaying helps you learn how to play tabletop games.
StartPlaying helps you learn how to play tabletop games.

Now the team has grown to six people. Most of the players who come to the site are singles looking to both learn and find other people to play with.

“We had to reframe everything we did around the idea of ​​people appearing as individuals, grouping them together and then pairing them with game masters,” Tucker said.

They raised money in a small angel round and got to work. Most players enjoy two to four hours of training. Players will engage in activities that last for multiple sessions or days. Some activities can even last hundreds of sessions.

Today, the company has about 600 game masters playing on the site every week. Many of them play D&D, but they’ve gone beyond that. Some people just like to watch games on Twitch streams. Game masters themselves set prices at $15 or $20 per session per person.

“The vast majority of people play online,” Tucker said.

That involvement is enough to pique investor interest.

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