This Filipino Gen Z Startup Helping Students Graduate Through Gaming Has Raised P176 Million in Seed Funding

The Iloilo-based startup has over 50 investors from prominent companies across the world.

Iloilo-based startup AcadArena recently secured $3.5 million (P176 million) in seed funding led by 1KX, Hashed, and the founders of Twitch and Crunchyroll, making founders Ariane Lim, Kevin Hoang, and Justin Banusing among the youngest in the country to receive what is considered one of the largest seed rounds in Philippine gaming history.

AcadArena, launched in 2019 by a young generation of changemakers, is focused on building student gaming communities across the Philippines and Southeast Asia and educating the youth about web3 and the metaverse. It also provides financial aid and play-to-earn scholarships for exemplary student gamers to help them graduate. The company helps people like aspiring industry professionals, competitive players, content creators and casual gamers.

Our team is humbled to be backed by founders who've pioneered the entire industry and validates our mission to students realize their aspirations through games in the Philippines and soon, Southeast Asia as a whole,” says co-CEO Hoang. 

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Over 50 investors from prominent businesses across the world participated in the seed round, whose funds are meant to hire more manpower, acquire more play-to-earn assets, product development, strategic partnerships, and further empower student communities across the region. 

These include:

  • 1KX - Pioneering Community & Token Fund
  • Hashed - Leading Korean Blockchain VC
  • Kevin Lin - Co-Founder of Twitch
  • Holly Liu - Co-Founder of Kabam
  • Patrick Lee - Co-Founder of Rotten Tomatoes
  • Kun Gao - Co-Founder of Crunchyroll
  • Jeffrey “Jihoz” Zirlin – Co-Founder of Sky Mavis
  • Yat Siu – Co-Founder of Animoca Brands

Uplifting communities and giving scholarships through gaming

Founded in February 2019, AcadArena started as a community project  and eventually transformed into a tech startup that launched Southeast Asia's first esports scholarship fund of its kind.

Since then, AcadArena has established a presence in over 500 colleges in the Philippines, encompassing 150,000 students through the gaming and esports communities. The company also helped establish student gaming and esports clubs in some of the country's top schools like Ateneo, UP Diliman, UST, and DLSU. It is the official Philippine collegiate licensee for Riot Games titles and the premier partner of Globe Telecom for campus gaming.

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In mid-2021, AcadArena pioneered the first-ever mass play-to-earn program alongside a partnership with Filipino-led decentralized gaming guild Yield Guild Games, teaching college students web3 technology while safely and skillfully earning money through crypto games. 

With the fresh funding, AcadArena says it is looking forward to growing campus gaming communities across Southeast Asia and equipping students with core skills to become global citizens in an ever-changing world.  

AcadArena’s founders, though young, are veterans of the industry

Lim previously led collegiate programs for Garena Philippines, as well as marketing for NetEase and Huya for the past half-decade. Hoang was Twitch’s Global Scholastic Program Manager from 2016 up to April this year. Banusing has been working in gaming since 2014 for companies like Pipeline and ESPN primarily in product and content.

“We’re honestly just building what we wish we had when we were students," Hoang says. "Growing up, gaming was thought to be a waste of time, but now we're able to provide students with opportunities to connect, earn and succeed through gaming. I am confident that we will be able to reach out to millions more students and validate their passion for games."

“As play to earn revolutionizes the ownership model of games, we see guilds becoming an increasingly critical part of the emerging metaverse economy,” says 1KX co-founder Lasse Clausen. “We believe that player talent, not capital, will be the key resource across play to earn games. Because AcadArena focuses on onboarding universities and student clubs around the world, we believe it is uniquely positioned to become a landmark guild over the coming years."

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