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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Drake — along with media and tech heavyweights Marissa Mayer, Strauss Zelnick and others — is investing $3 million into the seed funding round for Players’ Lounge, an esports platform where gamers can play their favorite video games against others for prizes straight from their living room.

Why it matters: It's the latest example of a celebrity investing in esports. NBA superstar Chris Bosh joined esports franchise Gen.G as a player management advisor last year. Other big names, from Michael Jordan to Steph Curry, are investing in professional esports teams.

Other investors include Comcast, Macro Ventures, Canaan, RRE, and Courtside VC.

The details: Players' Lounge allows gamers to compete in skill-based esports competitions for cash prizes. Its mission is to create a social platform for casual gamers to connect, get matched, and compete without having to be a pro.

  • This is different from platforms like Twitch or YouTube gaming that focus on streaming tournaments.
  • Like Instagram, Players' Lounge is hoping to give average people a platform to compete and win money on esports games, in hopes of eventually popularizing winners and leveraging their influencer status to grow the brand.
  • Players can compete on PS4, Xbox One or PC devices. Anyone can make an account and deposit funds into their Players’ Lounge account via credit card, PayPal or cryptocurrency.
  • Once the scores are verified, the winner receives the prize money from the pool players invested in upfront. These are usually small sums that players can compete for incrementally, although the company does also host bigger tournaments.
  • Players' Lounge says it gives out millions of dollars worth of cash prizes each month.

The big picture: Players' Lounge is making it easy for casual gamers to earn cash from esports. Otherwise, the only way to make money in esports is to go pro, which takes a lot of time and resources, or to become a streamer via Twitch or Youtube, which focuses more on personality than gaming skills.

"It's kind of like the intramural network for esports. There's a huge community potential."
— Austin Woolridge, cofounder and CEO of Players' Lounge

Bottom line: Esports is still a fledgling industry compared to professional sports, but big names are investing in it because it's growing so fast, and the upside looks promising. Celebrities, and especially celebrity athletes, see this as a way to connect with hyper-engaged sports fans, who may not have the appetite to participate in real sports but still want to compete with peers and develop a community around game play.

Go deeper

Ina Fried, author of Login
Updated 3 hours ago - Technology

Exclusive: GLAAD finds top social media sites "categorically unsafe"

The leading social media sites — Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok and YouTube — are all "categorically unsafe" for LGBTQ people, according to a new study from GLAAD, the results of which were revealed Sunday on "Axios on HBO."

The big picture: GLAAD had planned to give each of the sites a grade as part of its inaugural social media index, but opted not to give individual grades this year after determining all the leading sites would receive a failing grade.

Federal agency issues emergency declaration over fuel pipeline cyberattack

Photo: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Biden administration said it's "working with" fuel pipeline operator Colonial Pipeline to try and restart operations after a ransomware attack took it offline.

Why it matters: Friday night's cyberattack is "the most significant, successful attack on energy infrastructure" known to have occurred in the U.S., notes energy researcher Amy Myers Jaffe, per Politico. A regional emergency

Updated 6 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Health: Fall and winter COVID surge "unlikely" if people get vaccinated.
  2. Politics: School boards are the next political battleground.
  3. Vaccines: Pfizer begins application for full FDA vaccine approval — Moderna says its COVID booster shot shows promise against variants.
  4. Economy: U.S. adds just 266,000 jobs in April, far below expectations.
  5. World: Asia faces massive new COVID surgeIndia records its deadliest day of the pandemic.
  6. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.