AcadArena, a Philippine-based tech startup that builds communities and provides scholarships through gaming, has recently secured $3.5 million in funding led by token fund 1KX, Korean blockchain venture capital firm Hashed, and others.

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, AcadArena said in a statement.

These investors include Twitch Co-Founder Kevin Lin, Kabam Co-Founder Holly Liu, Rotten Tomatoes Co-Founder Patrick Lee, Crunchyroll Co-Founder Kun Gao, Sky Mavis Co-Founder Jeffrey “Jihoz” Zirlin, and Animoca Brands Co-Founder Yat Siu.

With the $3.5 million funding, AcadArena 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.

“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,” said AcadArena Co-Chief Executive Officer Kevin Hoang.

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 made a presence in over 500 colleges in the Philippines, encompassing 150,000 students through the gaming and esports communities it has built. AcadArena also helped establish student gaming and esports clubs in some of the country’s top schools like Ateneo, UPD, UST, and La Salle. It is also the official Philippine collegiate licensee for Riot Games titles and the premier partner of Globe Telecom for campus gaming.

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.

AcadArena’s founders, though young, are veterans of the industry. Ariane 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. Justin Gorriceta-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. 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,” said Hoang.

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