Unikrn announced earlier this summer that it raised $7 million in venture capital from Dallas Mavericks owner and Shark Tank star Mark Cuban.
Now, another celebrity investor is joining the Seattle-based eSports betting platform: Ashton Kutcher.
Despite Kutcher’s history of playing ditzy roles in “That 70s show,” “Dude, Where’s My Car?” and “Two and a Half Men,” the Iowa-born actor and model is known in tech circles as a savvy angel investor. Past bets include on a number of big consumer brands like Airbnb, Twitter, Foursquare, Uber and Skype.
eSports is fast becoming a huge cultural phenomenon, attracting viewer numbers on par with traditional sports such as football and basketball, so the involvement of both Kutcher and Cuban might be a natural fit.
Unikrn also announced that Guy Oseary’s Sound Ventures is part of the round, joining the company’s other lead investors Jonathan Teo and Justin Caldbeck of Binary Capital, Advancit Capital, Freelands Group, 500 Startups, Indicator Ventures and Tabcorp.
In an interview with GeekWire, Unikrn CEO Rahul Sood said that Kutcher reached out after reading about the company.
“He’s highly active in the deals he’s invested in,” said Sood, who previously led Microsoft Ventures. “He does a lot of advocating for Twitter and Uber, and he usually gets deep into the companies.”
Kutcher, who portrayed Steve Jobs in the 2013 film “Jobs,” also is an investor in Seattle-based pet sitting marketplace Rover.com.
Kutcher’s celebrity status and his social media reach, including more than 17 million followers on Twitter, may help get the word out about today’s launch. Sood said they are unveiling the Unikrn Arena Global, which is just like its existing arena, where betting occurs, except it strips out the real-money component, which is illegal in the U.S. and some other countries. (Kutcher has not tweeted about Unikrn yet since his investment has been confidential.)
The new platform is a virtual arena where users can earn “Unikoins,” a virtual currency that can be used to bet on games and win prizes. The company is also rolling out a companion mobile app, called Unikrn Vault, on Android and iOS in the next two weeks.
Coins are not purchased by consumers, but rather earned through a number of activities, such as answering trivia questions. The coins can then be used to bet on any of the games, or to increase your odds of winning prizes in a marketplace through an interactive raffle. Prizes include gear from such companies as Alienware, Caseking, Funko, Gunnar, HP, HyperX, and Logitech.
Because the coins aren’t sold, but rather earned, Sood says the system complies with all the laws in the U.S.
The platform will also be available in other countries, where online gambling isn’t allowed, like Canada, or can be used by fans who don’t want to place bets using real money.
In this way, the system is different than mobile or Facebook games, like Poker or slots, where players must buy more chips or coins to play. Sood declined to say how the platform will make money if it doesn’t charge for the coins.
“To start, we want to increase engagement for markets we aren’t in, but there’s plenty of ways we can monetize this going forward,” he said.