Breaking down the sports tech investment scene – SportsPro – SportsPro Media

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Back in 2014, less than US$1 billion was invested in the then-fledgling sports technology sector, according to SportsTechX. Today, more than ten times that figure is being pumped into the space on an annual basis.
New startups are popping up all the time, some of which are pitching tailored solutions to meet the needs of specific sports, while others come armed with technologies that have the ability to automate backend processes that were previously slow and laborious.
While the offerings may be diverse and nuanced, all of these companies share the ambition of being the next multimillion dollar idea, one capable of convincing venture capitalists that theirs is the technology ripe for mass adoption. Indeed, many of these ideas were on show at the first edition of Ignition, SportsPro’s new meeting place for stakeholders across the sports tech ecosystem, earlier this year.
The growth in investment also points to a widespread acceptance among sports organisations that technology now has to be at the heart of everything they do, whether it be enhancing the product on the field or engaging with supporters off it, as well as streamlining their own backend operations.
The spotlight may currently be on Web3 and all that comes with it – the metaverse, non-fungible tokens (NFTs), you know the rest – but there remains a fascination with technologies related to areas such as data and analytics, broadcast innovation, betting and fantasy sports, and the in-venue experience.
To mark the start of Tech Investment Week, SportsPro dipped into some of the most recent SportsTechX reports to find out where investors have been hedging their bets in the ever-growing sports technology market.
Records were broken last year as more than US$10 billion was pumped into the sports technology sector. While investment is up across the board, North America has firmly established itself as the biggest market for sports technology. SportsTechX estimates that the region accounted for US$6.5 billion of funding in 2021, an increase of 161 per cent compared to a year earlier.
The fastest growth, however, is being seen in the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region, where companies such as Dream Sports have seen their valuation soar on the back of huge funding rounds. SportsTechX found that investment in sports technology businesses in the APAC market climbed 370 per cent in 2021 to US$3.2 billion, which was well out in front of the US$1.9 billion generated in Europe.
Some cities are also emerging as sports technology hubs in much the same way that Silicon Valley has become synonymous with the broader tech industry. SportsTechX has San Francisco as one of the top five cities in global sports tech in 2021, accounting for US$865 million in funding activity.
Crucially, though, SportsTechX estimates that the biggest sports tech funding round in San Francisco last year accounted for just 25 per cent of the total amount raised by businesses in the city, which points to investment being spread across an array of startups headquartered in the area.
That cannot be said for Mumbai, which ranked as the top sports tech city for 2021, given that 94 per cent of the total US$1.3 billion raised by companies in the Indian city can be attributed to the aforementioned Dream Sports. The fantasy sports platform landed more than US$1.2 billion in funding last year, taking its valuation to a whopping US$8 billion.
All told, New York and London join San Francisco as the cities seeing the most sports tech investment activity when measured purely by the volume of deals being done.
Although the number of funding rounds is on the rise, there were still some big winners in 2021, not least Michael Rubin’s Fanatics, which received US$995 million in investment last year as it branched out from its core licensed merchandise business to move into areas such as NFTs, betting and media.
It was also a breakout year for other companies in the NFT space, including NBA Top Shot creator Dapper Labs, which received US$555 million in funding in 2021 and has since partnered with the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).
There was similar success for Sorare, the Paris-based business which has brought a new dimension to fantasy sports by building games based around NFTs. With more than 200 licences with rights holders around the world, primarily in soccer, the company has ambitions of expanding into other sports, starting with baseball, on the back of a US$680 million funding round last year.
Note: Insights are from the North American SportsTech Report 2022 unless otherwise stated.
Who is investing?
From Bruin Capital, Rabil Ventures and SeventySix Capital to TitletownTech, Sapphire Sport and Elysian Park Ventures, there are some 27 North America-based venture capital firms investing in sports tech.
Meanwhile, the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) Launchpad and Comcast NBCUniversal SportsTech are among seven accelerators and incubator programmes, while the region’s sports tech ecosystem also comprises eight innovation initiatives, including Drive by DraftKings and Global Sports Venture Studio.
What are the top markets?
SportsTechX describes New York City as the ‘global capital’ of sports technology; the city has generated the most funding activity since 2017 and is home to the greatest number of startups. More broadly, California is the top US state for sports tech investment, followed by New York, Florida and Massachusetts.
With Dapper Labs driving funding activity in Vancouver, last year saw the Canadian province of British Columbia force its way into the top five states in North America for sports tech investment, while there has also been an uplift in activity in Ontario.
Where is the money going?
In light of North America’s growing interest in NFTs and sports betting, it makes sense that Fanatics, a company that has expanded into both of those areas over the last 12 months, and Dapper Labs attracted such significant investment in 2021. Unlike in APAC and Europe, however, it is solutions for athletes that are attracting the most investment overall.
Five of the top ten companies by funding last year in North America were from the fitness technology sector, including Mindbody, Tonal, Beachbody, Tempo and Whoop. There was also increased investment in outdoor sports technology firms, with Outside and AllTrails raising some of the biggest amounts in 2021.

Fanatics has seen its valuation soar on the back of its expansion into new verticals
Note: Insights are from the Asia-Pacific SportsTech Report 2022 unless otherwise stated.
Who is investing?
There are seven venture capital firms in the APAC region, including Sydney-based Athletic Ventures, Mumbai-headquartered Dream Sports Investments and Yao Capital, which operates out of Shanghai.
The market is also home to five sports tech incubator programmes, such as Taipei’s Hype Spin and Startup Bootcamp Australia, as well as eight innovation initiatives, including the Saudi Sport Innovation Hub and Sports Tech World Series in Melbourne.
What are the top markets?
India and China unsurprisingly lead the way, with the former seeing a buzz of sports tech investment activity in 2021, delivering just under US$1.9 billion in funding predominantly driven by fantasy sports, esports and fitness technology.
While Australia, Japan and, more recently, Singapore are also among the busiest markets overall, China remains out in front with regards to investment activity over the last five years, during which time sports tech companies in the country have raised more than US$3.5 billion.
Hong Kong has been pinpointed as the emerging market in APAC over the last 12 months after seeing just over US$200 million in funding activity in 2021. That is almost entirely down to Animoca Brands, the metaverse and blockchain gaming firm, which closed four funding rounds last year, according to Crunchbase.
Where is the money going?
While North America is the top region by funding activity, APAC leads the way when it comes to average deal value.
As would be expected, APAC-based companies in the NFT space – such as Animoca Brands and Fancraze – saw an increase in investment activity in 2021, but the region has historically seen funding pumped into sports tech businesses offering fan-focused solutions, particularly content platforms, fantasy sports, and connected fitness.
Last year, fitness technology firms Keep, Fiture, Cure.fit and Vitruvian Form all featured among the top ten sports tech companies in the APAC region by funding, raising around US$900 million between them. Most money in the market, however, was directed towards fantasy sports firms, namely Dream Sports, Mobile Premier League, Winzo and Zed Run.

Mobile Premier League, the fantasy sports firm that sponsors the Indian cricket team, saw steady growth in 2021 
Note: Insights are from the Europe SportsTech Report 2022 unless otherwise stated.
Who is investing?
While Europe lags behind North America and APAC in terms of overall funding activity, there are ten sports tech investor funds and networks in the region, including the likes of Apex Capital, Aser Ventures and Seventure Partners.
In fact, the European sports tech ecosystem appears to be one of the biggest in the world, with 11 accelerator and incubator programmes, as well as 36 innovation initiatives. Notably, a number of these initiatives are run by leagues and clubs, such as the Barca Innovation Hub, Chelsea Digital Ventures and Euroleague FanXP Challenge.
What are the biggest markets?
The rapid rise of Paris-based Sorare has helped to cement France’s place ahead of the UK and Germany as the top European country in terms of funding activity.
However, while Sorare’s multimillion-dollar funding rounds may be propping up Paris’ sports tech ecosystem, London continues to set the benchmark for the number of deals being done, with more than 150 completed in 2021.
There were three German destinations – Berlin, Hamburg and Munich – in the top ten European cities for sports tech by funding in 2021, while Copenhagen in Denmark, Douglas in the Isle of Man and Madrid in Spain have emerged as fast-growing markets over the last 12 months.

Uefa Champions League winners Real Madrid are among several European sports teams that have their own innovation initiatives
Where is the money going?
Sorare aside, Europe’s sports tech investment landscape is dominated by fitness, content and esports.
Data and analytics firm Genius Sports, digital soccer platform OneFootball, sleep and activity tracker Oura and booking platform Urban Sports Club featured alongside Sorare in 2021 as the top five European companies for sports tech by funding.
Europe may be lagging behind North America and APAC when it comes to NFTs and fantasy sports, but a dominant trend in the market is investment into technology solutions for soccer, which is understandable given the sport’s popularity in the region.
This year may only be five or so months old but there has been little to suggest that investment in sports technology is going to be slowing down any time soon.
While the funding rounds and acquisitions to date in 2022 have featured some familiar names and covered the sectors those acquainted with the space have come to expect, the activity has also highlighted some other areas that are becoming increasingly attractive to investors, as well as some companies that we might be hearing more about more often in the future.
Below is a selection of some of the highlights from January to June:
Date: January
Country: Brazil
Funding stage: Series A
Amount raised: US$32 million
Lead investor: D1 Capital Partners
Sector: Fantasy sports
Date: January
Country: Hong Kong
Funding stage: Series C
Amount raised: US$358 million
Lead investor: Liberty City Ventures
Sector: NFTs
Date: January
Country: India
Funding stage: Series A
Amount raised: US$25 million
Lead investor: Lightbox, Duane Park, March Gaming
Sector: Esports
Date: January
Country: USA
Funding stage: Series B-1
Amount raised: US$45 million
Lead investor: Amazon Alexa Fund, PTC, Edge Investments
Sector: Performance data
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Date: February
Country: Canada
Funding stage: Series A
Amount raised: US$18.5 million
Lead investor: Stripes
Sector: Connected fitness
Date: February
Country: Israel
Funding stage: Series D
Amount raised: US$100 million
Lead investor: ION Crossover Partners
Sector: Media and content
Date: February
Country: UK
Funding stage: Series A
Amount raised: US$16 million
Lead investor: Raine Group
Sector: Esports, betting
Date: March
Country: USA
Funding stage: Series A
Amount raised: US$10 million
Lead investor: Raptor Group
Sector: Betting
Date: March
Country: UK
Funding stage: Venture round
Amount raised: US$4.5 million
Lead investor: 24Haymarket
Sector: Fan engagement

Ex-Premier League chief Richard Scudamore was among those to invest in Monterosa’s recent funding round
Date: March
Country: USA
Funding stage: Venture round
Amount raised: US$1.5 billion
Lead investor: Unknown
Sector: Ecommerce, NFTs, betting
Date: April
Country: USA
Funding stage: Venture round
Amount raised: Unknown
Lead investor: Serena Ventures
Sector: Sports marketing
Date: April
Country: UK
Funding stage: Unknown
Amount raised: US$5.3 million
Lead investor: Pembroke VCT, Eppes Creek Ventures
Sector: Stadiums and venues
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Date: April
Country: USA
Funding stage: Series C
Amount raised: US$47 million
Lead investor: Pelion Venture Partners
Sector: Media and content
Date: April
Country: Sweden
Funding stage: Seed
Amount raised: US$15 million
Lead investor: Northzone
Sector: Esports, NFTs
Date: April
Country: Singapore
Funding stage: Series A
Amount raised: US$120 million
Lead investor: Dream Capital
Sector: NFTs
Date: May
Country: USA
Funding stage: Venture round
Amount raised: US$30 million
Lead investor: Unknown
Sector: Ticketing
Date: May
Country: USA
Funding stage: A1
Amount raised: US$7.5 million
Lead investor: Unknown
Sector: Connected fitness
Date: May
Country: USA
Funding stage: Seed
Amount raised: US$5.3 million
Lead investor: Digital Currency Group
Sector: Betting, NFTs
Date: June
Country: USA
Funding stage: Seed
Amount raised: US$5 million
Lead investor: Drive by DraftKings
Sector: Performance data
Date: June
Country: Denmark
Funding stage: Series C
Amount raised: US$80 million
Lead investor: ATP
Sector: Media and content
Date: June
Country: UK
Funding stage: Series B
Amount raised: US$60 million
Lead investor: Craft Ventures, Headline
Sector: Connected fitness
This feature forms part of Tech Investment Week, when SportsPro will be delving into the rapidly evolving world of sports technology and investment. To find out more, click here.
Ignition is SportsPro’s new home for everything that connects sports and technology. It is a member community for the creative, tech-enabled disruptors driving the future of sports business, from startups, big tech, investors and rights holders. Join our free Ignition platform here, or enquire about membership options

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