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SportsTech in January 2021 — A summary

Content is king but even better with context!

That’s why we at SportsTechX decided to kick off a new series of articles that put the relevant SportsTech news out there into perspective. The series will consist of monthly look-backs on what happened in the ecosystem.

So let’s start with what went on in January 2021 in the world of Sports & Technology. Enjoy!

Topic 1: 🏃‍♀️ Fitness

Some out there might say “This is so 2020” but history seems to repeat itself: The FitnessTech train just doesn’t stop and kicks off 2021 with some big headlines like it did last year. And things seem to heat up.

Keep and Cure.fit, both in a fight to win over fitness enthusiasts for their platforms in Asia and beyond, have taken measures to take things into the future. While Keep raised a big chunk of money to expand services and its product line, Cure.fit takes a tech-driven approach with the acquisition of an AI body tracker that it will integrate into its offering. Here are the details.

Keep secures $360m funding

China-based fitness app Keep provides at-home workout videos via its mobile app. The company has over 300 million users and the business model is based on subscriptions. Lately they have expanded their product line with stationary bikes that come with video instructions (sounds familiar somehow…), apparel, treadmills and smart wristbands.

Facts about the funding round

  • The Series-F was led by SoftBank Vision Fund. Other investors are Hillhouse Capital, Coatue Management, GGV Capital, Tencent, 5Y Capital, Jeneration Capital and Bertelsmann Asia Investments
  • Valuation at about $2 billion post-money
  • Currently no IPO plans
  • Purpose of the funding: Improve services and products for users and serve fitness professionals

Source: Techcrunch

Cure.fit acquires AI body tracker Onyx

India-based fitness platform Cure.fit is mostly known for its exercise videos and online group classes but offers a broad collection of health-related services that include fitness and yoga, healthy meals, mental wellbeing and primary care. The company raised $110m in 2020 and over $400m in total. Now they have acquired Onyx, a 3D motion capture app that tracks a range of exercises via the smartphone camera and the help of computer vision and AI.

Facts about the deal

  • Financial terms were not disclosed
  • Onyx enables Cure.fit to track motion at scale without a wearable, removing a disadvantage compared to competitors such as Apple (who has its watch and the Fitness+ service)
  • Adds personalised guidance and the ability to coach larger numbers of people without physically interaction, moving away from one-on-one sessions or depersonalised mass content
  • Opens the option to include more nuanced exercises, such as dance and yoga, as well as fast-paced activities like high-intensity interval training
  • It’s unclear when the app will be added to Cure.fit’s offering and if/how the current pricing ($15 monthly or $100 annually) will change

Source: VentureBeat

Our comment: Both ways have their charm, it’s hard to predict which one is the better. We are convinced that optical solutions are a must-have in fitness-offerings of the future. But maybe it’s not the tool to acquire customers and build a leading market position yet? We’ll watch this space from the sideline and see how it’s gonna unfold.

Onto the next trend topic.

Recovery is set to become a big business (more details in our FitnessTech Report). Quote: “Recovery methodology for a mass market is being redefined as fitness enthusiasts increasingly see preparing for and recovering from exercise as essential as the workout itself. But physical regeneration is only one variable. A host of stressors, including nutrition, sleep, and mental health, can hinder success. Recognizing this fact, startups are seizing on this moment, laying the groundwork for a multi-billion-dollar category”. Back then we already mentioned Hyperice, who recently secured an NFL deal, and now tries to manifest its leading position with an interesting acquisition.

Hyperice acquires RecoverX

U.S.-based Hyperice, the industry leader in recovery technology and pioneer of percussion, vibration, dynamic air compression and thermal technology, acquired RecoverX, a tech company specialising in intelligent thermal technologies.

Facts about the deal

  • Financial terms were not disclosed
  • Hyperice adds the cofounders, a team of engineers and product developers
  • Hyperice also adds a diverse IP portfolio that advances its thermal technology capabilities and connected ecosystem
  • Helps Hyperice to unveil a new category of recovery technologies that optimize human performance, longevity and health in Summer 2021

Source: Yahoo! Finance

Our comment: This looks like a very smart move. Hyperice already is in a very good position and now they acquire smart talent and valuable IP to further strengthen their offering. Could be from the acquisition blueprint book (we’re sure it exists somewhere). Together with the NFL deal (will other leagues/deals follow?) and the involvement of one of the prime athletes in the world, Pat Mahomes, this is a super strong setup. IPO bets anyone?

Other fitness-related news worth mentioning

Topic 2: 📹 Content & Analytics

January saw two bigger deals in the field of content production/distribution and analytics. On the one hand there’s Veo who started their journey in football (aka soccer) and is expanding from Europe into the U.S., from amateur clubs to professional teams and now wants to add other team sports to their offering. On the other hand there’s ShotTracker who is coming more from the analytics side of things, is purely focused on U.S. college and now wants to dig even deeper into this. Here’s the recent news about them.

Veo raises $24.5m round

Copenhagen-based Veo Technologies offers a video camera ($800) and cloud-based subscription service ($1,200 annually) to record and automatically select highlights of football games and training, which it then hosts on a platform. Veo currently works with 5,000+ clubs globally, mainly amateur clubs, but lately also professional teams in the Premier League, La Liga, Serie A, Ligue 1 and the MLS, and has recorded 200,000 games since 2018.

Facts about the deal

  • The Series B round was led by Danish investor Chr. Augustinus Fabrikker, other investors were Courtside Ventures, Ventech and SEED Capital
  • Valuation is not disclosed, but sources say it’s well over $100 million
  • Use of the funds: Expanding U.S. operations with an office in Miami, building the computer vision algorithms to expand into other team-based sports (including rugby, basketball and hockey) and improving analytics around the clips
  • The long term plan is not to build a media empire, but to be an enabler for content creation, going the Shopify way, not the Amazon one

Source: Techcrunch

ShotTracker raises $11m round

ShotTracker provides real-time basketball stats and insight for teams and broadcasters. The system uses sensors in balls, players’ jerseys and court sensors to track movement, allowing players to identify their most productive areas and to create a 3D court for enhanced analytics. It’s used by 60+ NCAA men’s and women’s college basketball schools (installation costs about $45,000), with partners like Nike, Adidas, and Under Armour.

Facts about the funding round

  • Terms of the financing were not made public
  • The round was led by Verizon Ventures and broadcast equipment manufacturer Evertz Technologies
  • ShotTracker has now raised more than $30 million in total
  • Plans to expand the workforce, deepen key partnerships and enhance sensor capabilities & data capture for players, coaches, fans and broadcasters
  • Verizon will improve ShotTracker’s cloud infrastructure with the help of 5G

Source: CNBC

Our comment: Both B2B offerings want to continue their success stories in a very crowded market. Veo’s success seems to be based on a really good pricing of their camera and systems, combined with a high quality offering, while ShotTracker is highly specialised on basketball stats and involves sensors that gives them access to different kinds of data. An overlap might only occur on ShotTracker’s home turf of U.S. college basketball. The main selling point for Veo in that area (if they can deliver similar insights) is likely their pricing. But given the fact that they’re not in basketball yet and the strong connections that ShotTracker has built, it doesn’t look like a low-hanging fruit. But there’s probably enough fishing grounds for both of them anyways. To be continued!

Other content-related news worth mentioning

Topic 3: 💥 Special Mentions

Fitness and content have been the two outstanding themes in the month of January for us. But there are other headlines that caught our attention, so we’ve included them in this “Special Mentions” section to make sure you’re in the loop. Here we go!

  • The Loupe app secures €3m and aims to unite sports card breakers (google it, it’s a thing!) and collectors on a single platform. The collectibles space is hot these days
  • The final of the 6th annual 1st & Future startup competition of the NFL showcased football helmet maker Genesis Helmets, wearable hydration sensor Nix, PEEP Performance, the maker of a breathing device that’s also a protective mouthguard, and motion sensor developer Organic Robotics, which uses light to measure muscle fatigue and ultimately won the event
  • Some interesting investment-related news appeared over the last weeks: Causeway Media’s health and fitness SPAC (SPACs are a big topic lately) prices upsized $240 million IPO; US private equity firm Silver Lake is in talks to acquire a stake in the famous New Zealand’s All Blacks rugby team and NBA franchises can sell 30% of their shares to private equity investors

🧹 Finishing up

And that is it, the very first article in our new monthly series that looks back on what happened in the world of SportsTech. The next article of this series will be published in the first week of March. In the meantime make sure to check out our other content:

And have a look at Hello SportsTech, our latest initiative in which we showcase cool, new SportsTech products.

Have a great day!

Benjamin Penkert is the Founder of Berlin based SportsTechX — Data & insights about startups and innovation in sports. You can get in touch via Linkedin, Twitter or email.

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Benjamin Penkert

Benjamin Penkert

Founder of @sportstechx. All about #sportstech and #startups.