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AEG backs $115m Sapphire sports/entertainment fund

Technology-focused venture-capital investor Sapphire Ventures has launched Sapphire Sport, a US$115 million fund which will invest in early-stage start-ups “at the intersection of sports, media and entertainment”.

According to California-based Sapphire, which manages more than $2.5 billion worth of assets, Sapphire Sport combines the firm’s investment experiences with “premier global sporting, media and lifestyle brands”, including Manchester City FC owner City Football Group, other US sports teams from the National Football League (NFL), Major League Baseball (MLB), National Basketball Association (NBA), National Hockey League (NHL) and Major League Soccer (MLS) and investors such as AEG, the Bank of Montreal, Adidas and US television giant Sinclair Broadcast Group (SBG).

Sapphire Sport launches with a portfolio of five start-ups: including Tonal, a digitally connected home fitness system; Mycujoo, a live football streaming platform; Overtime, a digital sports network; Fevo, a social commerce solution for live events; and Phoenix Labs, an independent gaming studio launched by the creators of Dauntless.

Sapphire Sport is be co-led by Doug Higgins, managing director and co-founder of Sapphire Ventures, and Michael Spirito, who joined Sapphire Ventures as managing director in September 2018 from 21st Century Fox.

“The opportunity we are addressing is vast and diverse”

“Venture capitalists need to continue to reinvent and innovate in order to stay relevant,” comments Higgins. “We created Sapphire Sport to serve as a preeminent investment vehicle in a nascent and dynamic sector where technology investment experience is in increasingly high demand. In partnership with some of the most innovative team owners and sporting brands in the world, we are bringing Sapphire Ventures’ investment experience to the global sport marketplace.”

Other Sapphire Ventures investments in the entertainment space include Ticketfly, now owned by Eventbrite, and India’s Paytm, the parent company of ticketing platform Insider.in.

Adds Spirito: “The opportunity we are addressing is vast and diverse. Sport is the one thing we can all agree on – even as we may disagree on our fan loyalties.

“I joined Sapphire Ventures because I believed that they had the best platform to build an investment firm of consequence in this industry. From a market perspective, sport includes all global sports media rights, distribution technologies, content creation, sponsorship, digital fitness, esports, betting, data and everything in between.”


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