Big-name sports backers help Sapphire Ventures closes SportsTech fund on $115m


US-based Sapphire Ventures has closed its $115m Sapphire Sport fund after securing commitments from a range of big names in the sports industry.

Sapphire initially filed to raise up to $100m for Sapphire Sport – which was previously called SportsTech Fund – in November last year.

The firm secured an anchor investment from Manchester City FC owner, City Football Group. Sapphire also received backing from the owners, investors and family offices from many of the major US sport leagues.

Other investors included, Adidas, Anschutz Entertainment Group, Bank of Montreal, Intersect Ventures, New York Jets, funds affiliated with the owners of the San Francisco 49ers, San Jose Sharks, Sinclair Broadcast Group, Jeff Vinik, the owner of the Tampa Bay Lightning, and WISE Ventures.

Sapphire launched the fund just a year after rounding up $1bn for its second flagship vehicle.

The new vehicle will invest in Series A and B financing rounds for startups at the intersection of sports, media, and entertainment sectors.

Sapphire has already added five start-ups to the fund’s portfolio including Tonal, mycujoo,  Overtime, Fevo, and Phoenix Labs.

The new fund suggests a broadening of the firm’s strategy, which has typically seen it focus on enterprise and consumer technology companies across the US, Europe and Israel.

“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,” said Sapphire managing director Spirito. “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.”

The vehicle’s managing directors include Nino Marakovic, Jai Das, David Hartwig, Doug Higgins and Andreas Weiskam.

The firm currently boasts a portfolio spanning the tech sector, and has previously held stakes in FitBit, LinkedIn and PayScale.

Sapphire recently led a $33.5m Series D round for digital content infrastructure business Contenful, which also received backing from OMERS Ventures, Salesforce Ventures, General Catalyst, Benchmark and Balderton Capital.

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