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Top 10 Startups in the Sports industry.

Updated: Apr 26

Top 10 Sports Startup
Top 10 Sports Startup

A brief overview of the sports industry.

The sports industry in 2024 continues to experience a period of significant transformation, shaped by evolving economic models, technological advancements, and shifts in consumer behavior. Here's a brief overview based on insights from Deloitte's 2024 Sports Industry Outlook from both their US and Global perspectives:

  • Economic Strength and Commercial Model Transformation: The sports industry remains economically robust, but commercial models are undergoing significant changes. Traditional revenue streams like sponsorships, ticketing, licensing, and merchandise are evolving, while new trends such as globalization, the growth of women's sports, and innovative real estate ventures offer fresh opportunities. Team valuations are on the rise, supported by lucrative media rights deals, signaling the industry's overall financial health.

  • Investment in Fan Data: Sports organizations are increasingly focusing on collecting and managing extensive fan data to build proprietary databases. This strategic move aims at enhancing fan engagement through personalized marketing and experiences, which in turn could drive loyalty, spending, and more lucrative deals in sponsorships, naming rights, and media rights.

  • Generative AI: The adoption of generative artificial intelligence (AI) is expected to significantly impact various aspects of sports, from content generation and live coverage to player evaluation and fan engagement. Generative AI's potential for creating personalized content and enhancing the overall fan experience is particularly notable. However, the rapid adoption of these technologies comes with challenges, including the need for careful implementation to avoid potential pitfalls.

  • Future of Mega-Events and College Athletics: The sports industry is also closely watching the evolution of mega-events, such as the Paris Games, which could set new benchmarks for future international sports events. Additionally, the changing landscape of college athletics, marked by conference changes and name, image, and likeness (NIL) deals, prompts questions about the emergence of a "new normal" or further disruption ahead.

Importance of startups in driving innovation in sports.

  • Startups are crucial drivers of innovation in the sports industry. They offer fresh perspectives and introduce new ideas that often challenge conventional methods. Unlike larger corporations, startups possess agility and flexibility, enabling them to swiftly adapt to evolving technology and changing consumer preferences. This allows them to explore innovative technologies and approaches that may have been previously overlooked.

  • Founders of startups are typically driven by passion and a determination to succeed. They are not afraid to take risks and explore unconventional ideas, often leading to groundbreaking innovations. Additionally, startups often specialize in specific niches within the sports sector, allowing them to develop deep expertise and create tailored solutions for particular challenges.

  • Collaboration is essential within the startup ecosystem. Startups frequently collaborate with established sports organizations, teams, and technology companies to bring their ideas to fruition. These collaborations provide startups with access to valuable resources and help them expand their reach more rapidly.

  • Ultimately, startups have the potential to disrupt the entire sports industry. By introducing innovative technologies, business models, and experiences, they challenge existing norms and drive progress. This benefits various stakeholders, including athletes, fans, and businesses, by enhancing the overall sports experience and fostering growth and development within the industry.

Top 10 Startups in the Sports Industry:

1) Sportsfirst:

  • Location: Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India

  • Founders: Nishant Shah and Arpan Desai

  • Founded: 2009

SportsFirst is a SportsTech development studio that specializes in creating digital solutions for sports companies, teams, and startups worldwide. Their mission is to empower sports organizations and enthusiasts by offering cutting-edge digital solutions that enhance performance, streamline operations, and create unforgettable experiences. The company envisions becoming the global leader in SportsTech development, revolutionizing the sports industry by harnessing the power of technology

SportsFirst is a technology development studio that specializes in crafting solutions for sports, fitness, and wellness startups and companies. Founded by Nishant Shah and Arpan Desai, who each has over 13 years of experience in the industry, SportsFirst is committed to impacting the sports sector significantly. The company serves clients such as Stack Sports, SportLomo, and Six Degree Sports, and its solutions are used by professional teams in the NFL, NHL, and MLB. With a team of more than 65 developers, SportsFirst focuses on everything from prototyping to acquisitions, highlighting their comprehensive approach to supporting sports-related technology needs.

SportsFirst works with a broad spectrum of clients, including athletes, professional league teams, coaches, and associations, to build bespoke SportsTech solutions ranging from athlete performance and biomechanics to video analytics and IoT. The company targets a B2B market, working with startups, and small to large enterprises, and focusing on a global market including India, Europe, and North America


  • Location: Montecarlo, Italy

  • Founders: Kazim Atilla

  • Founded: 2019

  • Funding: €100 million

  • Investors: Lux Media Investments​​​​

IQONIQ is a company focused on fan engagement, specifically within the sports and entertainment sectors. Founded in 2019 by Kazim Atilla, it operates as a for-profit entity under the legal name IQONIQ Group Sarl. The company is active and headquartered in regions spanning the European Union (EU), Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (EMEA). The last known funding type was debt financing. IQONIQ positions itself as a new platform aiming to revolutionize how fans engage with their favorite sports teams and entertainers, addressing the fragmentation that fans experience across existing social networking sites by consolidating fan experiences into a single platform.

3) Fivestar:

  • Location: Annapolis, Maryland, USA

  • Founders: Jeff Brunelle

  • Founded: 2020

  • Funding: $115.2 million (Series D)

  • Investors: Salt Partners, HarbourVest Partners​​

Five-Star Sports is a leading youth basketball academy in China, known for its nationwide program aimed at developing young talent. It has successfully merged with PacificPine Sports, the exclusive licensed operator of the PGA Youth Development Academy in China. This merger, completed with an $8 million financing round led by PacificPine Group, signifies a significant step forward in the sports development and training industry in China. The combined entity, now operating under the PacificPine Sports name, aims to offer a broad range of sporting programs and events, including weekly classes, club programs, tournaments, leagues, holiday camps, overseas tours, and a full-time academy program.

4) Betr:

  • Location: Miami, Florida, USA

  • Founders: Jake Paul, Joey Levy

  • Founded: 2022

  • Funding: $85 million (Series A)

  • Investors: IA Sports Ventures, Eberg Capital, Fuel Venture Capital​​

Betr, co-founded in 2022 by Joey Levy and Jake Paul, is a Miami, Florida-based sports betting and media company known for pioneering micro-betting in the United States. The company has quickly become the fastest-growing sports betting media brand in the country. Betr's platform introduces a direct-to-consumer micro-betting model, offering instant gratification to sports betting enthusiasts. It also provides tools to support responsible play, encouraging users to maintain control over their gambling activities and enjoy a fun experience within their personal limits. 5) WIN Reality:

  • Location: Austin, Texas, USA

  • Founders: Chris O'Dowd, Dan O'Dowd

  • Founded: 2018

  • Funding: $48.8 million (Series A)

  • Investors: Spectrum Equity, LAGO Innovation Fund​​

WIN Reality is a company that specializes in virtual reality-based training tools designed for baseball and softball players. These tools are aimed at athlete evaluation and development, helping players build their hitting approach, improve pitch recognition, and sharpen their swing decision skills. The goal of WIN Reality's technology is to enable users to quantify performance potential and transfer training improvements into real-world performance.

6) League One Volleyball (LOVB):

  • Location: Los Angeles, California, USA

  • Founders: Katlyn Gao, Kevin Wong, Peter Hirschmann

  • Founded: 2019

  • Funding: $60 million (Series B)

  • Investors: Left Lane Capital, Ares Management​​

League One Volleyball (LOVB), founded in 2019 by Katlyn Gao, Kevin Wong, and Peter Hirschmann, is a sports platform specializing in volleyball. It operates as a for-profit company known for transforming the ambitious potential of volleyball players, from youth to professional levels, with a particular focus on female athletes. LOVB aims to champion every stage of an athlete's journey through its innovative approach to the sport​

The company has been active in securing significant funding to accelerate its growth, having raised a total of nearly $60M across various funding rounds. The most recent funding, a Series B round, brought in $35M led by Left Lane Capital with participation from Ares Management Funds and other investors, highlighting the substantial interest and investment in developing volleyball as a premier sport. 

7) HomeCourt:

  • Location: Silicon Valley (San Jose, California), USA

  • Founders: Bilal Mekkaoui, David Lee, Philip Lam, Reggie Chan, Tony Sung

  • Founded: 2017

  • Funding: $42 million (Series B)

  • Investors: Blue Pool Capital, Samsung Ventures, Transform Capital​​

HomeCourt is a sports technology company that has developed an innovative platform aimed at enhancing basketball training through the use of artificial intelligence and computer vision. It is used by players across 100 countries and has garnered attention from prominent publications like the Wall Street Journal and Sports Illustrated. The app is free to download on the App Store. Headquartered in San Jose, California, with an additional office in Hong Kong, HomeCourt was founded in 2017 and has raised $4 million in seed funding.

8) Athletes Unlimited:

  • Location: New York, New York, USA

  • Founders: Jon Patricof, Jonathan Soros

  • Founded: 2020

  • Funding: Venture, $30 million

  • Investors: 35V, Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies

Athletes Unlimited is a for-profit, network of professional women's sports leagues that encompasses basketball, softball, volleyball, and lacrosse. It was co-founded by Jonathan Soros and operates under the legal name Athletes Unlimited, PBC. The organization aims to empower athletes as leaders and promote inclusive ownership focused on the long-term well-being of the athletes. It utilizes an innovative player-centric model to create leagues across various sports, promoting athletes as leaders while keeping in mind their long-term financial and personal well-being. This model enables athletes to play and earn money even after their prime competitive years, addressing a significant gap in traditional sports leagues where the financial and career sustainability of athletes post-retirement can be a challenge

9) Vitruvian Form:

  • Location: Perth, Australia

  • Founders: Jon Gregory

  • Founded: 2018

  • Funding: Series A, $26.1 million

  • Investors: Larsen Ventures, TEN13​​

Vitruvian Form, known legally as Vitruvian Investments Pty Ltd, is an Australian-connected fitness company. It focuses on bringing smart and engaging resistance training to the global market through the manufacture of connected fitness hardware, the development of software, and the provision of fitness class content. The company was founded in late 2018 and has made significant strides in the fitness industry since then.

One of their flagship products is the Vitruvian Trainer+, which was first released in 2020. This smart fitness device leverages artificial intelligence (AI) to adjust and adapt resistance based on the user's strength output, providing a personalized workout experience. The Trainer+ is designed to be integrated with the Vitruvian App, allowing for a variety of personalized training modes, including eccentric training and more.

10) Karate Combat:

  • Location: New York, New York, USA

  • Founders: Michael DePietro, Robert Bryan

  • Founded: 2017

  • Funding: Venture, $18 million

  • Investors: Alpha Wave Global, M13, Delphi Ventures​​

Karate Combat is a professional full-contact karate league, notable for being the first of its kind. Established by Michael DePietro and Robert Bryan, with headquarters in New York, it began hosting worldwide events in April 2018. The league distinguishes itself through its blend of live-action, full-contact karate fights set against immersive CGI environments, powered by the Epic Games Unreal gaming and virtual production engine. This innovative approach aims to revitalize karate by offering viewers high-quality, action-packed fights. Besides the professional league, Karate Combat's brand extends to sports equipment, a worldwide dojo network, and mobile apps for fans.

Future Trends in Sports Startup:

In today's digital age, the sports world is undergoing a remarkable transformation, propelled by innovative startups that are breaking new ground. These trailblazers are not merely challenging traditional models but are reshaping our perceptions of what's achievable in the realm of sports. They're pioneering advancements that not only enhance athlete performance but also revolutionize how fans enjoy their favorite games. Here's a glance at the cutting-edge trends shaping the future of sports:

  • Customized Fan Experiences: The era of passive game-watching is evolving. Thanks to the power of AI and analytics, startups are crafting bespoke viewing experiences. Now, fans have the luxury of selecting their preferred camera views, diving into live stats, and even making game predictions. Imagine your device curating content based on your favorite athlete – this personalized touch is transforming fan engagement, making each game a unique experience.

  • Athlete Wellness and Performance: Victory on the field is moving beyond mere physical prowess; it's about smart and sustainable success. The forefront of this movement sees startups innovating with wearable tech that tracks athletes' vital health metrics in real-time. This crucial data aids in preventing injuries and fine-tuning performance, marking a shift towards prioritizing athletes' health and longevity in sports.

  • Immersive Tech Innovations:  Virtual and Augmented Reality are stepping out of the gaming world and into the sports arena. Startups are harnessing these technologies to offer fans virtual stadium experiences from the comfort of home and to provide athletes with augmented training environments. This blend of real and digital worlds is making sports more engaging and accessible than ever before.

  • Green Initiatives in Sports:  As the global dialogue on environmental sustainability gains momentum, the sports sector is not staying on the sidelines. Startups are leading the green revolution with eco-friendly infrastructure projects and sustainable event management practices. The increasing use of sustainable materials in sports equipment and apparel signifies a commitment to planet-friendly practices, ensuring the enduring legacy of sports for future generations.

  • The Rise of E-Sports:  The distinction between traditional sports and gaming is fading, thanks to the meteoric rise of e-sports. Startups are seizing the moment by launching e-sports platforms, developing engaging games, and even coaching budding e-sports talents. This trend is broadening the scope of sports, offering new avenues for digital engagement.

  • Blockchain's Role in Fan Connection:  Blockchain is stepping into the sports domain, offering innovative ways to enhance fan engagement. From tokenized memorabilia to transparent ticketing solutions, startups are exploring blockchain's potential to forge deeper bonds between fans and teams through exclusive experiences and perks. This technology is reshaping the fan experience, making it more interactive and rewarding.

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