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July 8, 2021 | Kendall Baker, Axios Sports

Buzzer, the mobile platform that wants to reinvent how fans consume live sports, recently closed a $20 million Series A funding round headlined by two GOATs: Michael Jordan and Wayne Gretzky.

  • Buzzer is a big idea: Help fans experience more live sports moments through personalized notifications (i.e. Steph Curry is heating up!) and micropayments (i.e. watch the final two minutes for 99 cents).
     
  • It's also a modern sports startup tale. From athlete investors to a culture and values born out of a pandemic, Buzzer is reflective of our current moment.

Under the hood:

  • Athletes on the cap table: In addition to Jordan and Gretzky, stars like Patrick Mahomes, Naomi Osaka, Devin Booker, Sabrina Ionescu, Christian McCaffrey, LaMelo Ball and Connor McDavid are also involved. The athlete-as-investor playbook is still relatively new, but it has quickly become invaluable for sports and fitness startups.
     

"One of the goals at Buzzer is to advance and amplify underserved sports, like women's sports. Right now, there is an increase in awareness and cultural currency happening in the WNBA, yet there are still barriers for fans to tune into games."
— Renee Montgomery, Atlanta Dream part-owner and former WNBA player, now an investor in Buzzer
 

  • Team owners as investors: Buzzer's latest round was led by existing investor Sapphire Sport and new investor Canaan Partners, but it also includes 10 principle ownership groups from the major U.S. sports leagues, including Lerner Enterprises (Nationals), David Blitzer (Devils and 76ers) and Stephen Pagliuca (Celtics).
     

"These are entities that are increasingly becoming more erudite, more forward thinking, participating earlier. ... Every league, every team owner, every network ... they're all trying solve the same thing in media: How do we provide more personalization, solve for mobility and ultimately make live sports rights more valuable?"
— Michael Spirito, Sapphire Sport partner
 

  • Born amid a pandemic: Buzzer's first 11 hires in early 2020 were all people who'd been furloughed or laid off. It was a deliberate choice that has helped the team connect despite being remote and "bred a culture of gratitude and empathy," says founder and CEO Bo Han.
     
  • Born amid a racial reckoning: 1% of Buzzer's cap table and 1% of its net profits are dedicated to furthering and advancing communities of color, and users will be able to round up their micropayments 1% to support those efforts. "That set the tone for the type of investors we were able to attract," says Han. "You're resonating with people's heart."

 

Axios Sports

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