A general theme hanging over the Seattle startup scene is the lack of local venture capital available. This forces local entrepreneurs to spend time outside the region seeking funding. And if such funding is found, the local companies perhaps don’t end up as much of a priority for out of town venture capitalists.
With this background, it doesn’t seem surprising that Seattle isn’t at the forefront of sports tech venture capital. While some local startups such as VICIS and TraceMe have found funding either locally or outside the area, Seattle is devoid of sports tech-devoted venture capital funds or accelerators. These have sprung up in many other cities across the U.S., as either offshoots of regular venture capital firms or major league franchises (Courtside Ventures, Global Sports Venture Studio, Stadia Ventures, for instance).
Seattle doesn’t have anything similar, which is a bit surprising given the region’s large tech presence along with the mostly forward thinking nature of Seattle’s pro sports franchises. Efforts locally tend to be of a smaller scale, such as the Sounders support for the annual Seattle Sports Tech Hackathon (disclosure: I’ve been a volunteer organizer of these events). A local venture banker told me a couple of years ago that the region is too small, and the sports tech sector too niche, for such a fund to be relevant and have a chance at earning returns for its investors. Maybe things are changing for the better.
But there’s no denying that sports tech funding within the entire venture capital ecosystem is small. One report had 2014 sports tech related investing at just short of $1 billion. Meanwhile, total venture capital invested in 2017 was estimated at $148 billion. So, yeah, it’s small. But the sector’s influence seems to be growing, at least if judged by those scrambling to see how they can benefit by being on the ground floor with the next big idea in sports media, wearables, esports, gaming, social engagement, etc. Ultimately, potential opportunities will be too important to ignore, and local players will emerge to provide funding when the risks of not participating in the sector become a disadvantage.