Professional footballers and technology startups aren’t the most obvious pairing but a number of players are trying to marry the two and score both on the pitch and in business.
Technology is a big money-spinner these days and wealthy footballers looking to make investments could do worse than to back some of Europe’s fast-growing tech startups, taking a chunk of equity in the process.
Most of today’s players that are showing an interest in apps and platforms are getting behind startups with some sort of link to sport, be it a sports social network, an online sports betting platform, or even a sports career website.
The footballers often choose to present themselves as one of the startup's ambassadors, but behind the scenes they can be found signing deals that give them a slice of the business.
Cristiano Ronaldo, Andrés Iniesta, Michael Owen and Louis Saha are just a few of the other big names that are throwing their millions at European tech startups. Here, Techworld has profiled each player and outlined the technologies they're hoping to score with.
Former England, Manchester United and Real Madrid midfielder David Beckham has invested in a relatively unknown video streaming app called MyEye, which can be considered a direct rival to the better known Periscope app, which is owned by Twitter.
MyEye video clips remain on the app for 72 hours, while Periscope's only last 24 hours before they disappear.
The British startup has been in stealth mode for over a year but it has still managed to raise £2 million in investment, with help from Beckham and others.
Becks will be able to use the iOS/Android app exclusively to live stream short-term content, according TechCrunch, who broke the story.
Speaking as an investor and ambassador for MyEye, Beckham told TechCrunch: “I’m always looking to back and support British businesses that have the ability and vision to do something truly transformational on the global stage, and I believe that MyEye has the potential to change the way people interact through social media.
"I have been cautious about the partners I work with in the digital world and I’ve been very impressed with Paul, Mark and Lee. They have a great track record of building successful businesses and I’m excited to collaborate with them going forward.”
Being endorsed by Beckham will be huge for MyEye. The well-liked A-lister has over 77 million Facebook followers and a further eight million Instagram followers, despite joining the photo-sharing service less than three months ago.
Real Madrid striker Cristiano Ronaldo, widely regarded as the best player in the world, has invested an undisclosed amount in an app called Mobbito, which aims to help local businesses increase loyalty and brand engagement and could be considered a rival to Foursquare.
Mobitto CEO Jose Simons told Whiteboard magazine that Mobitto goes one step further than check-in app Foursquare.
Users can collect points by inviting friends, sharing activities on social networks, recommending merchants and brands, but also by walking in a store and buying items. They can also get points for bringing in business: by referring friends.
Commenting on the app experience, he said: “It’s a lot like becoming the mayor on Foursquare, but a Mobitto ambassador has to do more than just check in: he has to be a paying customer or refer paying customers.”
It’s understood that Mobitto is currently working with smaller retailers, but it plans to partner with major chains and brands in the future.
Although Ronaldo is an investor, it's unclear what other roles he can play in the business, if any.
“We don’t want to overuse him. We don’t want people to use Mobitto because he’s involved in it,” said Simoes.
Andrés Iniesta, a central midfielder for rival club Barcelona, has invested his money in a company that has an on-body camera that can be used for sports broadcasting.
Iniesta, who made his investment alongside professional basketball player Serge Ibaka and Spanish telecoms giant Telefonica, has become a partner in the company, which wants to change the way people watch and experience sport.
By combining a full-HD camera with a professional RF transmission system, FirstV1sion provides viewers with broadcast-quality footage from a new angle, making replays and tense sporting moments “more exciting”, said FirstV1sion. Additional features, including sound and biometric sensors, complete the design. The technology was recently piloted in a Real Madrid v Barcelona game.
Former Liverpool and England striker Michael Owen has put his money behind a sports social media platform known as Sportlobster.
The startup, which is also backed by F1 driver Mark Webber, describes itself as a platform for sports fans, featuring results, upcoming events, news, rumours, blogs and chat functions.
Fans create their own accounts, much as they would on something like Facebook and Twitter, before going on to follow others and share content. Owen’s account can be seen here.
The site, which is built around 32 different sports, aims to eliminate the need to visit multiple sites, such as the BBC and YouTube, through the course of a day, in order to find out and view everything they desire.
The platform, used by F1 driver Lewis Hamilton and several other sporting professtionals, launched in October 2013 and by August 2014 it had acquired 1.4 million users.
Former Manchester United and Everton striker Louis Saha has gone one step further than the aforementioned players on this list in that he has launched his own tech startup with his business partner, Patrice Arnera.
Axis Stars is an online sports platform that is designed to help athletes better manage their careers. Saha told Techworld that it provides a helping hand to younger players in order for them to manage their career and plan for the future, as well as 'match-make' players with agents and sponsors.
He believes that having players, agents, clubs and sponsors on the same platform will result in increased transparency and less corruption – something the industry is desperate for, according to Saha.
Interestingly, the majority of footballers investing in startups seem to be attacking players – possibly because players in these positions tend to earn more than defenders and therefore have more to spend. It’s also possible that it has something to do with their personality traits in that defenders are usually more introverted and prefer doing tasks they’re familiar with, whereas strikers are often more extrovert and out-going, therefore making them more open to new challenges.
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