8 sports stars into digital sports startups

Grabyo grabbed the headlines recently for raising money from some A list footballers and basketball star Tony Parker. Apart from generating bad puns, the development also marks the continuation of a recent trend of sports stars getting involved with digital innovation companies, especially ones that are connected to sports.

Clearly, the present generation of athlete-celebrities have moved on from partnering in restaurants and buying small stakes in franchises to finding the next Zuckerberg.

1 to 4: Henry, RvP, Fabregas, and Tony Parker – GRABYO

In a time when rights holders are trying to ban the sharing of fan shot Vine footage of goals and live sports events, Grabyo have been working with them to enable this content to reach sports fans through legal channels. Their cloud-based system enables them to instantly create and distribute real-time video clips, with integrated sponsorship and advertising assets, across the web, social mobile apps and third party video platforms.

Founded in 2013, Grabyo have now raised $2m in funding from the likes of Cesc Fabregas, Robin van Persie, Thierry Henry and current NBA champion Tony Parker. This is the first time they have raised funds externally.


With digital advertising spends to soon surpass TV ad spending, Grabyo is in a very good place. It’s likely that the likes of van Persie and Henry will prove that they can spot the opportunity for a goal off the field too!

5: Virat Kohli – SPORT CONVO

The London based sports media start-up has just landed Virat Kohli as a shareholder and brand ambassador. Unlike Grabyo that is already established, Sport Convo don’t even have a site that’s live yet. They aim to be a leading player in sport-specific social media, their tagline, “for the fans by the fans”.


Kohli already has more than 22 million followers on social media, the Indian cricket star is rated as one of the biggest prospects for endorsements. Virat and his management company, CSE Consulting, will help with the development of the product as well as the business.

As per a report, negotiations are underway with a number of star names from other sports to join Kohli on the platform.

6 and 7: Michael Owen and Mark Webber: SPORTLOBSTER

Late in 2013, former footballer Michael Owen and former F1 driver Mark Webber invested in Sportlobster, a unique social media platform built for sport fans. This is Sportlobster’s third round of funding, the first being an angel investment of £500,000 in September 2013, and £620,000 from a private equity firm based in Luxembourg. The amount their invested as been undisclosed, but they now own a minority stake in the business.


“Sportlobster is a one-stop shop for sports fans, featuring results, upcoming events, news, rumours, blogs, and chat functions.

The social network can be accessed via the website or through a new iPhone app, which launched on October 25. Reaching 115,000 users from 216 territories and that figure is growing fast.”

Maybe this explains these tweets from Owen then:

8. Louis Saha – AXIS STARS

Retired France international footballer Louis Saha has gone a step further than just spotting a great digital sports opportunity – he has gone an built one himself. Or at least his sports consulting company Axis 10 has.


Saha launched Axis Stars in late October 2014. It’s a social network designed exclusively for professionals in the world of sport, where athletes, coaches and agents to help better manage and negotiate their careers and those of their clients.

“I wish I had a platform like this as a player; it would have helped me manage my career. The aim is to help drastically reduce the terrifying statistics which show that around 50 percent of sports professionals go bankrupt after retirement. I am more proud of this incredible project than all of my achievements on the pitch.” – Louis Saha

So here’s a social network for an athlete by an athlete. The platform already has on board, well-known stars like Didier Drogba, Florent Malouda and Robert Pires, as well as NBA players Nicolas Batum and Boris Diaw. It has also received interest from boxing and motorsport circles.

If you know of or come across any more examples of how athletes invest in digital media companies, be sure to let us know.

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