Durant, Delle Donne Back Just Women’s Sports, Hoping to Tap Consumer Spending Power

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Media platform Just Women’s Sports has raised $3.5 million in seed funding in a round led by Will Ventures, an early-stage venture firm focused on identifying sports-centric innovations. NBA star Kevin Durant and business partner Rich Kleiman’s Thirty Five Ventures also participated, as well as venture capital funds Drive by DraftKings, OVO Fund and Supernode Global. A number of women’s sports stars, including the WNBA’s Elena Delle Donne and Arike Ogunbowale, hockey player and Olympic gold medalist Hilary Knight and USWNT stars Kelley O’Hara (who also hosts the Just Women’s Sports’ flagship podcast) and Sam Mewis, rounded out the raise.

As the name implies, Just Women’s Sports covers the growing world of women’s sports. Recent studies have found that less than 5% of all sports coverage is dedicated to women’s sports, a void Just Women’s Sports looks to fill. Launched in 2020 by founder and CEO Haley Rosen, the startup plans to use the funding to build out its platform—both in content and personnel—to meet what it sees as increasing demand for women’s sports coverage.

“This space needs consistent and high quality media coverage and attention,” Rosen said. “We need to build the storylines, narratives and the characters. If you build this world, and you get people tuning into games and knowing who these players and athletes are, you can build all these extensions off of it—the fantasy, betting, everything we see on the men’s side. But it starts with high-quality, consistent media coverage. And that’s what this raise is about: building a team to build the ecosystem around women’s sports coverage.”

In addition to funding, the investors involved in this seed raise, from the high-profile athletes to Thirty Five Ventures, have pledged to tap into their own networks and resources to help grow the brand. That’s been a welcome change from the days when Rosen was working to get Just Women’s Sports off the ground.

Apart from OVO Fund, which was part of a small pre-seed, she articulated how difficult it was to find other backers who believed in what she was building, which she describes as a platform to “cover the actual sports and cover women’s sports authentically.”

“It seems kind of crazy, but early days of Just Women’s Sports, people didn’t get that,” Rosen said. “They didn’t think there was an opportunity there, so as we looked for partners or investors, we wanted people that saw that vision and believed in women’s sports as a great product.”

Over the last several months, major brands like Google, Nationwide and Budweiser have begun investing significantly in women’s sports properties, from the WNBA to the NWSL. Plenty of individual teams, like the yet-to-play-a-game expansion team Angel City FC, have seen interest on the business side grow as well. Companies like the Sports Innovation Lab have launched projects to gather a more comprehensive picture of the women’s sports fan for advertisers and potential investors—all markers of the current momentum behind women’s sports as a business.

Riding that same wave of enthusiasm, Just Women’s Sports has also seen heightened interest, Rosen said, from sponsors who want to get in front of their audience. While not all women’s sports fans are women themselves, the site has seen significant interest from what it categorizes as a “post-Title IX generation” of millennial and Gen Z women, many of whom were athletes themselves, who now want to watch and follow women’s sports. Women, in particular, control the vast majority of consumer spending.

In women’s sports fans, investors see an underserved audience of key consumers—and therefore, an ideal growth opportunity.

Will Ventures co-founder and managing partner Brian Reilly said in an interview that his firm typically doesn’t invest in media companies because growth tends to be slower and the revenue multipliers are different from other sectors, but they don’t see that as the case with Just Women’s Sports.

“We see such an outsized opportunity in women’s sports,” Reilly said. “We see parallels to ESPN, if you look at what happened in the 1980s, when the founders struggled to convince investors that there was demand for a 24/7 sports network. In that same way, lots of investors today have said that there isn’t enough demand for women’s sports. ESPN went and built this $50 billion-plus business off of men’s sports. Even if there are not as many fans on the women’s sports side, and you fall short, you could still build a multibillion-dollar business. So to us, it felt like an obvious gap in the market and venture scale opportunity.”

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