“Hidden champion” THE Football App scores €10m from Berlin VC Earlybird



In a rare sign of serious investor confidence in a German early-stage startup, THE Football App – a games coverage and social networking site for fans of the world’s biggest leagues – today announced a €10 million Series A investment from a syndicate led by Earlybird Venture Capital.

“It shows that we’re willing to throw our weight behind things early on if the community thinks they are on to something,” says Earlybird partner Ciaran O’Leary.

The free app aggregates data, media content and services (including ticketing) from providers worldwide, and presents the content as a complete package for footy fans.

THE Football App

THE Football AppTHE Football AppTHE Football AppTHE Football App

Developed and founded in Bochum, Germany, 2008 as iLiga, THE Football App claims that across Europe, it’s amassed over 3.5 million monthly users, 1.5 million daily active users and over 100,000 downloads a day – without marketing spend.

Big numbers for a startup that’s bootstrapped until now, and grown in four-and-a-half years to a team of 30, working out of a backyard in Berlin since relocating in mid-2010.

The company’s co-founder and managing director Lucas von Cranach plans to use the fresh funding to expand globally and be ready for Brazil’s 2014 FIFA World Cup action.

The app currently covers over 100 leagues in six languages but is now looking to reach 400 leagues in 40 languages by the end of this year.

The global football community – “A €100bn business”

Lukas von Cranach“For editorial content, it’s just a matter of integration – it’s all there and licensed as done deals,” Cranach explains. “From August this year, we’ll prove (with features) that this community is real… We got more than 100,000 emails from our users with 80 per cent who want social features. It’s about localisation and logging in with customised content, for example, so there are several paths, but we’re careful to not do it all at once.”

And how does Cranach plan to capitalise on its growing user-base and keep investors happy? “An app always sounds so small and limited in terms of business models but what we’re doing is addressing the football market as it exists today offline and online in digital and it’s huge. We’re talking about a €100 billion business,” he says.

“We’re talking about advertising and sponsorship. We’re also in ticketing, so it’s merchandising, betting, and in the end transactions and gaming. We’re covering all businesses which work in football’s offline world and bringing them to the digital world.”

Not bad for a company that’s purposely flown under the startup scene radar, patiently working heads-down until “global expansion” day.

“They basically had zero visibility in the scene and were just busy building the company. It’s a wider phenomena we’re seeing – Europe has plenty of hidden champions,” O’Leary says.

Image credits:
table footy: flickr user riklomas

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