Athlane, the YC-backed company from the Summer ’19 cohort, is today ready to launch with a fresh $ 3.3 million in capital. Investors include Y Combinator, Jonathan Kraft (New England Patriots), Michael Gordon (President of Fenway Sports Group, which owns the Red Sox and Liverpool Football Club), Global Founders Capital, Romulus Capital, Seabed VC and more.
The startup originally positioned itself as the “NCAA of esports” but, after some time in stealth, has taken a new approach. Athlane is looking to be the connective fiber between streamers and brands, facilitating sponsorship and endorsement deals with more transparent data and analytics and a streamlined communications flow.
Athlane has products for both brands and streamers.
Brands can use the Athlane Terminal to manage their sponsorships. The Insights Hub uses proprietary data to help brands understand which streamers are followed by their target demographic, and whether or not the products will resonate with that fan base. Insights also allow brands to see when a streamer’s viewership is growing.
From there, brands can send out sponsorship deals to streamers directly through the Athlane Terminal, and then track the ROI on that sponsorship deal throughout the campaign.
On the streamer side, the company has built out a platform called Athlane Pro, which lets streamers manage each task from their sponsors individually. Streamers can also use Athlane Pro to counter-offer inbound sponsorship deals or negotiate terms.
Streamers can also use Athlane’s machine learning algorithm to get clearer insights on their stream performance, such as whether their YouTube viewership overlaps with their Twitch viewership, or see which videos do better based on title or thumbnail. But more importantly, the Athlane Content Hub gives streamers the opportunity to understand if their fan base specifically aligns with this or that brand, and gives them the tools to reach out directly to that brand to solicit a sponsorship.
Athlane has also built out a Shop tool that lets streamers build out a no-code storefront for their fans, which they can link to on their Twitch, Twitter, Instagram, etc. This storefront can be a repository for all the products that streamer is endorsing, allowing fans to see products from multiple brands in a single place.
“We have a number of proprietary partnerships with data providers including companies like Twitter,” said co-founder Faisal Younus. “For example, we have a partnership with the leading manufacturer of apparel in esports, which ties back into our system so we can look at how merchandise is moving.”
That data, when paired with the data provided when a streamer signs in and integrates with the platform, becomes very precise, according to the company.
The startup charges brands using a tiered SaaS model, and streamers can do their first sponsorship for free on the platform. After the first sponsorship, streamers are charged a fee between $ 10 and $ 20 per deal. Athlane has also started working with agencies that represent brands and charges a discovery fee for talent those agencies find on the platform.
“COVID-19 has brought on very rapid growth on the viewership side, and because of that we’ve seen an intense interest from a number of brands while conventional entertainment is shut down,” said Younus. “A lot of media spend is going to go unspent, but there is also a higher risk appetite for spending a little bit in esports, and our challenge is making sure this industry growth is sustained.”
He added that helping brands understand the true ROI of that spend will be key.
Despite record-setting COVID-19 infections, American equities rose today. All major indices gained ground during regular trading, while tech stocks did even better.
The Nasdaq Composite set new 52-week and all-time highs, touching 10,462.0 points before closing at 10,433.65, up 2.21% on the day. Similarly, a basket of SaaS and cloud companies that has risen and fallen more sharply than even the tech-heavy Nasdaq closed this afternoon at 1,908.30 after touching 1,952.39 points. Both results were 52-week and all-time highs.
Such is the mood on Wall Street regarding the health of technology companies. It’s not hard to find bullish sentiment, jockeying to push tech shares higher. Some examples of today’s enthusiasm paint the picture:
- The recent IPO for Lemonade is now worth $ 4.7 billion, according to Yahoo Finance. That price gives it a Q1-annualized revenue run rate multiple of around 45x. For a SaaS company, that would boggle the mind. As we’ve written, however, Lemonade has very un-SaaS-like gross margins, and has higher churn. The company’s stock rose around 17% today for no clear reason.
- Tesla rose over 13% today to $ 1,371.58 per share, another huge day of gains for the company now worth in excess of $ 250 billion. Analysts expect the firm to report $ 4.83 billion in revenue in its most recent quarter, according to Yahoo Finance. That’s less than the company reported in its year-ago June quarter when it saw $ 6.35 billion in revenue. Since July 1, 2019, Tesla shares have appreciated in excess of 450%, despite the company prepping to report what the market anticipates will be revenue declines.
- Amazon and Netflix also set new records today to toss a few more names into the mix.
You can’t swing your arms without running into a reason why it makes sense for SaaS stocks to be trading at record valuation multiples, or why one company or another is actually reasonably valued over a long-enough time horizon.
It’s worth noting that this putatively rational public investor thinking doesn’t fit at all with what the tech set used to pound into my head about the public markets, namely that they are infamously impatient and thus utter bilge for most long-term value creation. Going public was garbage, I was told; you have to report every three months and no one looks out a few years.
Now, I’m being told by roughly the same people that the market is doing the very thing that they said it didn’t do, namely price firms for future results instead of trailing outcomes. Fine by me either way, frankly, but I’d like to know which story is true.
Happily, we’re about to see if all this high-fiving and enthusiasm is real.
Earnings season beckons, and it should bring with it a dose or two of clarity. If the digital transformation has managed to accelerate sufficiently that most tech companies have managed to greatly boost their near-term value, hats off to the cohort and bully for the startups that must also be enjoying similar revenue upswells.
But that doesn’t have to happen. There are possible earnings result sets that can cause investors to dump tech shares, as Slack learned a month ago.
The background to all of this is that there are good reasons to have some doubts about the current health of the national economy. And, sure, most people are willing to allow that the stock market and the aggregate domestic economy are not perfectly linked — this is no less than partially true — but each day the stock market steps higher and COVID-19 surges again leading to re-closings around the nation makes you to wonder if this is all for real.
Earnings season is here soon. Let’s find out.