With another Olympics wrapped up, sports is a hot topic for startups and VCs looking for new moneymaking opportunities in China.
The Chinese sports industry aims to amount to over three trillion yuan ($460 billion USD) by the end of 2020, according to China’s sports development five-year plan. Oscar Jazdowski, the head of corporate banking at SPD Silicon Valley Bank, told TechNode that the sports industry can be “a multi-billion RMB industry” for China’s tech ecosystem in the next ten years.
“China has 1.4 billion people without a main sports industry. To a country’s economy, [the] sports industry is a huge part of GDP,” said Mr. Jazdowski at a Founder’s day event, a startup round table talk event hosted by Startup Grind.
“This will contribute [a] substantial amount of GDP, both in franchises and in licensing,” he said. “You will see more VCs investing in sports.”
China’s sports development five-year plan includes a medium and long-term plan for Chinese football development, which was issued in April by China’s National Development and Reform Commission, aimed at hitting the goal of being a “top class soccer nation” by 2050. The plan outlines 20,000 soccer academies in China by 2020.
As these plans only list up the quantity goals of Chinese soccer teams, the quality part of the soccer team can be greatly improved with the help of technology-based startups, according to Mr. Jazdowski. Analyzing player’s performance and sports games will be in need, for example, and drone technology can be applied to scouting athletes.
“In Europe, an old man would go and watch 11, 12-year-old boys play soccer. After finding a talented boy, he will ask his parents to bring him to a soccer academy, and that’s how soccer athletes are made in Europe,” he says.
“China doesn’t have enough trained people to scout young boys playing soccer in China. So we are expecting drones with artificial intelligence to analyze how far a boy kicks the ball, and how accurately he kicks the ball.”
In China, startups are also starting to focus on gathering amateur soccer players and soccer fans to online communities. Beijing-based soccer community app Huanhuba (欢呼吧) raised a 100 million yuan ($14.9 million USD) Series B round of funding last month. Earlier this month, Shanghai-based soccer match platform SoccerWorld (索福德体育), which operates gyms and soccer fields, raised a Series B+ round.
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