LONDON, ENGLAND – NOVEMBER 15: Stephen Smith, CEO & Founder of Kitman Labs talks during Day 2 of … [+]
Kitman Labs, a sports analytics and technology company that works with more than 700 college and professional teams across the world, has raised $52 million in a Series C funding round.
Guggenheim Investments led the round, bringing Kitman’s total outside funding to $82 million since its founding in 2012. Guggenheim, which had more than $259 billion of assets under management as of the end of September, is an affiliate of Guggenheim Partners, an investment firm led by chief executive Mark Walter, who is the controlling owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Walter also owns a minority interest in the Los Angeles Lakers.
Stephen Smith, Kitman’s founder and chief executive, would not disclose the post-money valuation of the company. But he noted Kitman plans on using most of the proceeds to invest in its technology and hire an additional 100 employees within the next 10 months. The company, which is based in Menlo Park, Calif., currently has 125 employees.
The hiring spree comes as the demand for Kitman’s technology has increased since the coronavirus pandemic began in March 2020 with teams increasingly relying on data analytics to cut costs, increase revenue and improve operations.
Kitman has developed an artificial intelligence platform that analyzes data that teams collect on players when they practice, train, play in games, sleep and in other situations. Teams can then use that data to predict injury risk in players, form practice and games plans and evaluate talent and what makes players perform at their peak level.
When Kitman was formed nine years ago, teams collected 95,000 data points per athlete per year, according to Smith. That has grown to more than 2.5 million today, and Smith expects it to reach 200 million by 2025.
Most teams are analyzing data from 10 to 25 different sources such as wearables and other devices, according to Smith, so it is difficult for coaches, trainers, nutritionists, scouts and others to evaluate that information.
“We’ve built a platform that consolidates all of that data together, creates a shared level of understanding in real time and allows everybody to make shared decisions,” Smith said. “We help teams make what is a very complex process much simpler.”
Before founding Kitman, Smith, a native of Dublin, Ireland, worked as an injury rehabilitation coach for Leinster Rugby, a powerhouse Irish professional rugby team. Smith had a background in sports medicine and strength and conditioning and worked with others at Leinster to track data and determine what were the best ways to prevent injuries and improve performance. During his seven years with Leinster, the team won three Heineken Cup trophies, awarded to the top European club team.
“That was the start of all this passion,” Smith said. “We started to see there was real power in objectivity and leveraging data and technology and analytics, much like in any industry.”
He added: “If you look across any successful, modern business, industry or vertical today, we can see how data, technology and analytics have completely changed the way we behave and the way we operate within those industries. Sports was probably one of the later industries to start to move to that because of how traditionally they’ve been managed. But I think we’re well and truly here right now.”
Early on, Kitman’s clients were primarily rugby and soccer teams in Europe. But in recent years, especially since Smith moved from Ireland to California in 2015, the company has made inroads in the U.S. sports scene. Smith estimates more than 100 NCAA college programs use Kitman’s technology, as does teams in the NFL, NHL and Major League Baseball. Kitman also has clients in Asia, Australia and South America.
“We’re touching every part of the globe at this point in time, which is amazing to see,” Smith said.
Smith attributes a lot of the company’s recent growth to the competitive nature of college and professional sports where teams are looking for any edge as well as the influx of owners who understand that technology can pay enormous dividends.
“Many of the new owners that have come into sports are very well versed and very smart business people that have leveraged technology and analytics in their other industries to make them a success,” Smith said. “When they come to sports, they have expectation it’s going to be exactly the same.”
Kitman generates nearly all of its revenue from partnering with sports teams, but the company is also looking to expand its presence in other industries, including the military and government, where the health and performance of people is paramount to success. Kitman signed its first government deal this year and expects to complete more next year
“Our focus is on anywhere that touches human performance,” Smith said. “The desire to develop talent better, the desire to keep talent performing optimally, the desire to keep talent fit and capable of performing is just as important within the tactical space as it is within the elite sports space. That’s an area we’re really excited about.”
I have covered professional, college and high school sports for nearly two decades. I was a staff writer in the Sacramento Bee’s sports department for four years before
I have covered professional, college and high school sports for nearly two decades. I was a staff writer in the Sacramento Bee’s sports department for four years before earning my MBA degree from Georgetown University in 2009. Since then, I have worked for medical and financial media companies and written freelance sports articles for the New York Times, USA Today, Vice Sports, Bleacher Report and numerous other publications and websites. I grew up in Rhode Island, graduated with a degree in psychology from the University of Notre Dame and now live in the Philadelphia suburbs with my wife, two daughters and son.