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Kitman enters big leagues after €8m funding round



On the ball: Stephen Smith, Kitman Labs co-founder, said the new funding round would allow the sports science company to ‘solidify’ its position as market leader

On the ball: Stephen Smith, Kitman Labs co-founder, said the new funding round would allow the sports science company to ‘solidify’ its position as market leader

On the ball: Stephen Smith, Kitman Labs co-founder, said the new funding round would allow the sports science company to ‘solidify’ its position as market leader

One of Ireland's fastest-growing indigenous tech firms has added $9m (€8m) in funding in recent months, including a 'Series B' round of $4m (€3.5m) that it has just closed.

Kitman Labs, a sports science and analytics company co-founded by former Leinster coach Stephen Smith and Iarfhlaith Kelly, has now raised more than $19m (€16.8m) in total as it has taken on some of the biggest professional European football and US sporting franchises as customers.

The startup makes software-based evaluation and measurement tools that help to prevent injuries and optimise individual players' performance.

Smith said that the firm's new funding was a reflection of it doubling its customer growth and revenue last year while expanding further into professional leagues such as the English Premiership, German Bundesliga and Chinese Super League.

It is also prominently used in American professional sports leagues such as the National Hockey League and Major League Baseball, while it has a strong base among professional rugby clubs in Ireland, the UK and the southern hemisphere.

Smith said that the money is being used to build up bigger bases within individual markets that it has established.

"We don't need to raise €40m or €50m because we're not Snapchat," he said. "But what this does allow us to do is to make some big inroads within our industry and to solidify our position as market leader. We're beginning to operate at real scale now across multiple leagues."

The company, which has offices in Dublin, San Francisco and Australia, counts as customers US teams such as the Miami Dolphins and Detroit Pistons, rugby teams such as Leinster Rugby and the IRFU and large English Premier League clubs such as Everton and Norwich. It has also recently entered the UFC market.

Smith said that the insurance industry is an obvious target for the technology that Kidman Labs produces.

"The digital health space is ripe for transformation," he said. "The world of health insurance is one of the most exciting for us because of the rapid rise in healthcare costs. We can provide incredibly individualised risk assessments, helping to drive risk down."

The appeal of the technology is that it can "significantly" reduce injuries and time spent off the field of play by highlighting individual physical traits that may be more vulnerable in certain moments or modes of training.

"Every team wants to get better," said Smith. "But the exact problem they're trying to solve can be different. Look what's happening with Manchester City and Spurs, for example. The injuries they're suffering are completely different. But the game plans and the training techniques are different. Therefore the injury risk is different. So although there are similarities in the high-level problems that they're all trying to solve, there's a level of granularity and context. You need to provide very bespoke insights."

The company received a total of $9m in new investment in 2018, including $4m in a Series B round from new and existing investors. Throughout the year, the funding helped the recruitment of five "key leadership roles", says Smith. It also helped fund the rapid "transformation" of the company's performance and health offerings, including the introduction of the industry's "first full-stack solution and outcome-driven analytics".

Kitman has also announced the veteran entrepreneur Pete Kight as an investor. Kight founded the electronic transfer business CheckFree almost 40 years ago. That company was sold to Fiserv for $4.4bn in 2007. "Pete adds both strategic and operational prowess to the company," said Smith.

He said that the industry that Kitman Labs is operating in has evolved significantly in recent years.

"We want to showcase that the days of athlete management systems, where you just collect data, are dead," he said. "We want to showcase more intelligence. The requirements for how teams use their data to achieve success have changed. The teams we partner with are reducing injuries by 30pc to 50pc, increasing performance and finishing higher in the table, and winning championships."

The company announced a new chief operating officer, Jon Elvekrog and Obie Oberoi as chief strategy officer.

It also added John Dams in Australia and Darcy Norman in the US.

"Those guys are huge for us," said Smith. "They're exceptional practitioners."

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