Entrepreneur & investor with a passion for early-stage startups. CEO of leAD – leading sports & health tech investment ecosystem.
Technology and innovation will shape the year 2021. While the traditional sports industry was heavily impacted by Covid-19 in 2020, sports tech and health tech, in particular, had a prosperous year. Peloton is three times more valuable than established sports brand PUMA. (As of January 13, Peloton's market cap was 45.647BI and PUMA SE's market cap was 13.28BI). In 2021 and beyond, I believe this industry will continue to be a good choice for investors. Success stories within this space inspire confidence among the investor community, as technology is now seen as an imperative element for business success.
With the global sports tech market expected to amount to $31 billion by 2024, these stories are only the beginning. Technologies such as 5G and AI and the power of harnessing data to personalize experiences, a megatrend poised to dominate this decade, mean that the window of opportunity is only going to get bigger. To seize the moment, smart investors should look at the following core areas; connected fitness, health and well-being, fan engagement and esports.
Connected fitness has substantially grown as lockdowns have prompted a fundamental change in the behavior of millions of people who have opted for at-home digital fitness experiences to keep mentally and physically active. Successful investment stories in this space include Mirror, acquired by Lululemon for $500 million. Just like Lululemon, big players in the sports and fitness industry are diversifying their customer offerings from a product perspective, creating omnichannel strategies of their own and bringing connectivity into play. Powered by AI, big data, predictive algorithm-driven hardware and software and personalization, connected fitness will continue to thrive.
Due to the pandemic, being active and living healthy has become more of a core focus of society in 2020, and I believe the spotlight will remain in this area. Tracking fitness activities and drawing the right conclusions on personal health status will heavily influence the digital health market. Through seamless technology, users are able to monitor vitals and physiological responses in real time, which can be instantly streamed to trainers and coaches, allowing them to provide instant feedback. It offers a personalized experience and provides access to health and well-being solutions to a wider audience. In addition to health tracking, mindfulness solutions offer a great opportunity for investors. Calm and Headspace, leaders in this space, have closed impressive rounds last year ($75 million and $93 million respectively). More innovation in this market is bound to happen, and smart investors should engage early.
Sports organizations have had to look at new ways to engage fans, with technology integral to that process. This is particularly important when capturing the attention span of younger generations. With the average age of an NFL fan around 50, there's a big focus on replicating the loyalty that those sports fans grew up with in their youth. This is pushing sports leagues, broadcasters and others to explore how technologies like 5G, VR and AR can enhance the viewing experience while gathering invaluable data. Esports and gaming are seeing incredible growth thanks to their ability to merge real and digital worlds and keep the audience engaged. Twitch, the world's leading live streaming platform for gamers, reached 5 billion hours watched in the second quarter of 2020, registering new highs last year. The numbers will continue to grow in 2021.
All these areas of sports tech and health tech offer incredible opportunities for both investors and entrepreneurs. It is the perfect playing field for innovators that want to truly shape how society will live in the coming years. The next Peloton, Twitch, Draft Kings, Zwift, Mirror or Headspace are all in the making right now. Investors have to be bullish to see the potential and make an early and bold move.