Athletes Unlimited announced it raised $30 million
The GIST: Another day, another sizable investment in women’s sports. Athletes Unlimited (AU) announced it raised $30 million from new and existing stakeholders on Thursday, a vote of confidence in the organization and in women’s indoor volleyball.
The organization: The two-year-old AU is organized as a public benefit corporation, and hosts four women’s sports leagues — indoor volleyball, softball, lacrosse and basketball. It presently holds short seasons at a single venue and aims to target the “fluid fan,” someone who enjoys the momentum of condensed sports tournaments.
- AU also notably takes an athlete-first approach to its operations. Players have a say in league leadership, and enjoy mental health and maternity packages. Its content strategy also leans into athletes’ inherent status as influencers.
The details: Several sports heavy-hitters participated in the fundraising round — former U.S. hockey player Angela Ruggiero, Kevin Durant and Rich Kleiman through Thirty Five Ventures, and Philadelphia 76ers owner David Blitzer.
- The investor list also includes Schusterman Family Investments, former journalist Jane Gottesman, film producer Sharon Harel-Cohen and financial services execs Salil Seshadri and Keith Meister. Gottesman will also join AU’s board.
- The organization isn’t planning any major updates with its cash injection, instead opting to focus on scale and growing its current properties.
The trend: Shortly before AU’s big announcement, startup League One Volleyball (LOVB) revealed it raised $16.75 million, which included checks from Billie Jean King, Chelsea Handler and two of AU’s investors — Durant and Blitzer. Plenty to go around.
- The sport is racking up attendance and viewership records at the college level, and was the only top-10 high school sport to see growth during the 2021–22 season. Volleyball is also currently only second to track & field for girls’ participation.
Zooming out: Women’s volleyball’s case as sports’ next big thing is building serious momentum, and is well-positioned for a globalized world. The sport is incredibly popular in Europe, which means increased investment will allow AU and LOVB to compete with counterparts across the Atlantic and maintain a healthy global ecosystem.