Ed Blonk: Sportradar IPO proves status as most innovative sports business

Cited as 2021’s most audacious public listing, yesterday Sportradar grabbed global business headlines as company Founder and CEO Carsten Koerl rang the opening bell of the Nasdaq Exchange with Michael Jordan.

Ed Blonk, Chief Commercial Officer, Sportradar

Speaking to SBC from 42 Wall Street, Sportradar’s Chief Commercial Officer, Ed Blonk, discussed the company’s ambitions as a Nasdaq enterprise and how generated funds will be spent to further strengthen its foothold across multiple markets.

SBC: Why is this the right time for an IPO? Has Sportradar’s public listing on Nasdaq been influenced by developments in the US sports betting space?

Ed Blonk: The timing is right as we are looking at opportunities in large markets and in the US, betting is the definition of that. The US betting market opportunity is the biggest growth opportunity for us right now, but there are also multiple others in areas such as media, broadcasting, teams and leagues. 

The IPO is important because with the funds generated from this we can accelerate our growth strategy and do investments in tech and people. We will also be investing in our acquisition strategy that we have already had for some time. Overall, acceleration is important, and that is why both the timing and the location are right.

SBC: What are you hoping to achieve for Sportradar via this public listing?

EB: Big opportunities require big investments and that is what we are doing. The market growth is not just about sports betting alone – if you look at the digital transformation and how fans are interacting with sports and their teams, this world is changing. 

This requires companies such as Sportradar, and we are quite uniquely positioned here because we address media, broadcasts, betting teams and leagues to build products and build services for fan engagement or better engagement for the punter, which will drive the success of our partners. 

SBC: Are there any particular areas of business you are hoping to develop using capital generated by this IPO?

EB: If we go into more detail, and look at it from a technology perspective, we will continue to accelerate with investments with camera technology, machine learning and AI. To put it in other words, if you have access to and collect hundreds of thousands of data points from a match per second or per minute – what do you do with this? How do you build a story and services out of this? 

Although they still continue to play a tremendously important role, humans are not the primary data analysts anymore, it’s the systems that do the work. The digital transformation that has been seen in media and broadcasting is based on technology, platforms and AI. 

The amount of data you can collect using other technologies than a human interface are tremendous, and that is where the main focus of our investment will be.

SBC: Why pursue a riskier US IPO, considering Sportradar’s long standing as a European sports technology group?

EB: I don’t see it as a risk at all, I see it as an opportunity. If you look at the European market, from a sports betting perspective it is a mature market where operators have been for many years. 

It still grows at a rate of around 7% per year until 2025 according to some reports, but in the US in 2019 we were looking at a $1 billion, and now we are looking at a $25 million, $30 billion or $40 billion market by the time it reaches maturity. 

We can all agree that it is a market that will grow, and grow very rapidly. At Sportradar we have done investment in the US before, but we are now addressing 85% of that market from an operator perspective and so our position is well established. The decision to move forward with an IPO in the US is driven by that.

SBC: Which board members had a significant impact on the US IPO journey?

EB: Our board members all bring value with the knowledge and networks that they have, whether that be in sport, in technology or the consumer space – they all play a role and will continue to play a role.

In the US, we have seen some of our investments come from Ted Leonsis ,Mark Cuban and of course Michael Jordan. Michael has a keen eye on technology and understands the importance of data – not just on fan engagement and bettors, but also for the analytics of a team and of an athlete, which are all data driven.

Ultimately, our investors and board members all have their unique set of knowledge and networks that they bring to the table and help Sportradar along its journey.

SBC: And finally, do you have any additional comments you would like to close on?

EB: At Sportradar, we are a tech and software company that understands the power of data, and the company plays a role in the sports betting market but we also play a very important role in broadcasting, media, teams and leagues. The broad market that we address is an important highlight as we move forward with this IPO. 

It’s about the story data tells, it’s not so much about the data itself, it’s about what you do with it and how you address settlements and customer needs through the different channels, and Sportradar is uniquely positioned to do so.

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