A founding team that includes four Canadian entrepreneurs and UFC Octagon announcer Bruce Buffer is set to launch a new social e-commerce platform aimed to connect athletes to their fans.
Millions.co is launching a product designed to help athletes open up new revenue streams and increase their engagement with fans.The startup’s founding team includes some familiar faces from the Canadian tech ecosystem, but the more globally-recognized name on Millions.co’s founding team is Buffer, announcer for the UFC, also known as the ‘Voice Of Mixed Martial Arts.’
“We want to democratize starting a brand … for all pro-athletes, gyms and sports organizations.”
Millions.co’s CEO is Matt Whitteker, who previously co-founded Ottawa-based Assent Compliance. The founding team also includes Scott Whitteker, Matt’s brother who runs the charity boxing event Fight For The Cure, Adrian Salamunovic, an Ottawa-based entrepreneur who founded digital art startup CanvasPop, and Brandon Austin, a serial entrepreneur based in the United States.
Millions.co was created to allow athletes to leverage their existing fan base and social media presence in order to create and control their own revenue streams. Fans will be able to purchase exclusive products, access private interactive video streams, and participate in AMAs.
The company will partner with athletes to share the revenues on transactions, with the gross majority going to the athletes. Millions.co has an initial focus on combat sports, but is looking to extend partnership opportunities to athletes from other sports leagues such as the NBA, NFL, NHL, and eventually sports such as golf, soccer, and cricket.
Matt told BetaKit the founding team launched Millions.co initially to buy merchandise from pro-boxers that did not have online stores. He said the team noticed athletes were going to a printshop and mailing their own shirts, highlighting the market need for a better e-commerce solution.
“We want to democratize starting a brand, selling online and giving access to the latest technology for all pro athletes, gyms and sports organizations,” Matt said.
The CEO told BetaKit his startup is already in talks with broadcast event and pay-per-view companies, and over 100 pro-combat athletes, including Albert “The Prince” Bell, MMA fighter Bryce “Thug Nasty” Mitchell, and pro-boxer Chris Colbert.
The concept of “athlete-fan engagement” experience has emerged as a growing area within social commerce, with one of the most notable companies in the space being Dapper Labs. Though Dapper Labs has developed several blockchain-based solutions, its Top Shot product has seen marked success recently. Top Shot, currently targeted toward the NBA, allows basketball fans to collect, trade, and own some memorable moments in NBA history on blockchain.
Following the growth of this product, Dapper Labs raised $305 million USD from a number of athletes and celebrities. At Collision 2021, Dapper Labs investor and NBA star Spencer Dinwiddie spoke about his own fan engagement app, Calaxy, which allows influencers to interact with fans using digital tokens.
Salamunovic told BetaKit, Millions.co aims to bring the best features from streaming services, fan interaction companies, and fan merchandise firms onto a single platform and tech stack, allowing athletes to easily engage with their audience.
“There’s something very powerful about creating an ecosystem where merchandise and digital services can work together like this,” Salamunovic said. “We think this is the future of consumer commerce, combining digital and physical goods.”
The company’s initial focus on combat sports may be particularly beneficial for fighters in the UFC. Though some fighters such as Conor McGregor are known for pulling in nine figures for a single event, a lawsuit filed by former UFC fighters claimed only one-fifth of the promotion’s revenues go to athlete salaries, far below the proportion paid to athletes in other sports leagues.
“The professional sports industry is rapidly changing,” said Buffer. “What athletes need now is a radical shift, to take back control of their careers and their relationship with fans all over the world.”
Millions.co’s goal is to have over 5,000 athletes on the platform by the end of the year.
UPDATE (05/14/21): This story has been updated to note that Millions.co’s founding team includes four Canadian entrepreneurs, rather than three.
Image courtesy of Millions.co