This week, we had the honor to interview Massimo Marinelli, Executive Board Member of Aser Ventures, a leading investment platform specializing in sports and technology.

Aser Ventures are not tied to a particular stage or scale of investment, from incubating new businesses to working with globally known names. Aser invests in potential, and helps its partners to do the same.

Total number of investments: 15 core investments.

Recent investments: Creed Media (May 25, 2021); Team Whistle (March 29, 2021, acquired by ELEVEN); MyCujoo (November 9, 2020, acquired by ELEVEN); LIVENow (August 17, 2020), DaChain (July 2021).

?Show Notes: Throughout this interview, we touched on Massimo’s background, and his role as an Executive Board Member at Aser Ventures. We also touched on Aser Ventures and how Aser Ventures is using technology to grow its portfolio. We also discussed the growth of private equity in sports, the US investment in European sports, the future investment in European sports, and the metaverse and the trends around NFT.

?Best Quotes: Here are some of the key discussion points and best quotes from our conversation with Massimo:

  • On Massimo’s career’s history: “Aser Ventures is an investment platform, specialized in sports, media and tech. I’ve been with Aser for about five years. Before that I was an investment banker, doing mergers and acquisitions and capital markets transactions. I was a managing director at UBS Investment Bank where I worked in the media and internet sectors. And that included sports because sports is very tied to media. One of the transactions I did was to sell the previous business of the entrepreneur that founded Aser, Andrea Radrizzani. That was a very successful M&A for Andrea and Andrea invested the proceeds into Aser Ventures, which now is an investment platform, focused on sports, media and tech”.
  • On Aser Ventures: “I think the key point I would highlight is that Aser is not a traditional investment firm. It is a company that invests but is also very invested. We focus on businesses that we are passionate about and we launch our own businesses too. We offer our management expertise to help our companies grow and we look for synergies across our portfolio to drive additional value. Key to Aser’s work is to identify great people and empower them to lead the businesses we invest in. For example at Leeds United, we brought in a new leadership team when we came into the club and they are doing a fantastic job.”
  • On the growth of private equity in sports: “I saw a report recently that there has been $13 billion invested into sports tech in 2021. That was higher than the previous two years combined, so that gives you a sense of how much more focus there is into this space. I think it continues to be an area with a lot of opportunities for increased professionalization, and with very high and strong growth prospects, and therefore it is normal that you find more institutional capital focused on it”.
  • On investments coming from Asia and from different groups into European football clubs: “Look, I think it’s definitely an increasing area. The good news about European sports is that there are many more entry points. In the US you have closed leagues with a finite number of teams. Obviously that has its advantages. Once you invest into an NFL team, you are always going to be part of that league and you have no concern around relegation and promotion. But it does make the opportunities smaller. The are more opportunities in Europe whether it’s football, basketball, or hockey, or Volleyball, which are also a popular sports in Northern Europe”.
  • On the big areas of investment and opportunities in sports and tech right now: “As you highlighted NFTs and the metaverse are an interesting area at the moment. In both of those spaces, we have done our own initial investments. In the NFT space, we invested in a business called DaChain, which is developing. As with many of these NFT/metaverse businesses, it’s still in its early stages, but it’s developing already with some good quality NFTs examples. The focus is really to demystify the space a little bit, to help any providers, not just in sports, by the way, offer their own NFTs (..) More broadly, from our perspective, there is also a need to increasingly focus on startups in the analytics and CRM space. We think that there are some good companies there, and there is still a lot that can be done in that space”.
  • On their involvement in the metaverse space: “Our streaming platform LIVENow has experimented already with some concerts in the metaverse in Italy. We are following the space very carefully, and looking at how it may add new value to our companies across the portfolio”.