Awful Announcing has learned that The Athletic has raised $22 million in new funds from their current investors earlier this year. The Athletic shared the following statement with Awful Announcing.
“The Athletic completed a $22 million round of funding from its current investors, led by Founders Fund, earlier this year. The proceeds will be used to accelerate our company’s international expansion and fuel additional growth and hiring.”
We had reached out for clarification on any new funding, because there was an odd blurb tucked away in this Digiday article about The Athletic’s expansion into the UK.
Backed by over $100 million (£78.7 million) in funding, the media company is an attractive bet for investors for its avid fan base and recurring revenue from audiences, which typically attract higher values than ad-funded media businesses. Patterson added that most of its early markets in the U.S. are profitable and the business is healthy.
What the average reader might gloss over here is the article claims The Athletic has raised over $100 million, which would be roughly $33 million more than has been previously reported. Here’s a look at their funding history, per Crunchbase.
The additional confirmed $22 million would bring The Athletic’s total of reported investment to a little under $90 million, which still brings up some questions about the Digiday claim of $100 million. Pitchbook lists the funding as a C1 round with a closing date in late May.
We’ve written about The Athletic’s fundraising prowess before. In early 2018, there were many skeptical folks who thought The Athletic could be running on fumes in terms of finances, but they raised a substantial Series B round of $20 million. I wrote at the time that this amount of money going into a sports media startup was more or less unprecedented compared to their peers, including Bleacher Report and SB Nation among others. The funding only super charged what was already perceived as a breakneck expansion for the company. Less than half a year later, The Athletic raised another $40 million, one of the largest rounds ever in sports media, which was said to be aimed at growing audio and video content offerings.
It’s been seven months since that historic round of investment was announced, and while The Athletic is known to not yet be profitable, the pace of expansion has only continued. While timing wise, a new round of investment jives with their track record (a round every six to nine months), I think many thought we could start to see The Athletic slow down a bit, given the size of their last round (which saw the company valued at over $100 million), and the report that a lot of the site’s earlier cities were profitable, thus perhaps a lesser need for outside investment.
But as The Athletic sinks their teeth into international expansion past the North American shores, while also launching more video and audio efforts, one last big gulp from the Silicon Valley elite probably makes a lot of sense. The fact that this round came from existing investors likely points to much less time intensive process, and one that perhaps could have been initiated by investors wanting to grow their investment at a time where the company could use more capital. No new investors in a funding round is not the norm for a startup, but is not that uncommon.
It’s unclear if The Athletic has indeed crossed over $100 million in funding to date, but regardless, the company has raised over $80 million in the last 15 months and seems focused on only accelerating their plans in the near future, despite some industry skepticism on the long term economics of investing in higher quality localized content. Ultimately, the company’s investors didn’t share that skepticism and doubled down on the company, which gives The Athletic significantly more time before they have to worry about achieving profitability. We’ll see if this is the last time The Athletic looks for funding, but either way, the new investment is a significant win for a company that continues to elevate their ambitions and continues to accelerate their growth plans.