A sports media start-up aimed at elevating women's sports coverage has raised $3.5 million and attracted some of the biggest names in the pros
- Just Women's Sports, a platform solely covering
women's sports, raised $3.5 million in seed funding.
- Elena Delle Donne,
Kevin Durant, USWNT's Kelley O'Haraand Sam Mewis, and more are on board.
- "Our mission is to create the platform these women deserve and to make women's sports mainstream," the CEO told Insider.
Just 4% of sports media coverage is devoted to women's sports - and that's just not good enough.Haley Rosen is set to change that metric. Her brainchild, Just Women's
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Rosen is aiming 'to create the platform these women deserve'"I played soccer - played in college and played professionally for a little bit - and when I was playing, I saw this space evolving," Rosen told Insider. "Viewership was up, attendance was up, everything was changing, and there was just a ton of momentum. And then, when I stopped playing, I couldn't follow along, and that didn't make any sense to me. And it didn't match the opportunity or the momentum I was seeing."
"So for me, this was about covering women's sports like sports and bringing the coverage the space deserved because I thought the product was dope," she added. "And I thought that there was just a huge opportunity around this."The Just Women's Sports first-round raise comes among a surge in the women's sports space and a standout year of engagement for leagues like the WNBA and NWSL. Despite ratings dips across much of professional athletics, both leagues enjoyed unprecedented viewership in 2020. The WNBA saw a 68% increase in its regular-season audience, a 15% viewership jump for the finals, and 30% more engagement across social media, while NWSL viewership spiked a whopping 493%.
And in recent years, the advent of leagues like Athletes Unlimited has created domestic professional opportunities for women's athletes who have traditionally been forced to take their talents abroad to pursue post-collegiate playing careers.With more competition, more athletes, and more interest in women's sports than ever before, it's no wonder some of the biggest power-players in the sports world are literally buying into Rosen's premise. That means lifting women's sports is not just about doing what is right - it's about making a sound investment.
"We've got to be objective as investors," Will Ventures co-founder and managing partner Brian Reilly told Insider. "We're backed by university endowments, pro sports team owners. We've got significant institutional capital. And so for us, our job is to generate venture scale returns, period. As much as we love to 'do good' with our investments, that can't be what it's all about. And that certainly wasn't the case here."
"This idea that there's a 50-50 split when it comes to sports participation between males and females, but then only such a small percentage, 4% [of coverage], is going to females - that to us as a venture scale opportunity," he added.
Rosen and Just Women's Sports are the 'right group of people' to lead the chargeBut outside of the apparent money-making opportunity Just Women's Sports presents, there's another factor drawing in All-Stars and venture capitalists alike - the 27-year-old Stanford alumna at the helm.
Every person who spoke with Insider about the media company's potential - from Reilly and Thirty Five Ventures'
"We love this space, but more importantly than anything, we love Haley and the team that's behind it," Reilly said. "Within like five minutes of talking to Haley, everyone on our team was like, 'We've got to back this.' You could tell she's so charismatic, and she's a natural-born leader."That same sentiment prompted Durant and Kleiman to approach their involvement with Just Women's Sports as more than just investors. The team at Thirty Five Ventures intends to tap into its vast network to connect Rosen and her team with resources to help grow Just Women's Sports into a sports media juggernaut.
"We wanted to invest in this company because of this business and because of Haley - I knew about five minutes into speaking to her on Zoom from her energy," Kleiman told Insider. "When I was taken back at just how impressive she was, I realized there was an opportunity for us to be more than just an investor in this company.""I've never been as energized about something that we've invested in that's not ours as I am with this," he added. "Every one of the people that work here - from Kevin and myself to the people that run our foundation, the people that run our investments, and Boardroom - can all really help."
Kleiman is intent on connecting Rosen to the most influential players in sports. He told Insider that on a recent trip Rosen took to New York, "I introduced her to Venus Williams' people, I've introduced her to Naomi Osaka's people, I've introduced her to owners of teams and leagues," and more.
In just one year, Just Women's Sports has already made a name for itself in the sports media spaceBut even without Kleiman and the elaborate network that the other newly-announced Just Women's Sports investors bring to the table, Rosen has managed to accrue a star-studded roster of talent for her platform. She kicked off her foray into original content in 2020 with the "Just Women's Sports podcast" hosted by USWNT star O'Hara. And recently, the brand added Mewis and Williams - O'Hara's USWNT teammates - to its arsenal through their new podcast, "Snacks." Just Women's Sports also produces "Off the Ball," a digital show featuring Olympian and NWSL star Ali Riley, and "The Soccer Show," a weekly recap show covering FA Women's Super League highlights thanks to an exclusive content partnership with Ata Football. Rosen added to Just Women's Sports' content network by acquiring "Tea with A & Phee," the popular podcast hosted by reigning WNBA MVP A'ja Wilson and 2019 WNBA Rookie of the Year Napheesa Collier.
"What Haley's doing is amazing - she's giving visibility to women's sports and women athletes," Williams told Insider. "And not just one type, but a whole diverse group of athletes. For a very long time, women have not been utilized, and our potential has not been even tapped into at all. And then, on top of that, I think that Black women have been utilized even less. And so it's nice to see a platform that is just for women and uplifting women."
"The coolest thing about it for me is seeing that somebody has recognized that there's like a lack of coverage of women's sports, and instead of attaching to something else, or just putting a 'W' on something, [Rosen has] made this whole new entity that is trying to solve this problem," Mewis added. "This is the right group of people to do it and... that's one of my goals as well. I want to leave a lasting impact in this space and for women's sports and pushing for equality and pushing for better pay."
With newly-acquired capital and full investor support, Kleiman says "the sky is really the limit" for Just Women's Sports
Though she already has an incredible portfolio at her disposal - especially considering it has only been one year since she first created Just Women's Sports - Rosen has her sights set on something even greater.
"We want to be that one-stop shop for all things women's sports," Rosen said. "It's a long journey to realize the full vision, but for us, what that means is we want to push on our digital channels, we want to expand our audio network, we want to get into premium content, and we have ambitions of having the games."
"We really believe that if you can get people tuning in and showing up daily, weekly, you can build out fantasy and betting and everything you see on the men's side," she added. "We can go build it on women's side, but it starts with really high quality and consistent sports coverage, which is where we're at today."
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