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Volume 7 No. 149
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Hangin' With ... Dugout Founder & Chair Elliot Richardson

Founder & Chair Elliot Richardson launched Dugout in Dec. '16.

Dugout Founder & Chair ELLIOT RICHARDSON launched the football media platform in Dec. ’16 and has not looked back. With some of the world’s top clubs involved, including Barcelona, Man City, Paris St. Germain and Bayern Munich, the platform boasts 67 million unique users and 912 million video views to date. Dugout gives fans exclusive behind-the-scenes content from players and clubs and is rapidly expanding its global footprint. It acquired News Corp’s ballball earlier this year and is opening a MENA HQ in Cairo soon. Richardson spoke with SBD Global about the company’s evolution and its newly announced $11.6M investment.

On Dugout’s progress since its launch in Dec. ’16 ... 
ELLIOT RICHARDSON: We’re delighted with where we’ve been. It’s not been without challenges. Like any startup, you’ve got to keep making sure you stay focused on all the key areas. The clubs decided to back us and take this chance, nearly four years ago, and I think we’re pretty pleased with our evolution. We now have 77 teams on the platform and we've now also had various leagues join -- the MLS joined at the end of last year. We’ve tried to make it a global business as fast as possible. We’ve been able to make our first acquisition, News Corp’s southeast Asian football platform [ballball], which we acquired at the beginning of the year. We now have a thriving southeast Asian business which we also persuaded News Corp to come in as a partner on, so aside from the acquisition, they are a shareholder of ours. That is primarily focused in Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia and Thailand, which we’re very, very happy with.

On the latest $11M investment ...
Richardson: As part of this Series A investment round, we really wanted to find strategic partners -- people like DAVID and FRANK MCCOURT don’t come around every day, with their contacts in this world and some of their assets. We teamed up with them on the technology piece ... powering up Dugout’s technology strategy out of Dublin, where David’s setup is. Starting Wednesday next week (May 2), we will be going live in the Middle East and North Africa with our base headquartered out of Cairo, which will be a joint venture with ALTV. We have in our sights to develop a joint venture on the ground in the U.S. and Latin America, and when we have that, we’ll have our global business done in just under 2 years.

On choosing investors ...
Richardson: I knew I wanted to establish a strategic investment round led by various quality individuals and I knew, as a Series A round, you have to focus as much on what those people can do for the business. It sounds obvious, but it’s true. We weren’t lacking in people who wanted to be involved with Dugout from an investment point of view, but you want to get the right type of people who fit well and work alongside the clubs. We started the process about midway through last year. ... It was a two-part strategy where we wanted them to invest into Dugout but at the same time have a joint venture across the tech area. The process took about four or five months.

On exceeding expectations ...
Richardson: We’re very lucky because of the clubs involved and the unique shareholding structure we have. It is the only company in the world [the clubs] own together and the relationships everybody has -- you can lean on that very heavily, and I do to make sure the doors are open. ... It has surpassed my expectations with how much reach there is, how much support there is from these major clubs. And also how much digital has risen to a high-end part of a strategy for these football clubs. Four or five years ago, when we embarked on this, digital was interesting but it was still more of a frontier end of a business. Now, it is very much front and center.

On Dugout's goals going forward ...
Richardson: I can safely say there is so much more to accomplish. But what we have done is create a business where the football community can collaborate together and work together in a way that is mutually beneficial. We are the only company where you can produce content strands using multiple clubs that refer in together. We’ve got a lot to do, but we’re in a much better place. … We’re attracting great people wanting to work with us across clubs and the football community. We need to continue to focus, continue to give them something that brings value and see where we go in the next couple of years.

Hangin' With runs each Friday in SBD Global.