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Elite sports wearables maker Catapult Sports buys GPSports, no IPO plans at the moment

7:21PM | Sunday, 6 July

Catapult Sports, a Melbourne-based provider of tracking devices for elite athletes, has announced it has purchased Canberra-based counterpart GPSport.   Both companies manufacture wearable devices that monitor the performance of elite athletes, where any movement data is fed into its analytics software on a computer in real time.   Combined, the two companies count 450 elite teams worldwide as customers, with international clients including European football clubs AC Milan and Aston Villa, the New York Knicks NBA team, and almost half of the 32 teams in the NFL.   Catapult Sports media and marketing manager Boden Westover told StartupSmart the combined company’s customers will include every AFL, NRL and Australian Super Rugby club.   “In terms of AFL, Catapult had 17 clubs out of 18, while GPSport had one. We were split down the middle for both Super Rugby and NRL,” Westover says.   “We were the number one player in this field and were the first to come up with the technology. GPSport was our biggest competitor. We had an exclusive deal with the Australian Institute of Sport for a while, while they were the first to market. Our companies are the two pioneers in this space.”   Catapult Sports managed to raise $3.5 million in series A funding during the last quarter of 2013, taking total investment in the company to $6 million. Its backers include a number of high-profile investors, including as Dallas Mavericks owner and high-profile entrepreneur Mark Cuban.   However, despite reports to the contrary, Westover told StartupSmart Catapult Sports has no plans for an IPO this year.   “It’s one of those things where there was some uninformed speculation about an IPO in an article, and it quickly became accepted as fact. But we certainly don’t have any plans for an IPO in the next 12 months,” he says.   In its official statement, Catapult Sports chief executive Shaun Holthouse says the two businesses will continue to operate as separate entities for at least the next 12 months.   “Day one after the acquisition, we expect the only thing GPSports users will notice is an increased focus on customer service as we invest in this side of the operation,” Holthouse says.   “We know a lot of GPSports clients are very loyal to the brand and technology. The last thing we want to do is disrupt a good thing. Over the longer term we will be looking for synergies that bring added value to our combined customer base.”   Holthouse also says the deal was a response to consolidation in the athlete analytics industry, with his company’s focus shifting towards building global scale and distribution.   Wearable devices have recently come into focus following high profile announcements in the consumer end of the market, with Google recently unveiling its Google Fit API and Apple announcing HealthKit.   Despite the hype, Catapult Sports chairman Adir Shiffman told StartupSmart in May he remains a sceptic about the consumer end of the market, but sees little shortage in growth at the professional end of the market.

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5:32AM | Thursday, 22 May

Catapult Sports chairman Adir Shiffman is sceptical about the rise of consumer wearables, which is surprising given he’s the chairman of the world’s biggest provider of GPS tracking devices that help sports teams monitor and improve the performance of athletes.   “I feel the excitement around wearables is just general activity fracas and may or may not turn out to be a real market,’’ he says.   “The market potential feels huge, but I’ve yet to meet a single person who’s said a wearable technology has changed my life.   “When consumers get a wearable they’re initially excited, and then they start to wonder if it can help you over the long term. I think that’s the challenge with wearables.”   Melbourne-based Catapult Sports made headlines recently after it attracted investment from celebrity investor and owner of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks, Mark Cuban.   The Australian Financial Review reported the company was considering a potential initial public offering later this year, but Shiffman was non-committal.   “The way I talk about our funding is like this, I led a $3.5 million series A round in the last quarter of 2013, and that enabled us to keep the foot on the accelerator,’’ he says.   “We’re working through a number of options that have been attractive and within a few months we’ll have more to say about the capital structure of the company.”   Catapult Sport’s clients include football clubs AC Milan and Aston Villa, the New York Knicks NBA franchise, almost half of the NFL’s 32 teams and college football’s most recent national championship winning program Florida State University.   Shiffman says America, and the NFL in particular, had lagged behind other nations in the sports analytics field until quite recently.   “The salary cap of the NFL club is $137 million dollars a year and they also have this very wide talent pool, so if they want to have an improvement in performance, they don’t need to squeeze more drops out of the orange,’’ he says.   The rise of the sports analytics industry is showing no signs of stopping, according to Shiffman, particularly with the rise of cloud computing.   “I think the hottest thing at the moment that’s going on in terms of tech business models is B2B cloud-based SaaS models,’’ he says.   “It’s a mouthful but it’s pretty amazing and with the rise of the cloud there’s now this ability to create extremely sophisticated software and stick it in the cloud, host it in the cloud.   “It’s just unbeatable.”

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