Changes are underway at Buzzer, the sports media startup whose cap table reads like a who’s who of sports investors.
The company recently laid off 20% of its staff, with its founder pointing to wider economic turmoil as well as a desire to focus on key partnerships and product. Seven full-time staffers were let go along with six contractors and part-timers. Buzzer is also in the midst of adding capital, raising at least $20 million according to multiple people familiar with the process.
“We are pleased to have fundraised and increased the valuation of our company in this economic climate,” Buzzer founder Bo Han wrote in a statement to Sportico. “Following the initial close of our current fundraise, we are taking measures to ensure we continue to be disciplined in how we deploy resources to support our mission. … One of those levers is a reduction in force to right-size the company.”
Han, a former Twitter director of live content, launched the product in 2021 to help young sports fans navigate an increasingly fragmented media landscape. It offers catered notifications and 99-cent snippets of live action, as well as integrations with some of users’ existing streaming subscriptions.
Buzzer’s $20 million Series A round was led by Sapphire Sport and Canaan Partners. They were joined by a star-studded list of athlete investors—including Wayne Gretzky, Michael Jordan, Patrick Mahomes and Naomi Osaka—as well as funds tied to MLB, MLS, NBA, NFL and NHL team ownership. When he invested, Mahomes called Buzzer “the future of live sports” in a statement.
Recently, Buzzer had as many as 65 employees. Following Buzzer’s 2020 seed round, Han discussed his aspiration to develop corporate partnerships stretching from Snapchat to Fortnite and to eventually expand beyond sports into music and news. Decreasing the head count now, following other executive-level departures this year, would seem to indicate a renewed prioritization on servicing and adding external sports partners. The company also brought in former Twitter exec Andrew Barge to serve as chief business officer earlier this month.
Buzzer has landed deals with the NBA, NHL, PGA Tour and WNBA, though the hockey and golf licensing tie-ups are not currently active (ESPN+ now controls the relevant streaming properties for both sports). While game content from the likes of the NFL and MLB has remained elusive, Buzzer has expanded to establish relationships with DAZN and FanDuel. The company believes its platform can deliver new signups for subscription services and help sportsbooks engage fans.
“With this difficult step, we are better positioned to invest in our product, as well our league, network and sportsbook partnerships as we continue to build on the momentum we generated last year,” Han wrote in his recent statement. “Our team and culture have always been a priority—especially as a company built amidst the volatility of the last two years. These are teammates who have helped shape our culture, drive our product innovation and form our partnerships. We are incredibly grateful to them for their contributions and are doing our best to manage this reduction with empathy and respect.”