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Sports media startup Wave Sports and Entertainment (WSE) has laid off 56 people—roughly one-third of its staff—as worsening economic conditions continue to hit tech startups.
The Santa Monica-based company began laying off workers last week, the company confirmed to dot.LA. A WSE spokesperson said the “restructuring” will allow the firm to focus on “core areas of expertise” like storytelling and league partnerships, with most of the eliminated roles coming from “supporting functions.” The layoffs, first reported by Insider, leave the company with 110 employees.
“As the industry begins to face economic headwinds, this restructuring will also allow WSE to maintain its strong balance sheet position, continue aggressively investing in key growth areas and manage from a position of strength,” the spokesperson said in a statement.
The startup is only several months removed from announcing a $27 million Series B funding round in February, which attracted investors like private equity firm TZP Group and venture capital firm Crossbeam Venture Partners. Star athletes have also been drawn to WSE’s platform; Milwaukee Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo joined the company’s Series B round as a “strategic partner,” while other athlete-investors include Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield and former Duke University basketball star Jay Williams.
WSE produces sports video content that it publishes on social media platforms such as Snap, TikTok and Facebook, reaching more than 115 million followers globally, according to the company. Its brands—which include BUCKETS, FTBL, and HAYMAKERS—offer sports highlights, commentary and athlete profiles, among other digital content.
The company is far from the only tech firm—from giants Netflix and Snap to startups like Albert—that has slashed staff or slowed hiring in recent months amid increasingly precarious economic conditions. Privately-backed companies have cited a pullback in venture funding behind their need to cut costs, with private investors now also feeling the pain of a stock market that officially fell into bear market territory on Monday.
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Sports media startup Wave Sports + Entertainment (WSE) has raised $27 million in new funding from a host of investors, including reigning NBA Finals MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo.
The Santa Monica-based company announced Thursday that it closed a Series B round led by private equity firm TZP Group, with Crossbeam Venture Partners, GPS Investment Partners, Verance Capital and Nimble Ventures also participating. Milwaukee Bucks star Antetokounmpo joined the round as a “strategic partner,” WSE said—joining existing sports-world investors like Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield and former Duke University basketball star Jay Williams.
WSE provides sports content on social media platforms such as Snap, TikTok and Facebook, reaching more than 110 million followers globally, according to the company. Its brands—which include BUCKETS, FTBL, and HAYMAKERS—offer sports highlights, commentary and athlete profiles, among other digital content.
The startup plans to use the new funding to help launch and scale both new and existing brands and shows. It also plans to develop sports betting content, consumer products and in-person experiences, and invest in its content management and analytics platforms.
“WSE represents the future of sports and entertainment for an entire generation of new fans,” company co-founder and CEO Brian Verne said in a statement. “We are evolving legacy sports media by creating content that resonates with today’s audiences and that is designed for the digital formats where they spend most of their time.”
WSE also named media industry veteran Rich Battista as executive chairman of its board of directors on Thursday. The former Time Inc. CEO and Fox television executive is currently a board member at Major League Baseball Players Inc., the for-profit arm of the MLB Players Association. Battista also had a brief four-month stint as CEO of Imagine Entertainment, the Beverly Hills-based film production company founded by Brian Grazer and Ron Howard.
After closing the Series B round, Ishaan Sutaria, who co-founded WSE with Verne in 2017, stepped down as co-CEO and left the company’s board of directors to pursue other business ventures, WSE said.
In December, WSE rebranded from Wave.tv and unveiled a new 8,500-square-foot headquarters in Santa Monica.
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