Wave Sports + Entertainment Raises $27 Million To Grow Its Sports Media Brands

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

Giannis Antetokounmpo

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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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Cadence

Genies Wants To Help Creators Build ‘Avatar Ecosystems’

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

Genies Wants To Help Creators Build ‘Avatar Ecosystems’

When avatar startup Genies raised $150 million in April, the company released an unusual message to the public: “Farewell.”

The Marina del Rey-based unicorn, which makes cartoon-like avatars for celebrities and aims to “build an avatar for every single person on Earth,” didn’t go under. Rather, Genies announced it would stay quiet for a while to focus on building avatar-creation products.

Genies representatives told dot.LA that the firm is now seeking more creators to try its creation tools for 3D avatars, digital fashion items and virtual experiences. On Thursday, the startup launched a three-week program called DIY Collective, which will mentor and financially support up-and-coming creatives.

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Here's What To Expect At LA Tech Week

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

Here's What To Expect At LA Tech Week

LA Tech Week—a weeklong showcase of the region’s growing startup ecosystem—is coming this August.

The seven-day series of events, from Aug. 15 through Aug. 21, is a chance for the Los Angeles startup community to network, share insights and pitch themselves to investors. It comes a year after hundreds of people gathered for a similar event that allowed the L.A. tech community—often in the shadow of Silicon Valley—to flex its muscles.

From fireside chats with prominent founders to a panel on aerospace, here are some highlights from the roughly 30 events happening during LA Tech Week, including one hosted by dot.LA.

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PCH Driven: Director Jason Wise Talks Wine, Documentaries, and His New Indie Streaming Service SOMMTV

Jamie Williams
­Jamie Williams is the host of the “PCH Driven” podcast, a show about Southern California entrepreneurs, innovators and its driven leaders on their road to success. The series celebrates and reveals the wonders of the human spirit and explores the motivations behind what drives us.
Jason Wise holding wine glass
Image courtesy of Jason Wise

Jason Wise may still consider himself a little kid, but the 33-year-old filmmaker is building an IMDB page that rivals colleagues twice his age.

As the director behind SOMM, SOMM2, SOMM3, and the upcoming SOMM4, Wise has made a career producing award-winning documentary films that peer deep into the wine industry in Southern California and around the world.

On this episode of the PCH Driven podcast, he talks about life growing up in Cleveland as a horrible student, filmmaking, Los Angeles and his latest entrepreneurial endeavor: A streaming service called SOMMTV that features–what else?–documentaries about wine.

The conversation covers some serious ground, but the themes of wine and film work to anchor the discussion, and Wise dispenses bits of sage filmmaking advice.

“With a documentary you can just start filming right now,” he says. “That’s how SOMM came about. I got tossed into that world during the frustration of trying to make a different film, and I just started filming it, because no one could stop me because I was paying for it myself. That’s the thing with docs,” or “The good thing about SOMM is that you can explain it in one sentence: ‘The hardest test in the world is about wine, and you’ve never heard about it.’”

…Or at least maybe you hadn’t before he made his first film. Now with three SOMM documentaries under his belt, Wise is nearing completion of “SOMM4: Cup of Salvation,” which examines the history of wine’s relationship with religion. Wise says it’s “a wild film,” that spans multiple countries, the Vatican and even an active warzone. As he puts it, the idea is to show that “wine is about every subject,” rather than “every subject is about wine.”

For Wise, the transition to launching his own streaming service came out of his frustration with existing platforms holding too much power over the value of the content he produces.

“Do we want Netflix to tell us what our projects are worth or do we want the audience to do that?” he asks.

But unlike giants in the space, SOMMTV has adopted a gradual approach of just adding small bits of content as they develop. Without the need to license 500 or 1,000 hours of programming, Wise has been able to basically bootstrap SOMMTV and provide short form content and other more experimental offerings that typically get passed over by the Hulus and Disneys of the world.

So far, he says, the experiment is working, and now Wise is looking to raise some serious capital to keep up with the voracious appetites of his subscribers.

“Send those VCs my way,” Wise jokes.

Subscribe to PCH Driven on Apple, Stitcher, Spotify, iHeart, Google or wherever you get your podcasts.

dot.LA reporter David Shultz contributed to this report.

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