“When VCs tried to give us money we asked: ‘How would it help us democratize football and reach 200 million users?'” says Patrik Arnesson, co-founder and CEO of Football Addicts, the Swedish startup behind Forza Football, the football app that, by all accounts, is growing at a clip.
Having garnered over 7 million downloads, it currently claims 3 million active users per month, peaking at 1.3 million daily active users during matchday weekends.
The company is also profitable, and makes money via native advertising from major brands such as EA Sports, Nike, and Adidas.
We don’t see any reason why millions of dollars would help us achieve our objective of democratising football Patrik Arnesson
But one firm, Creandum Ventures, didn’t lose hope. Thanks to a secondary investment opportunity, the Nordic VC has acquired a minority stake in the self-funded startup.
“Patrik was clear from the beginning that he was not interested in VC funding as the company was profitable, but we kept in close touch, when this opportunity opened up,” Creandum’s Joel Eriksson tells me.
“A couple of early employees who had left the company needed some money and Patrik advised them to offer Creandum some of their shares. We love the team, the space and the products, and secondaries was the best and fastest way for Creandum to become officially involved in the company.”
“We don’t see any reason why millions of dollars would help us achieve our objective of democratising football,” explains Arnesson. “We could probably get to around 20 milllion users by buying downloads. But getting to 200 million users — which is still only 1/5th of all football fans with smartphones — is not something you can simply buy your way into.”
Instead, “only product can take you there,” and that isn’t about the number of employees, but requires creating an environment that encourages innovation. “That’s not something you can buy with VC money,” he says.
To that end, Football Addicts is allocating 40 per cent of developer time to new projects as Arnesson doesn’t think the company’s current app, Forza Football, which lets football fans stay up to date with scores and footballing issues across 560 leagues and tournaments globally, will be enough to get the company to where it wants to be.
“We don’t believe that our current product will reach 200 million users and democratise football. We believe that we need to reinvent football to get there. Because of this all employees are spending every Thursday and Friday on devising new products. I can’t elaborate at this stage on what we are working on but, when launched, these innovations will prove something altogether different from what has gone before.”
In other words, expect new and discrete apps from Football Addicts — apps that can be marketed to the startup’s millions of existing users without taking a single dollar of VC money.