This Ex-Sequoia Partner Quietly Funded, Built, and Sold a Company In Three Years
Little has been written about ex-Sequoia partner Timothy Lee after he left the firm in 2015. He had been with Sequoia for five years investing in early-stage companies such as App Annie, Thanx, and Shopular, after having spent time at Google and McKinsey.
In the last three years, Lee has quietly funded, built, and sold a sports media company. Avid AI, which he founded shortly after leaving Sequoia, was a platform that allowed sports fans to get personalized sports content relevant to their interests or favorite athletes. It had features like a chatbot that provided real-time sports news about a user’s favorite sports, teams, and players. It also offered a public chat group, in which people with similar interests could follow a game together.
Today, Avid AI is getting acquired by FITE, a premium digital network that streams live combat sports, in a cash and stock transaction. Further financial terms were not disclosed. Lee will join FITE’s board of directors but will not join the company post-acquisition. He told Fortune he will “explore other startup opportunities.”
Flipps Media, which owns FITE, will integrate Avid AI’s technology to expand its content recommendation capabilities and introduce a personalized news feed in the FITE product. Avid AI will no longer exist as an independent app. Similarly to the old Avid AI experience, FITE’s app will offer interactive features such as an option to follow favorite fighters, topics, and upcoming events.
“It’s about building an experience that’s suitable for millennials,” said FITE CEO Kosta Jordanov. “They just have different viewing habits. People want to see things that are fast and dynamic. It’s not necessarily that they have short attention spans, it’s that they have a different way of consuming content.”
A McKinsey report on millennial sports fans said new products — including services for live-streamed events, highlights, fan commentary, news, and analysis — need to be designed to adapt to new digital behaviors. It proposed shorter viewing sessions, convenient access to watch games, and social sharing of games.
That’s exactly what Jordanov is betting on with his company’s focus on combat sports. An MMA match, for instance, typically lasts for about five minutes, and it’s “super dynamic.” While watching the game, users can talk with other sports fans via a live chat on the FITE platform.
FITE, which has raised approximately $8 million in funding from investors like Earlybird Venture Capital and Tim Draper, plans to expand its offering of paid live events in the next year. Jordanov is keeping a close eye on a market exploding in popularity with millennials and Gen Z.
“There are e-sports live events that are filling arenas with tens of thousands of people,” he said. “Very soon these will be premium enough to justify pay-per-view — and we’ll be ready.”