Tonsser, the Copenhagen-based startup that offers a vertical social network aimed at youth soccer players who want to build their own online profile and potentially get discovered by a bigger club, continues to grow at a clip, both in terms of signups but also the influence it wants to have on the beautiful game. The company has signed on Nike as its first brand channel partner, and now has 380,000 youth players registered, up from 100,000 just over a year ago.
The Danish startup has also raised a new round of funding as it gears up for a 2018 expansion to the U.K., home to the English Premier League and a huge potential youth football market for the startup. It is also quite a fragmented one, in terms of youth leagues, so it will be interesting to see how quickly Tonsser can grow here. The app is currently live in France, Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Norway.
In a call with co-founder and CEO Peter Holm (and after we spent the first ten minutes catching up with the latest Tottenham Hotspur news, as we are inclined to do), he told me that Tonsser is evolving from a social app that was mainly about youth players making a profile of themselves and tracking scores and stats in order to get noticed by scouts — a bit like a real life Football Manager video game — to offer even more user-generated content where players can learn skills from each other and in turn become influencers on the platform.
“Since the internet you no longer need to go to Harvard to learn and be educated by the best. You can go to YouTube, masterclasses or see a Ted talk. We believe it should be the same in football where you don’t need to be at the best or most expensive academy to learn and be inspired by the best players and coaches,” he says.
This is seeing top youth players, including from PSG, Lyon, and Dortmund, and “freestylers and local heroes” create video content, such as how to take a free kick, to inspire other young soccer players in Europe.
Related to this, Tonsser has signed on Nike to be the first brand to get access to the platform with its own channel, where the company is posting what Holm calls “edutainment,” including drills from players in Barcelona’s La Masia academy. This also points towards the makings of a revenue model for the free to access social app.
“Next is opening [the platform up] to top clubs to show drills and practice from their academies. [We are] currently in talks with international top clubs from England, Germany, Holland and Denmark,” adds Holm.
He also tells me Tonsser is working on integrations with wearable devices to “empower players to become more data-driven and compare physical data including pace, acceleration, distance covered, form, etc”.
Meanwhile, I understand the startup has raised €2.5 million in new funding. Backing the round are existing investors Wellington Partners, SEED Capital, Arthur Kosten (Booking.com), and unnamed professional soccer players. The long term ambition is “to become the de facto platform for the next generation of football,” says the Tonsser CEO.