Starter, an international sports fashion brand, recently received $40 million in Round C funding. The lead investor was QY Capital and co-investors were existing shareholders Sequoia China, Dazzle Fashion and M31 Capital. Cygnus Equity acted as exclusive financial consultant.
Starter was founded in Connecticut, USA in 1971 and focused on a pioneering spirit, American sports, hip-hop and street culture. Since 1976, Starter has obtained the authorization of several professional sports leagues, including the NBA, MLB, NFL and NHL, and has become the first batch of clothing brands in the world to have produced and sold clothing with leagues. American sports and team logos.
In 1999, Starter was sold by its founder, and later in 2004, it was acquired by Nike along with its holding company. In 2007, Nike sold Starter to Iconix Brand Group, a brand management company. The latter owns many brands in fashion, sports, home textiles and other areas.
In 2017, Black Ant Group entered into an agreement with the Chinese subsidiary of Iconix Brand Group, and obtained exclusive authorization from Starter to operate in the Greater China region. But it was not until 2019 that Starter became popular in the Chinese market. In July 2020, Iconix Brand Group suddenly announced the sale of its Chinese market business under the Starter brand to an anonymous buyer.
At present, Xiamen Yiqidong Co., Ltd. is responsible for the operation of the official WeChat account of Starter and the Tmall store. According to Chinese business inquiry platform Tianyancha, Yiqidong is owned by New Dynamics HongKong Holding Limited. It should be noted that Yiqidong was once the pledgee of Shenzhen New Dynamics Sports Co., Ltd., whose holding company is Black Ant Group. Therefore, it is highly likely that Black Ant Group took over Starter’s business in China after obtaining the appropriate clearance.
Since Starter entered China, it has secured two rounds of financing worth 100 million yuan in 2019 and $30 million in 2020. Its investors include Sequoia China, M31 Capital, Dazzle Fashion and Sky9 Capital.
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By the end of 2021, Starter had opened nearly 100 stores in China, covering many first- and second-tier cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen. In 2021, Starter achieved an annual growth rate of over 150% and saw its popularity grow among younger generations. Starter also plans to grow into an all-scenario company focused on youth, sports, lifestyle and experience.