Can a €10m Series A Help Bring THE Football App Out of its Shell?

By David Knight |

Just over a year ago, I became frustrated with the app I was using to keep track of football scores – I forget what it was; it was useless – and I came across iLiga, which is known internationally as THE Football App. While not perfect, it was the best one around, and I was curious to discover that its creator, motain, was based here in Berlin. Just down the road from the Silicon Allee office, in fact.

It was interesting because here was an internationally successful startup which had established for itself a dominant position in its market, yet it wasn’t jumping up and down and making lots of noise like some of its counterparts in the German capital. I went along to the motain office and had a very interesting conversation, and they were happy to talk about their upcoming official Euro 2012 app. But since then there has been more silence.

That changed on Thursday, though, with the announcement of €10 million in Series A funding for THE Football App from a syndicate of investors led by Earlybird. The app currently covers more than 100 different leagues in six languages, with a goal of increasing that to 400 in 40 by the end of the year.

Other impressive numbers include 6.5 million downloads, 3.5 million monthly active users and a 50 percent retention rate over four years. Perhaps slightly less impressively, I’m still a regular user.

It was the launch of the first iPhone that really heralded the rise of motain. Founded in the western German city of Bochum in 2008, the company originally offered a Java-based scores service that was horrible to distribute for so many different phones.

But iLiga was one of the first apps available for the iPhone in Germany and consequently rode the wave of popularity. A move to Berlin followed in 2010 and the platform has been growing ever since.

And the €10m marks a step forward in more ways than one. The company has, it seems, come out of its shell. The money will go towards growth as THE Football App looks to cement its position as global leader for mobile football content in a market expected to grow to 300 million users by 2014.

The app is designed as a one-stop shop for football fans, with scores just the tip of the iceberg. There are live tickers, league tables and statistics as well as media content such as video and services such as ticketing. Money will now be pumped into fleshing out the social and community features and developing complementary products.

Lucas von Cranach, co-founder and CEO of THE Football App and, for his sins, a Cologne fan, was understandably happy about the announcement: “We’ve so far bootstrapped the company and built an incredibly loyal user base of mobile football fans. With the recent explosive growth rates, especially from all over Europe, we realised the potential to build the leading digital football community as a space to inform, connect and engage interested parties around their passion for football.”

Reading between the lines, that hopefully signals something of an emergence for THE Football App as it looks to make a bit more noise. And that is surely a good thing for Berlin which can point to a rare international hit.

That it has been a success without any real marketing is, according to Earlybird partner Hendrik Brandis, down to the fact it is the best product out there. He said: “We are big believers in the vertical internet, especially on mobile. And THE Football App is on a trajectory to dominate this huge market.”

Next up could well be the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Having been responsible for the official apps for the 2010 World Cup, the 2011 Women’s World Cup and the 2012 African Cup of Nations, THE Football App could well be rocking to the samba beat next year.