Most people remember Derek Jeter as the 14-time all-star shortstop, who’s made more than $265 million in salary playing for the New York Yankees.
But Jeter has been growing his footprint within Silicon Valley tech circles lately, launching his own sports portal startup called The Players’ Tribune, while raising $9.8 million from the VC firm NEA, and even making an the investment in the anti-bullying app StopIt.
And on Wednesday, Jeter took a step further into the tech arena, joining what looks to be the largest VC funding round he’s ever been a part of to date — investing in the $76.5 million, Series E round for the cloud video service provider Blue Jeans Network. NEA led the round, while previous investors Accel Partners, Battery Ventures, and Norwest Venture Partners all participated in it.
Jeter and Blue Jeans Network first started working together earlier this year, when they were connected through NEA’s general partner Jon Sakoda. Apparently, Jeter was so hooked by Blue Jeans’ online video conferencing capabilities that he struck a partnership deal within a month to integrate it into The Players’ Tribune and joined its advisory board. He even used Blue Jean’s service during his startup’s launch event to run a virtual panel connecting people in the audience and people watching its live stream.
“Jeter used Blue Jeans Network to launch his company and then he said, ‘Hey, while I’m at it, I’d love to be part of the company,” Blue Jeans Network’s CEO Krish Ramakrishnan told us. “He’s not only interested in investing, but he’s also very close to the tech he’s investing in.”
So what exactly does Blue Jeans Network provide? It’s best known for its online video platform that lets users of different video services connect to each other. So even if a company has Cisco’s TelePresence installed as its video conference tool, it can let them talk to companies using Google Hangout or Skype. Recently, Blue Jeans has expanded its offerings to include broadcasting capabilities and easy implementation to other services like call centers. On top of that everything is provided over the web, cutting the price and time to set it up.
Since its launch in 2011, Blue Jeans has more than doubled its business every year across all metrics such as revenue, bookings, and subscribers, Ramakrishnan said. He wouldn’t disclose any further financial information or the valuation of his company. But investors have been knocking on its door over the past four years, throwing in a total of $175 million to date. Some of its customers include Facebook, Pandora, and Square.
As for Jeter’s investment, Ramakrishnan said it’s a validation of his video platform gaining more recognition in the sports and entertainment sector. Events like the Sundance Film Festival and TED are already its customers, and he expects to only see more sports entities using his service.
“Jeter’s a believer in video. He’s been in media all his life and he knows how video can transform the business,” Ramakrishnan said.
Jeter wasn’t immediately available for comment, but he made the following statement regarding today’s investment:
"When I met the Blue Jeans team, I was busy starting my new venture, The Players’ Tribune, a media site dedicated to helping athletes tell their own stories directly…I was captivated by what Blue Jeans' video could do to amplify the voice of our athletes. Now after working closely with the team, I share their vision and see the enormous potential that exists for interactive video events and experiences in business, sports, media, and entertainment."
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