France: Montpellier-based sports tourism startup Sportihome, which wants to become the go-to platform for sporting holidays in France, has closed a €2 million investment round.
The round was led by alternative investment fund Accurafy 4 [which specialises in scaling up digital startups], Nathalie Simon [ TV presenter and former windsurfing champion], la Banque des Territoires [part of the groupe Caisse des Dépôts], public investment bank Bpifrance, and a number of existing angel investors.
Founded in 2017, Sportihome is taking advantage of the surging enthusiasm for outdoors travel and staying in rural, holiday destinations.
The startup provides a booking platform for sporting enthusiasts and a guide to inspire them on the best spots to take up new activities. Renters can choose from accommodations with hosts who are themselves passionate about sport, as well as participate in activities and rent / buy sporting equipment from partners.
With more than 10,000 bookable accommodations in 40 countries and options to take part in 60 different sports, Sportihome is in the middle of an explosive growth phase based on the loyalty of its sporting community.
The fact that Sportihome has experienced an unprecedented boom in bookings in 2021 highlights the significant addressable market that the company can tap into with its specialist offerings.
Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, the global sports tourism market was estimated to be worth €710 billion, representing around ten per cent of all international tourism, and this level should be achieved once again in 2023 at the current rate. Now, with French holidaymakers heading out of city centres to rural tourist destinations and international travellers beginning to return, the sports tourism market has marked the beginning of the rebound of the French travel industry, illustrated by the fact that Sportihome has taken three times the number of reservations it had in 2019 this year.
The announcement marks the first funding round in the history of Sportihome, enabling it to press ahead with its scaling plans. The startup is seeking to use the investment to grow from 10,000 to 50,000 bookable accommodations within the next 12 months, integrate unique functionalities, forge new distribution partnerships with major sporting and travel brands, and hire around 15 new employees by the end of 2022.
Meanwhile, former French windsurfing champion, Nathalie Simon, will become a brand ambassador for Sportihome.
The startup has already partnered with French sporting goods retailer Decathlon to provide an exclusive discount for Sportihome hosts when they are buying equipment from the brand, and delivery is included for more than 100 types of equipment. In addition, it has become the exclusive accommodation partner for the GO Sport loyalty programme, which counts 2.5 million users, and the official accommodation partner for the French Hiking Federation, as it plans to continue aligning itself with global brands, federations, clubs, leagues and sporting events.
In line with the ‘Invest for Good’ philosophy of Accurafy 4, Sportihome is pledging to become more sustainable across its business, including reducing its carbon footprint and promoting biodiversity.
Sportihome CEO Fred Diaw said: “For Sportihome to receive this investment is real proof of the relevance of our model and confirms the excellence of our teams who have demonstrated exemplary resilience during the last months. We can’t wait to work hand in hand with the serial investors at Accurafy 4 to become the indispensable staple of sports tourism from now on.”
Frederic Caron, co-founder and CEO, Accurafy 4, said: “With this investment, we are strengthening our presence in travel tech. Sportihome offers a colossal market depth for the entire sports tourism segment.
“We are delighted to come on board at this stage of the business’ development and accompany it in a structured way in its growth and preparing it for a Series A round on the horizon in the next 18-24 months,” he added.
Nathalie Simon said: “Sport and wellbeing represent an important part of my life’s philosophy. I’m always on the move to explore new spots, whether it’s on my own, with my husband or with my family.
“As owners of La Bastide du Fort in Carqueiranne, a small paradise for sports enthusiasts that I rent out on Sportihome with my husband, I am delighted to be able to join this startup which shares my DNA – that of shared sporting pleasure,” she added.