Hudl Raises $72.5 Million to Help Athletes Up Their Game, Get Seen

Venture investors committed $72.5 million in equity funding to Hudl, a social network built to connect athletes, coaches, scouts and recruiters.

Hudl’s features enable users to make and share digital highlight reels, game “tapes,” and other sports-related content using tablets and mobile devices, then share it online.

Coaches can attach text notes, voice messages or add “telestrator” style markups to videos, then ask athletes on their teams to study the videos, or send them along to a recruiter for consideration.

These aren’t the kind of features provided by general video platforms like YouTube or Vimeo, or social networks like LinkedIn and Facebook . But unrelenting focus on athlete’s needs fueled Hudl’s popularity among the sporting set in the U.S. and in Europe, says CEO and co-founder David Graff.

Previously Hudl, incorporated as Agile Sports Technologies Inc., raised $3 million in angel funding.

The new round, led by Partners, is a whopper by the standards of Nebraska, where the company is based. According to Dow Jones VentureSource data, venture-backed companies in Nebraska attracted $66.13 million in total funding from 2011 to 2014. More than half of that, $33.42 million, was raised in 2014.

Accel Principal Miles Clements said his firm backed Hudl, in part, because the company had proven its ability to scale organically, reaching $30 million in annual revenue without any institutional funding.

However, he also lauded Hudl’s ability to bring “tech that was once reserved for the very elite” to the mass market of sports enthusiasts and athletes.

The company says it has 3.5 million users (who are coaches and athletes) and 1 billion user-generated video clips on its platform today. About one-third of its users are women. Hudl syndicates some highlight reels and game videos through media deals with the likes of ESPN, Bleacher Report and CBS Sports.

In the future, Mr. Clements believes, a bigger portion of the company’s revenue could come from media and advertising.

Today, the company makes its revenue primarily as a software-as-a-service business, with schools paying a monthly fee to use Hudl to help develop and promote talent from their teams.

In the future, Mr. Graff said, Hudl will offer premium services to individual athletes, or their parents, who may not have a team affiliation but who still want access to advice, content and strategies that can help them improve their game.

With offices in Lincoln, Omaha, Boston and London, Hudl plans to expand its presence among youth and club sports organizations, while also growing within existing accounts–namely different schools that have sports programs–in the U.S. and Europe.

It also plans on significant geographic expansion in Europe given the company’s existing London office, and longer-term expansion in China and India where sports teams and fans, as well as mobile video use, are growing in numbers.

Write to Lora Kolodny at Follow her on Twitter at @lorakolodny