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Reflections on 10 Year Partnership with SportPursuit

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By Richard Marsh

At Draper Esprit, we believe that success is built on long-term partnerships with our portfolio companies. So we’re delighted today that SportPursuit has announced its acquisition by BD Capital, capping a 10 year relationship as we have grown together.

SportPursuit was founded in 2011 by a group of friends who loved outdoor activities and sports and through their jobs in strategy consulting had gained strong conviction that the future of Retail would change dramatically. Their insight was that technology was increasingly changing the way retailers and customers interacted. It seems so obvious to us today, but in 2011 it wasn’t a given that Retail had begun to evolve into an industry which could benefit and gain loyalty from its customers through continually refreshed and relevant offers the use of data and highly engaging content, rather than just be a transaction at a point in time.

And so, SportPursuit was founded as a membership-based eCommerce business, helping active people find products from the world’s best brands at unbeatable prices in an attractive, content rich, and personalised environment. The business focuses its sales on the following segments; outdoor, running, skiing & snowboarding, triathlon, cycling, health & wellbeing, athletics, swimwear, cycling, golf, tennis, peanut butter (yes, peanut butter, but more on that later), among others. And whilst the team left their strategy consulting jobs, the strategy consulting never left the team, so there was data ... lots of data. Draper Esprit’s thoughts and methodology on the future of commerce or rather eCommerce couldn’t have aligned more perfectly. At Draper Esprit we had already identified Consumer tech as an important sector, and it was a pillar of our investment strategy. SportPursuit had identified a way to harness the right data on top of a really compelling product offering.

Even before COVID-19 hit, the data showed very clearly that members kept coming back and the loyalty and repeat purchasing rates were incredibly high. Such spectacular cohort behaviour was not easily appreciated, even by some of those considered leaders in the eCommerce space.

As with many areas of eCommerce, COVID-19 had a big impact on SportPursuit. After a very difficult initial period that was impressively managed by CEO, Adam Pikett and the team, the company dived into their tracking data, making some very agile calls to accelerate new stock lines to adapt to their members’ changing situations. For example, home based exercise rather than visits to the gym, huge demand in cycling and running, new high street lifestyle brands, and multi-million pound quantities of stand-up paddleboards!

As for the peanut butter? One of the team at SportPursuit commented that they, like most active individuals they knew, consumed lots of peanut butter which had become increasingly hard to come by during Covid with so many shops closed and online delivery slots like gold dust. So, some creative supplier sourcing later, SportPursuit came to the rescue with a trial of peanut butter alongside the established nutrition category offerings and promptly sold a quantity of peanut butter equivalent to the weight of an elephant in a single weekend. Data is incredible, but occasionally a spark of intuition creates unexpected success!

At the very heart of it, SportPursuit understands the importance of adapting and analysing data and satisfying its membership base in a way that creates loyal, lifelong customers. It has been a pleasure to work with Adam, Victoria, Luke, Rhys, Jonny and all the team and we wish them continued success in the next phase with new partners BD Capital, as well as their many millions of SportPursuit members who will join them be on that next stage of their journey.

Richard Marsh, Senior Partner at Draper Esprit