Starter, an international fashion sports brand, has recently received $40 million in C-round financing. The leading investor was QY Capital and co-investors were existing shareholders Sequoia China, Dazzle Fashion and M31 Capital. Cygnus Equity acted as the exclusive financial consultant.
Starter was founded in Connecticut, US, in 1971 and has focused on a pioneering spirit, American sports, hip-hop and street culture. Since 1976, Starter has gained the authorization from several professional sports leagues, including NBA, MLB, NFL and NHL, and has become the first batch of clothing brands globally that have produced and sold clothes with American sports leagues and team logos.
In 1999, Starter was sold by its founder, and later in 2004, it was acquired by Nike along with its holding company. In 2007, Nike sold Starter to Iconix Brand Group, a brand management company. The latter owns many brands in fashion, sports, home textiles and other fields.
In 2017, Black Ant Group reached an agreement with the Chinese subsidiary of Iconix Brand Group, and obtained the exclusive authorization of Starter to operate in the Greater China region. But it was not until 2019 that Starter became popular in the Chinese market. In July 2020, Iconix Brand Group suddenly announced to sell its business in Chinese market under the brand Starter to an anonymous buyer.
At present, Xiamen Yiqidong Co., Ltd. is responsible for the operation of Starter’s official WeChat account and Tmall store. According to Chinese business information inquiry platform Tianyancha, Yiqidong company is held by New Dynamics HongKong Holding Limited. It should be noted that Yiqidong was once the pledgee of Shenzhen New Dynamics Sports Co., Ltd., whose holding company is Black Ant Group. Therefore, it is highly likely that Black Ant Group has taken over Starter’s business in China after obtaining proper authorization.
Since Starter entered China, it has obtained two rounds of financing worth 100 million yuan in 2019 and $30 million in 2020. Its investors include Sequoia China, M31 Capital, Dazzle Fashion and Sky9 Capital.
By the end of 2021, Starter had opened nearly 100 stores in China, covering many first- and second-tier cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen. In 2021, Starter achieved an annual growth rate of over 150% and has seen its popularity grow amongst the younger generations. Starter also plans to expand and develop into a company that covers all scenarios that focus on youth, sports, lifestyle and experience.