OpenSponsorship, a sports marketing startup founded in New York in 2015 by British entrepreneur Ishveen Jolly, has secured a seven-figure investment from Serena Ventures to support the company’s expansion into the UK.

Ishveen, who was then a sports agent, started OpenSponsorship as an alternative way for athletes to access brands for sponsorship and has paired athletes with campaigns from brands including Walmart, Foot Locker and Levi’s. The company’s technology platform allows athletes to sign up and apply to work with brand campaigns for free. Brands pay a subscription fee that applies to them. By the end of 2021, the company says it had brokered more than 10,000 deals with 400 brands and generated $5 million in revenue.

The investment from Serena Ventures is the latest round of funding Ishveen and her team have received from prominent sports figures. Other investors include David Blitzer, owner of NBA franchise Philadelphia 76ers and co-owner of Premier League soccer team Crystal Palace. 

OpenSponsorship will use the funding for a wide range of growth strategies but sees the U.K. market as a focus for expansion. To lead the company and attract new athletes and brands to the platform in the U.K., OpenSponsorship has hired Charlie Turner, a former Team GB swimmer and co-founder of award-winning plant-based protein brand Neat Nutrition, as head of U.K.

“Brand sponsorship is vital to an athlete’s career and OpenSponsorship is giving them more control and ownership over that process. But this is also something that businesses will benefit from,” said Serena Williams, managing partner of Serena Ventures. “I love the fact that this platform puts supporting athletes at the core of its business and am proud to be a part of their journey as an investor.”