The NFL has become one of the preeminent global brands. It now generates more revenue than any other professional sports league worldwide, surpassing $13 billion in 2015.
In Forbes' annual list of the most valuable teams, each of the NFL's 32 organizations is valued above $1 billion, led by the Dallas Cowboys at $4 billion. The average value of each team jumped by 38% from the previous year. All that despite ongoing player image issues, over-inflated suspensions and continually rising ticket prices.
But how do these values compare to VC valuations? We decided to check it out. Here are the 15 highest-valued NFL franchises and the companies that equal the same valuation.
"America's Team," as branded by media, has built an empire spanning the globe as one of the most recognizable symbols in sports. Slack is looking to grow into a similar symbol for the workplace collaboration space. The company last raised $200M in Series F funding from lead investor Thrive Capital on April 1; its valuation is $3.8B.
More than $9B of venture capital was invested in the New England region during 2015, and more than $4B has been invested each year since 2011. Boston and Cambridge, MA are healthcare technology hubs, with over half ($5B) of the total funding in New England going to those metro areas alone last year, 60% of which was invested in healthcare startups.
Washington D.C.'s football team is more valuable than the combined amount of venture capital that has been invested in the city during the past 10 years. Deal flow in D.C. peaked during 2014 when 130 VC deals were completed for a total deal value of $471M. While D.C. is known as the home of mega-PE firm Carlyle, the city is noticeably void of major VC firms, with just three VCs managing assets of $350M or more. DocuSign's latest valuation is close to $3.1B.
New York is a hotspot for VC activity and is home to 10 unicorns. But the Giants' stadium is located across the river in the state of New Jersey, which accounted for just $709M of venture capital investment in 2015. 18% of that total came from just one deal—Amazon rival Jet.com's $130M round.
The 49ers recently moved their stadium about an hour south of San Francisco to Santa Clara, closer to Palo Alto, the center of the VC universe and home of Theranos, which was recently valued at $9B. The blood testing company has fallen on hard times (similar to the 49ers), coming under scrutiny from the SEC, healthcare regulators and lawyers, who are looking into possible fraud committed by Theranos involving its investors.
Not only do they share a stadium with the New York Giants—in New Jersey—but they also share a name with a NJ-based, billion-dollar company—almost. Jet.com is an ecommerce startup founded by entrepreneur Marc Lore. The company was only launched last year, but has already raised more than $550M in VC funding, grabbing a valuation of $1.4B as it works to disrupt the ecommerce model.
The Texans are one of the newer franchises in the league, being formed after the Houston Oilers moved to Tennessee. Known more for its energy and shipping markets, no more than $280M has been invested in Houston during a single year since 2007. Investment activity has seen a recent surge, however, topping out at 114 deals completed in 2015—after just 33 deals completed in 2007.
Chicago is known as the home of the Bears, but it is also home to Groupon, the once proud daily deals site that completed its IPO at a valuation of $12.8B. Groupon now has a market cap of $2.7B after a recent surge in the stock market, but you can still buy a piece of the company ($4.61 on the NASDAQ) for less than a coupon for two slices of pizza and two fountain drinks on its site ($7). More than $1B of VC has been invested in Chicago during each of the past two years, however, and the area has several prominent investors, including ARCH Venture Partners and Baird Capital.
"Fly, Eagles, Fly," goes the team's fight song. There isn’t as much fight in the Philadelphia VC industry, unfortunately. Just 250 startups have received venture capital since 2005 and none of those companies has received a private valuation over $172M, not even close to challenging the $2.4B value of the Eagles. To be completely fair, the total number of startups funded in the timeframe jumps to 743 when considering the entire Philadelphia metro area.
The Packers are the only NFL team to sell shares of ownership publicly, and they have been doing so intermittently since 1923 (shares can only be purchased/sold during certain offering periods), with proceeds generally going toward upgrades of the team's stadium. As for venture capital in the city? Frozen Codebase is the only VC-backed company headquartered in Green Bay, though it's now out of business.
The current champions are located in an area of budding venture capital. With almost linear growth in deal count over the past six years, Colorado tipped the scales at $1.2B in deal value last year. The state also had two VC-backed companies acquired in 2015 for a combined value of more than $2 billion—Datalogix ($1.2B) and SolidFire ($870M).
Since 2013, Baltimore's healthcare sector has been the most prominent VC-backed industry. Just 118 companies have been funded during that time, but almost 40% of the capital invested and 36% of the completed deals have been into healthcare. That's a good thing, since the Ravens finished with the highest number of players on the Injured Reserve list in 2015.
All of the VC invested in Pittsburgh since 2008 wouldn't be able to buy the Steelers at their $1.9B value. While the city has seen a nice growth in deal count, only one year topped the $400M mark in deal value. So far in 2016, just $35M has been invested in Pittsburgh. The city's top-valued VC-backed company? Duolingo ($470M).
The Colts Luck'ed out in the 2012 draft with the first overall pick, finding a replacement for Peyton Manning, but they have yet to regain the dominance they felt during his era. The franchise was originally based in Baltimore, before moving to Indianapolis in 1984. The Colts' value is roughly the same as Human Longevity ($1.89B), a genomics and cell therapy-based treatment provider.
The Seahawks have seen their value skyrocket in recent years, jumping 41% from the year before. There's been similar growth in the median valuation of VC-backed companies in the Pacific Northwest. In 2016, the median value of startups in the region raising funding has hit $30M, up nearly $8M from the final median of 2015.
* The Eagles' championships were won before the NFL/AFL Merger in 1966
** Prior to 1996, the Baltimore Ravens were the Cleveland Browns
*** Prior to 1984, the Indianapolis Colts were the Baltimore Colts