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Lionel Messi makes a play in tech, launching SF-based investment firm

Lionel Messi presents his new line of clothing brand at the Santa Eulalia store in Barcelona, Spain, on Sept. 19, 2019. | Robert Marquardt/Getty Images

Lionel Messi, one of the most recognizable names in the sports world, is making moves in Silicon Valley. But you’d be forgiven for assuming he’s been there all along.  

The Argentine soccer star is among the wealthiest celebrities in the world. Messi’s career—associated with his time at FC Barcelona—dates back to 2004, and has garnered him a following of nearly 400 million followers on Instagram. Now plying his trade in Paris, Messi’s current contract nets him nearly $738,000 a week.

Last week, Messi announced the launch of Play Time Sports-Tech, an investment firm that will fund sports, media and technology companies. The new fund will be based in San Francisco. 

“I am excited to extend our roots into Silicon Valley, and I am thrilled that Play Time will collaborate with daring entrepreneurs from all over the world,” Messi said in a statement. 

Partnering with Messi on this venture is Razmig Hovaghimian, who founded and sold his video site Viki to Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten in 2013 for $200 million. Rakuten was also a major sponsor of FC Barcelona during Messi’s last run with the club, but opted not to renew its deal once the superstar departed and signed for Paris Saint-Germain in 2021. 

One of Play Time’s first investments also happens to be in a soccer startup—albeit vague at this point—called Founded by Hovaghimian, the startup says that it wants to “build a place where fans rub shoulders with the world’s greatest players.” 

The timing of Messi’s announcement is not a coincidence. The 2022 World Cup in Qatar is set to kick off in less than three weeks, meaning that the world’s gaze will soon descend upon one of the game’s greatest players.

Play Time did not give any details on the amount of funds it plans to invest. It only said in a statement that it will be “stage agnostic,” investing in companies at various stages and locations. 

Before announcing the move into venture capital, Messi’s off-field wealth was accumulated mostly through his lucrative sponsorship deals with Adidas, Pepsi and online crypto firm Socios. He also owns a hotel and resorts chain in Spain. 

His entry into Silicon Valley continues a trend of major sports and entertainment celebrities branching out into investing. Local Golden State Warriors stars have been public with their investments for years, and Serena Williams and Kevin Hart came to San Francisco last week to promote their funds. 

Next month’s World Cup will likely be Messi’s last. The seven-time world player of the year has won 11 La Liga trophies and four Champions League titles, but has yet to win the international competition in four tries. He came closest in 2014 when Argentina lost 1-0 to Germany in the final in Brazil. 

The 2022 World Cup kicks off Nov. 20. In Qatar, Argentina will compete in Group C with Saudi Arabia, Mexico and Poland.

Kevin V. Nguyen can be reached at

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