Inside Track

SportsTech Monthly Roundup # 13: Demo Day and Startup Spotlight

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Welcome to another installment of the SportsTech Monthly Roundup. We sure do have a lot to catch you up on this go-around, but first…

 

🚨 Calendar Alert! Mark your calendar and sign-up now to attend Comcast NBCUniversal SportsTech Demo Day, the culmination of countless hours of work and dedication from our accelerator teams. They’ll show you how their ideas have transformed into companies with the potential to change sports for good. This is an event you don’t want to miss.

Here are some of the exciting happenings so far with Comcast NBCUniversal SportsTech’s inaugural class:

  • Founders got a chance to talk with Berk Communication’s Ryan Mucatel about connecting with influential athletes.
  • “Spend your time doing the things that are really driving your business forward.” That was the lesson for our participants in a fireside chat with the Golf Channel.
  • Faster. Higher. Stronger. Words to live by, especially as athletes had to learn and adapt to a new world and change their schedules to train in their garages, backyards, and ponds. Get an inside look at the strategy athletes employed to continue an Olympic athletic tradition while staying at peak mental and physical shape. You can tune in and watch the webinar here featuring 15-time World Champion and U.S. Paralympic Gold and Bronze medalist Mallory Weggemann in conversation with Matt Barbini, National Team Director of Performance for USA Swimming, and Jenna Kurath, Vice President and head of Comcast SportsTech.

Startups Spotlight Part 2

Recently, we introduced you to five of our startup teams in the SportsTech Accelerator. Now, we’d like you to meet the other five teams who are working hard to change swimming, esports, and more. You can read more about the teams and their backstories here.

  • 🏊 Ane Swim—Designs advanced swimming apparel for diverse swimmers and aims to eliminate the barriers that keep people from enjoying the water. Their flagship product, Ane Swim, provides hair protection and the ability to keep hair completely dry so that everyone can enjoy the freedom of swimming.
  • 🧠 Sharper Sense—Develops a neural interface that enhances athletes’ perceptual ability, leading to enhanced awareness and reaction times during training and competition.
  • 🏟 The Sonar Company—Uses proprietary ultrasonic tone technology to transmit and receive data, interactions, beacons, and messages between devices in locations where traditional wireless communications are impossible or impractical.
  • 🎮 StreamRecap—Builds video solutions for teams, leagues, and streamers across all esports, focusing on instant automatic highlights and coaching tools. Their team is right at home in the burgeoning world of competitive online gaming.
  • ⛳️ XiQ—Develops smart devices that replace the conventional key ignition on most non-automotive vehicles, including golf carts and construction vehicles. They enable security, fleet IoT, and mobility sharing solutions to alleviate the transportation challenges facing many communities today.

What’s Up in SportsTech

How Wearables Made March Madness Safe  | Via: Inside Track

After 710 days of zero madness, one of the most coveted sporting events has finally … FINALLY returned. To keep players safe and teams playing, the NCAA installed rigorous testing. Before they even arrived athletes had to have seven straight negative tests. They faced additional testing protocols when they arrived. Additionally, wearable technology has a hand in keeping these teams competing well into the bracket. A company called Kinexon designed and built a robust tracking system called “SafeZone” which is a series of wearable tags each consisting of a unique ID number. As soon as players and teams arrived in Indianapolis, they were given these tiles to wear and must be worn during all practices and competitions. They can easily be worn on the wrist like a watch, on a lanyard, or directly in the pocket of shorts or jerseys. Data will constantly be collected and the NCAA will monitor and contact trace in case they need to isolate players. The trackers can alert players and coaches if they were within six feet of someone infected with COVID-19, and for how long they were exposed to that individual. A red warning light indicates when players get within six feet of someone else, but this is not a feature that will be activated during March Madness.

NASCAR Taps Roots With Dirt Race at Bristol | Via: Sportscasting

One of the most famous and fan-friendly tracks in all of NASCAR remains the Bristol Motor Speedway. Looking to tap into new ideas, NASCAR trucked in 30,000 tons of dirt to fill the track for a return to dirt racing for the first time in 50 years. Also, in NASCAR news, Dale Earnhardt Jr. spoke on his racing podcast with Bristol Motorsports President and COO, Marcus Smith. In that conversation, they mentioned how a roof over the racing stadium could be possible in the future. That idea came to fruition for Smith a few years ago when they used the venue to host a college football game. “Five years from now, we need a roof on Bristol,” Smith said matter-of-factly on the podcast. Earnhardt Jr. then asked if a roof was added would dirt still be a possibility. Smith didn’t hesitate with his response. “Yeah, I think so. The sun baking the dirt takes the moisture out.”

Live Look-ins, the Future of Sports? | Via: PGA Tour 

One of the biggest challenges for sports (both broadcasters and leagues) is finding a way to reign in and engage younger fans. Many of them are not active cable subscribers and have grown up consuming snackable chunks of content on social media and video streaming platforms. One new startup, Buzzer, hopes to change that. They’re offering fans a chance to purchase access to “live look-ins” of live sports action for as low as 99 cents each. The first sports on tap will be NHL and the PGA Tour with more coming this ahead of the launch in May or June. According to the PGA Tour article, “The first-of-its-kind agreements focus on providing short-form live sports content that reaches younger generations of fans where and how they are watching sports. Buzzer’s iOS and Android apps aim to simplify the discovery and viewing experience on mobile in a short-form live format that aligns with trends in consumption habits.”

USA Swimming Adds Two Trials To Prep for Olympics | Via: Swim Swam

USA Swimming recently announced the addition of two more meets for the 2021 Olympic Trials slate. The first, called the ‘Wave III meet,’ is set for late June, while the final opportunity, the ‘Wave IV’ meet, will be set over two days in early July. These meets will act as a ‘safety net’ for swimmers at the Wave I or II meets who test positive for COVID-19 while at the meet, or who feel that they missed their taper at either of the first two qualifying opportunities because of the stress of the pandemic. Previously, USA Swimming made the unprecedented switch to two Olympic Trials meets, called the ‘Wave I’ and ‘Wave II’ meets because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, and it’s now been extended to include a third and fourth meet. “Because the original plan was for the Olympic Trials meet to be in late June into early July, we actually had the CHI Health Center reserved later than the earlier Wave II meet,” USA Swimming COO Mike Unger, who manages the Trials, said. “So, we thought, why not take one last opportunity to make sure we’re presenting the best possible American team at the Olympic Games.”

Athletes Mic’d Up Could Be Game-Changing | Via: Front Office Sports

In one of the spring training games from Arizona, ESPN spent time talking to players Anthony Rizzo and Javier Baez from the dugout … during the game. A few seasons ago, they mic’d up players on the field in what turned out to be a wildly successful portrait of players and their mindset during semi-competitive live ball. Baseball is a relatively quiet sport, with the exception of the crack of a bat, it’s punctuated by sporadic bouts of action and noise but settles down to a place where the game is told through hand signals and glances. When ESPN put audio mics on Kris Bryant and Rizzo in 2020, it produced amazing insight into the game, from the way players talk to their foes on the basepath to showing insight into in-game thinking and nuanced language. ESPN analyst and former slugger Alex Rodriguez envisions a world where players could be mic’d up everywhere. “I want to see them driving home and coming to the stadium,” A-Rod said. “The more, the better. The young people don’t just want generic content. They want the things behind the scenes they can’t get anywhere else.”

NBA TopShot Creator Closes $305 Million Round | Via: NBA 

It’s an understatement to say that Dapper Labs is having a moment. The creator of NBA TopShot, a virtual card and sports moment trading platform has just closed a $305 million round backed by big-time names including Michael Jordan, Kevin Durant, Kyle Lowry, Klay Thompson, and Spencer Dinwiddie. In addition to sports legends from past and present, their partners include Warner Music Group, Ubisoft, and UFC. Capitalizing on the white-hot sports card and memorabilia collecting craze, TopShot features common cards and packs purchased and delivered digitally. While they can be had for as little as $10, a limited numbered moment from a star like LeBron James can be worth (and sold) for more than $210,000. Dapper Labs says the funding will be used to expand its NFT and blockchain products.

Strength Training Startup Gains Unicorn Status | Via: TechCrunch

The maker of a smart home fitness trainer experienced an explosive increase in sales during the pandemic, and now the six-year-old San Francisco-based startup is gearing up for its next stage of growth. Tonal is adding $250 million of new funding in a Series E round valuing the startup at $1.6 billion. Athlete investors include Drew Brees, Larry Fitzgerald, Maria Sharapova, Mike Tyson, and Sue Bird. According to Tonal, the new funds will allow it to spend more on marketing its strength-training product to shoppers to increase brand visibility, grow its catalog of streamed fitness classes and invest further in operations, and scaling its business to meet increased demand. “We’re really getting ready to scale the business: we’re pouring a lot more capital into marketing and brand awareness, and we’re pouring a lot more capital into scaling our supply chain to get ready for the next phase, which I really think is the next two holiday seasons,” says CEO Aly Orady. Tonal has a super interesting origin story—Orady worked for almost two decades as an engineer, and it took a toll on him. He gained weight, developed Type II diabetes and sleep apnea. He configured a workout regimen that saw him making treks to local Bay Area gyms, and began to wonder how he could integrate workouts with compact equipment at home. And, that’s how Tonal was born, through a combination of product ingenuity and workouts designed to solve one of his personal challenges.

Marques Colston on Life After Sports as an Entrepreneur | Via: The Game Plan

Former NFL wideout Marques Colston talked about the importance of “Separation Mindset” and how he uses lessons from his days playing in the NFL to the business world. Turns out, they translate seamlessly into every day of his business life. Colston spoke to the folks at The Game Plan Show on how you can apply those lessons to your entrepreneurial life. “It’s the self-scouting process. As you’re moving day-to-day, it’s easy to get in this autopilot mode. If you’re able to take the time and devote the time to understand what you’re chasing…what you’re passionate about, there is not this linear path. It starts with identifying the things that drive you,” Colston said.

FastCompany: Most Innovative Sports Companies in 2021 | Via: FastCo

From the National Basketball Association (NBA) to Hyperice (mentioned earlier in this newsletter), these are the teams, leagues, and companies that most creatively found ways to return to training and competition during one of the most trying times in global sporting history.

Muscle Recovery Product Partners With New York Yankees | Via: CNBC

Hyperice, the sports tech company that specializes in muscle recovery products, has agreed to a sponsorship with the New York Yankees. The agreement is the first team deal for Hyperice, which added Major League Baseball as an investor last year. The deal calls for Hyperice products, including its “Hypervolt” massage device, available to players in dugouts, bullpens, and training areas at Yankee Stadium. “The New York Yankees are one of the most iconic and innovative franchises on the planet with a fan base that extends to every corner of the globe,” Hyperice CEO Jim Huether said in a statement. Hyperice said it expected to reach a $1 billion valuation after the company struck a deal with the National Football League last November. Just one month before that equity deal, Hyperice was valued at $700 million.

📸 Picture of the Month

Space Jam: A New Legacy | Via: Twitter

Welcome to the Jam. Warner Bros. has revealed a new movie poster for “Space Jam: A New Legacy” ahead of the premiere of the sequel’s first trailer. The new poster features Lebron James and Bugs Bunny in addition to a newly-revamped logo that brings to mind the original poster back in 1996, if you’re, ahem, of age to remember it.

Be sure to follow all our exciting accelerator program updates and sports tech stories on our website and blog, as well as on FacebookTwitterInstagram, and LinkedIn.

— The SportsTech Team

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