First wrapup of promising sports tech startups for Demo Day 2018
I had the pleasure this week of attending the Lead Sports Accelerator Demo Day for their class of 2018 showcasing some of most promising sports start-ups in the space. We were also lucky enough to receive updates from a few of the class of 2017 and see how they have progressed on their journey since the accelerator. I wanted to share my review of the start-ups I am most excited for. If you are an investor in the space I am happy to make an introduction to any of the teams, each of which are currently fundraising to continue their fine work.
To learn more about Lead Sports click here.
Wingfield- Wingfield have developed a system that can transform any tennis court in the world into a smart court. The system goes far beyond keeping score to analysing strokes and providing personalized feedback to the player after a match or practice. The system requires just 2 cameras positioned behind the baseline of each side of the court and a small pod attaching to one side of the net. Wingfield has already launched their product with satisfied customers throughout Germany and can now install the entire system themselves in just under 2 hours.
I spent most of my childhood on a tennis court progressing through the junior ranks in Florida, one of the more competitive places in the world for junior tennis, and upon seeing their presentation as promising as the coaching feedback and in depth analysis was I couldn’t help but focus on the ability to have every match umpired by a machine at a fraction of the cost of a human umpire in the long run. For those of you not so knowledgeable of junior/amateur tennis, it is a sport where for the majority of matches, bar a final, the officiating is done by the players. I would be interested to see if Wingfield could create a simplified version of their current model that’s sole purpose is to rule whether a shot is in or out. I am confident this be snapped up by every country club in Florida.
The advanced analytics are great but sometimes it is important to focus on what customers need not want. Both the junior and adult tennis leagues around the world need a relatively inexpensive piece of equipment that can be easily installed on courts and officiate matches. I look forward to seeing how Wingfield progresses with both their current model and if they receive and act on similar feedback looking for a basic electronic umpire. There is a market for the advanced analytics but a far larger one for a basic electronic umpire.
20/20 Armor -20/20 Armor founded by Ali Ghafour, is a prime example of why the best businesses come from people finding a dramatic problem in their own life and creating a solution. Ali was a 4 x Canadian National Team member for TaeKwonDo and has launched 4 tech startups in the past. 20/20 Armor aims to be the standard training system for the 240 million people practicing martial arts throughout the world. Across many disciplines of martial arts the scoring becomes quite complex with different points assigned for different methods of striking different parts of the body. For classes of children often with 1 instructor to 20+ children when they progress to sparring the instructor cannot officiate each match and this often leads to children losing interest in the sport as it then just turns into a sparring session with each striking each other for a set amount of time.
In short 20/20 armour is an electronic chestguard that brings the Street Fighter video game to life. The technology gamifies the sparring sessions with built in game modes while also teaching the fundamentals of sparring. I was lucky enough to see the mobile application soon to be launched publicly which superimposes Street Fighter type graphics over the sparring partners.
As of now 20/20 Armor’s target market is martial arts club owners but I would expect to see the product do well in standard gyms which often feature a dummy for sparring. The 20/20 Armor placed on the standard sparring dummy with its multiple built in game modes then becomes a personal training device for the individual.
UNIT1 — UNIT1 is the team behind SOUNDSHIELD, an action sports helmet with detachable wireless headphones. This first product is aimed at skiers and snowboarders where there is still no solution other than traditional headphones worn underneath a helmet to listen to music while riding, something the vast majority of riders do.
Speaking with Juan Garcia Mansilla was an absolute pleasure as you can tell how passionate he is about the project and that he has thought about each and every thing. He was previously a Ski Instructor who studied product design making him the perfect person to have brought this product to life. They have 1,000 units ready to ship for the upcoming season which doesn’t sound a lot but from speaking with Juan it is clear he wants this product to be absolutely perfect before going mainstream with it. I think he sees this as a larger beta test of the product hoping to hear back from his first customers on any issues before manufacturing a larger batch for the 2019 Ski Season.
With over 5 million Ski and Snowboard helmets sold per year if UNIT1 can capture just a part of the market the business will be very successful. Juan is confident they can stay ahead of their competitors as they spent the last few years identifying the right manufacturer to produce high quality audio and an extremely safe helmet. They also have patented both their design and every design they tried similar to theirs that did not work out. Not only is UNIT1 one to watch, but any and every product Juan creates through his career I expect to be an industry changer.
WhoKnowsWins — WKW is an interactive social gaming platform that allows friends, family and colleagues to compete against each other in leagues using their knowledge, skill and luck to predict results on virtually any sporting event. WKW is looking to take the bookie out of betting and instead opting for wagers between friends, family, colleagues or even complete strangers. WKW is looking to use blockchain technology to facilitate all of this.
The advantage of using blockchain technology for a application like this is the low commission structure that can be offered leaving the majority of the money bet by users in the users pocket. WKW understands that before people are comfortable betting with their WIN Token they will first have to offer Fiat betting. An onboarding process eventually leading to the cryptocurrency used is a recipe for success.
Another advantage of WKW being a blockchain based business is the ability to bet on any and every sporting event going on daily. Parent’s can bet on the outcome of their children’s little league match or friends can bet on a round of golf through the app because user weighted voting rights will control results verification.
I haven’t read the whitepaper to understand the technical setup of WKW’s blockchain but I was pleased to see they already have a team of blockchain developers signed on and working on the project. There is a shortage of blockchain developers worldwide and more and more projects started daily that have not hired any developers and only have an idea in theory.
EvolveSports — Evolve Sports is building a virtual training platform and a social community around specific sports. The founders were previously professional basketball players so it is easy to see why they started with Evolve Basketball for their first sport. We are years away from the time of the start-up craze of everyone launching a social media app and it is clear from the get go Evolve is looking to provide far more than just social connection. The real focus is around the training in the sport with talented coaches providing training videos and nutrition help to add value to the users life.
Evolve is looking to drive users to their site through adding professional NBA players to the app who would post and interact with fans. I wonder if this could be too costly given the salaries of professional athletes in the top 4 US sports and the prices they can demand to interact with audiences on larger social network sites like Facebook and Instagram.
I had a chat with Devon and am looking to further discuss building out Evolve Crossfit. Crossfit is one of the largest sporting communities with well over 500,000 members and 13,000 Crossfit locations. According to RallyFitness over half of US Crossfit participants have an income of greater than $150,000. Each Crossfit gym has a Facebook group to interact, post scores and training videos. It is the best solution but Evolve Crossfit would provide so much more. In addition the vast majority of professional crossfit athletes are not making the type of money seen in the top 4 US Sports. Many of the best professionals are coaching fulltime at their respective gyms. It would be easy and cheap to use these influencers to drive the community to Evolve Crossfit.
LaLaSports- La La Sports is looking to bring the fun back to fitness. La La sports has built a platform that helps people diversify their fitness life by recommending and connecting users with unusual sports and the clubs and that offer them. Classpass has been an game changer to fitness clubs but its focus only extends to providing access to a wide variety of standard gyms in different locations. La La Sports though recognises much of fitness falls outside the traditional bench press and treadmill and is signing up everything from climbing gyms, synchronized swimming classes, skateboarding and more. They hope to encourage people to exercise more (42% of us want to) by providing skill-based fitness options not just general fitness. I made a similar change from general training to Calisthenics and Crossfit in need of something with more skill involved and have increased my overall fitness dramatically because of this.
Looking at their current basic business model they are charging 20% commission on all marketplace bookings. They hope for their customers to eventually find a sport that excites them to train daily and then continue with that sport regularly.
It would be very lucrative if La La sports could move on to being the booking site for these non-mainstream sports much the same way MindBody is becoming the go to booking site for mainstream gyms. In addition to this there is the added opportunity to provide the “accessories” that go with the new sports. Crossfit, diving and rock climbing for example all would eventually require an avid user to purchase grips, mobility accessories, diving caps, swimsuits and more.
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