The events of 2020 have presented numerous challenges to the sporting world, but there have also been benefits, particularly in the adoption of new and exciting technologies in everything from on-pitch analysis to heightening the fan experience.
Opportunities for innovative and ambitious sporting start-ups are plentiful, however, getting a new business off the ground is still a challenge, particularly in the current economic climate.
Here are five sport ‘incubators’ that are helping companies get a head start as we move into 2021.
Crucial to making a success of a new venture is having access to the requisite funding. There is nothing more daunting than having a brilliant idea, but lacking the expertise to know where you can find the funding you need.
Sports Loft has the answers for businesses in exactly that position. A London-based hub that brings together the global sports and media tech ecosystem, They’re on the lookout for the very best high-growth sporting tech companies, with the capability to connect them with leading investors and executives. Whether you’re looking for funds, broadcasters or are interested in working with Premier League clubs, Sports Loft has the global community to bring these organisations together.
Hype Sports Innovation
With over 40,000 members and 11,000 start-ups, HYPE Sports Innovation is one of the power players on the sport incubators circuit. The Hype Sports ecosystem contains clubs, federations, retail brands, athletics and academia, all brought together under one digital roof.
The impressive numbers don’t stop there. Since being founded in 2015, they’ve raised $181m with an average of $1.3m. The company’s business model is to leverage this platform to grow from the surging needs of the sports industry to innovate.
Alumni include some of the fastest growing sports companies in the world, from analytics businesses, to Shot Scope, an Edinburgh-based company who have developed the first fully automated performance wearable technology tracking system for golf. And then there’s Red Dot Drone, an autonomous aerial filming technology which provides software for controlling multiple drones at the same time, capturing sports from multiple angles for video analytics
Sport Tech Hub
Launched in 2017 by London Sport, Sports Tech Hub describes itself as the UK’s first sport tech incubator. It was launched with the stated aim of helping to solve the world’s physical inactivity crisis. It has since helped 36 start-ups, lending more than 250 hours of support.
It does so by launching a 24-week programme for new ventures that scales start-ups, so they access London’s physical activity sector. Working with partners across the private and public sector, it’s an effective way to pilot new ideas and help foster digital innovation.
Has it been a success? Those start-ups have reportedly interacted with over 70,000 Londoners and worked with Hackney Council, GymPass and Red Together, which speaks for itself.
In 2019, Sapphire Ventures, who have more than £4bn of assets under management, launched a $115 million sports tech fund with big-name backers. Though the fund is called Sapphire Sport, it extends into the media and entertainment industries too. Either way, they’re bringing Sapphire’s venture capital investing capabilities to the global sport marketplace.
The challenge to stay innovative is a constant one, but when Sapphire Ventures started exploring sport, they realised quickly this market had exactly what the venture capitalists are looking for: rapidly growing markets being disrupted by technology. Sport may be big business, but often it’s nowhere near as big as the industries that surround it. From betting, analytics, the media and growing platforms like esports and digital fitness, entertainment and media play a massive role in sport too. Consumers value all these experiences.
They’ve recently invested in mobile gaming developer GreenPark Sports who have netted an NBA partnership and a $14million Series A funding round. They have also backed mobile live sports platform Buzzer, who recently secured US$4 million in seed funding.
Incubators are all about taking an idea to Series A, broadening their potential partners and finding them routes to market. For six lucky sports start-ups in their Sports & Health Tech Accelerator, that’s exactly what lead Sports & Health Partners promises to do. With over 150+ investors and mentors, they get years of training packed into six months and are a great example of a sports incubator ecosystem. Amongst the industry leaders they partner with are Adidas and Citi Private bank.
Their companies are a mix of sports tech as well as health and well-being, two areas that have shown significant growth throughout the pandemic. The virtual phase of the program kicked off in early October 2020, but selected start-ups will hopefully be on-site in Lake Nona in early 2021 for a six-month programme. Amongst them are TERSA, “the world’s most intelligent virtual physical therapy and training platform” or Age Rate, a company developing a tool that can accurately reveal an individual’s biological age. I might skip that one, but it could help recommend athletes different lifestyle interventions.
If you are a sport incubator looking to enhance your reputation and that of your portfolio companies, or if you have a sports tech brand that you’re looking to grow, get in touch with our award-winning team today to discuss how we could help.