The Techstars Sports Accelerator Powered by Indy is a business incubator that sets out each year to find start up companies from across the globe that are pushing the limits of sports technology. The companies that the Techstars incubator brings into the Indianapolis community are encouraged to and often decide to relocate their headquarters to Indianapolis, leading to the city becoming a leader of innovation in the sports industry. Each company that enters the accelerator is supported with funding, mentorship, and important networking opportunities.
Demo Day, hosted at the NCAA Headquarters on September 2nd, saw the companies that made up the 2021 class pitch their product for the final time before becoming an alumni company of the incubator. Key investors and stakeholders in the Indianapolis community were in-person at the presentation, as well as more from around the world who joined via a livestream on Youtube.
The Techstars Sports Accelerator Powered by Indy is backed by nearly every major sports organization in Indianapolis, including the NCAA, Pacers Sports and Entertainment, the Indianapolis Colts, and more. This was made evident as NCAA President, Mark Emmert and Pacers Sports and Entertainment President, Ric Fuson, spoke to kick the event off. They stressed how important the work of Techstars and its incubated companies are to the continued development of the sports ecosystem in Indianapolis.
The 2021 class of companies varied widely in their products, including at-home workout equipment, advancements in Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs), athlete brand development, and modernized scheduling tools. Managing Director for the Techstars Sports Accelerator Powered by Indy, Jordan Fliegel, has a talent for finding cutting edge companies and selecting a strong roster to incubate. Let’s take a closer look at the companies that make up the 2021 alumni class.
This group of products bring innovations to team administration, player scheduling, and management tools for fitness professionals.
PlayerData is a sports tech company based in Edinburgh, Scotland. The product PlayerData presented at Demo Day is a modular sensor system that is worn by athletes to track data during workouts. The device was designed to track key data points, such as training workload, and present the information to coaches and athletes in a user-friendly phone app. The product has been described as “viral” in competitive soccer leagues in the United Kingdom. When one team in a league adopts PlayerData, other teams quickly see the value it provides and enroll in the program as well. PlayerData is well established in the United Kingdom, and through their partnership with Techstars, the company is preparing to launch in the United States. PlayerData has more planned product releases as well, they have announced early developments in a similar device for cyclists, an augmented reality fan experience technology, and more at the close of their pitch.
LegitFit is a business management software that was designed for fitness professionals. The platform combines scheduling, payments, and finance management into one easily accessible package. This product was designed to reduce the extra work needed to be done by owners of fitness businesses. LegitFit currently has a 20% market share in Scotland and is expanding into additional countries including the United States.
While LegitFit was designed for fitness business owners, this next scheduling tool was designed for the highest levels of sport. Kairos is a communication app designed for professional sports teams. Professional athletes have many outside stressors on gameday, their schedule and responsibilities being a primary one. Kairos is designed to reduce the pressure of tracking obligations on athletes and to simplify the communication process for team administrators and coaches. The app combines team messaging, individual player schedules, nutrition, and can even hold boarding passes and share game film. Kairos is an efficient and compact tool that reduces the administrative efforts that are required for teams, coaches, and managers of professional sports teams. Kairos boasts major clients in the soccer world, including Manchester United. Through the Techstars accelerator, Kairos has prepared to launch in the United States across multiple sports.
Getting Exercise at Home
After over a year of quarantine, the demand for at home fitness equipment has increased, and the market has grown competitive. These three startups are on the cutting edge of fitness technology for their respective target markets.
Flexia is a smart reformer and virtual pilates studio. The reformer is a device that helps support an individual during pilates, and can be used to intensify the workout as well. Combined with Flexia’s virtual studio, this product offers the experience of a full pilates class in your home. Flexia boasts an intelligent system that learns as you use it to recommend workouts and help you to reach your fitness goals. The virtual studio also tracks your progress and shares it to the Flexia community. Flexia is seeking to take a similar market share in at-home pilates as Peloton has in at-home cycling.
This next piece of at-home workout equipment was designed to help young athletes train at professional levels. LaunchPad is a compact, at-home explosiveness training system designed for competitive athletes who want to train at a high level. The software tracks seventeen points in the human body via camera in order to get an in-depth understanding of your body’s movement. LaunchPad features daily workouts that are designed based on the sports you play, the goals you have, your age, and performance data from past workouts. LaunchPad is prepared to launch its first batch of equipment in early 2022.
The market for high quality, personal training equipment has grown far beyond treadmills and bikes. Grind is an interactive basketball shooting machine and mobile app. This machine was designed to provide the advantages of a shooting machine (athletes can shoot over 10 times as many shots per hour), without the drawbacks (size and price). Grind folds down into a duffel bag and its software gamifies personal basketball training. The software analyzes the user’s shots and tendencies to recommend training and exercises specifically tailored to the athlete. With basketball reported as the most played sport in the United States, this company has a large market to grow into.
While the previous pieces of workout equipment do wonders for developing athletes, there are more demographics than young adults looking to get fit. Move Ollie is a mobile game that is designed to help people over the age of 55 to get exercise. Senior fitness typically is centered around a different set of goals, the needs of seniors are often unmet by typical gyms and personal trainers. Move Ollie focuses on the fitness areas that seniors need including mobility, balance and stability, and strength. The Move Ollie app learns from the user’s activity and current ability and creates exercises that target the user’s needs. The mascot of the game, Ollie, levels up and grows as exercises are completed, and the app hosts an online community that allows seniors to connect and share exercises with friends. The app is currently in a pilot program and is anticipating a launch in December of 2021.
New Grounds in NFTs
A Non-Fungible Token (NFT) is a digital asset tied to a blockchain that cannot be copied, it can be any type of digital media. NFTs are considered true digital ownership. The following companies are two of the forces helping to push NFTs into the spotlight.
Own The Moment is an NFT platform that combines analysis, expert content, and community into one. The platform describes itself as, “The Bloomberg of NFTs.” Own The Moment is looking to create a place for digital collectors to share, discuss, and research NFTs. NFTs are a growing market that recently emerged and popularized. As NFTs continue to gain traction, Own The Moment intends to grow alongside.
Sports Icon is another NFT platform. Unlike Own The Moment however, Sports Icon focuses on the content creation of NFTs. The company works with sports stars to tell the journey of their rise to fame, and allows fans to collect moments and interact with the players’ story on a deeper level. Sports Icon changes the model of fan interaction with sports from consumption to digital ownership. The company currently has professional athletes from the United States, Europe, and South America on their platform producing content. Through Techstars, Sports Icon has been able to continue its growth within the United States.
Empowering Athletes to Create
Athlete’s today have the eyes of the world on them, these platforms are helping them to share their stories and grow their personal brands.
Curastory is a creator platform that was designed to create authentic communities and authentic advertising and promotional experiences that benefit the creator and are natural to the viewer. After a creator uploads a video to Curastory, the app pairs the content with sponsors running targeted ad campaigns. The targeted ad content is then embedded in the ad spots on all of their channels including YouTube and Instagram. Curastory boasts over 80 million monthly views on their sports content and is looking to further corner the market through its partnership with Techstars. The company recently made deals with the NBA Players Association and the NBA 2K League.
While Curastory was designed to allow better monetization practices for sports content creators and athletes, this next brand recreates the way professional athletes build their own marketplace. PWRFWD (Power Forward) is a player to athlete marketplace that was designed to help athletes build their own brand and capitalize on the opportunities that they receive. This platform allows athletes to act as content creators, build a community of fans, capitalize on sponsorship opportunities, and sell products directly to their fans. PWRFWD currently has 75 professional athletes using their platform, including Breanna Stewart and Mo Bamba. Recent changes in NCAA Name, Image, and Likeness policy has opened PWRFWD to the entirely new market of college athletes providing a stellar growth opportunity for the company.
The Techstars Sports Accelerator Powered by Indy has celebrated the successes of another class of innovative businesses. As these companies continue to grow and expand, they will rely on the help of the Techstars alumni community and the impressions that they made during their time in the incubator and during their presentations on Demo Day. Keep an eye out for Techstars and their portfolio of companies in the headlines, the impact their innovative products have on the sports industry is undeniable.
The full live stream of the Demo Day can be found through the following link: https://youtu.be/St1gYJsroCU
Listen to the Sports Innovation Podcast with Senior Project Manager Andrew Hippert
Watch Jordan Fleigel discuss Techstars.