DAZN Launches Innovation Hub, Buys Streaming Startup Texel – SportTechie

Global sports streaming service DAZN has acquired the social streaming provider Texel, whose employees and intellectual property will become part of DAZN X, the company’s new innovation hub.
DAZN, which is available as a direct-to-consumer premium subscription, has become a major rights holder, especially in countries such as Japan, Germany and Italy—where it broadcasts domestic soccer league matches in addition to a number of international sports circuits. Since its 2018 launch in the U.S., DAZN has focused primarily on combat sports such as boxing and MMA, although not every deal has worked out. It is now available in more than 200 countries.
Texel synchronizes broadcasts and enables interactive commentary, betting, gaming and shopping, as well as personalization of the experience. All 50 of its Tel Aviv-based employees will join DAZN X, which will support the company’s streaming product everywhere it is available.
“We are here to revolutionise the sports viewing experience by making it more exciting, more sociable and engaging,” DAZN co-CEO Shay Segev said in a statement. “Our acquisition of Texel and the launch of DAZN X significantly accelerates our strategy and positions us as the world’s leading sports innovator.”
StatusPro, an extended reality training and gaming company, has announced a wide range of strategic investors who are among the biggest names in sports and entertainment: LeBron James, Drake, Naomi Osaka, Maverick Carter, Jimmy Iovine and Paul Wachter. They join institutional investors that fueled a $5.2 million seed round, led by KB Partners and TitletownTech.
Co-founded by former football players Andrew Hawkins and Troy Jones, StatusPro uses player tracking data to create a realistic training platform that’s being deployed by six NFL teams. The program is device agnostic and can be viewed in augmented reality, virtual reality or mixed reality. 
“I look for investment opportunities that can have a lasting impact on culture and society—and StatusPRO is poised to do that,” Osaka said in a statement. “It’s not only going to influence gaming and entertainment [two things I am passionate about], but also the way athletes can train and analyze their performance.”
Hawkins, the company’s chief business officer, is a former NFL wide receiver who played three seasons each for the Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns. He later worked as director of business development at The SpringHill Company, where he collaborated with James and Carter. Jones, StatusPro’s CEO, played college football at Maryland and Western Kentucky.
“We always say, ‘We’re only as strong as our team,’ and now our team is a lot stronger, especially in the sports space,” Hawkins says.
StatusPro is developing consumer products that recreate the experience of playing elite sports and has expanded its offerings beyond American football. “One of the things we wanted to do is identify partners, even outside of football, that could help us tell their story of what it’s like to be athletes,” Jones says.
World Triathlon announced it is developing technology to prevent drafting among cyclists during races. 
Drafting is when a cycler moves behind another biker to get into a low pressure area, reducing the wind resistance and energy needed to pedal. World Triathlon, the international governing body for sport, says about 85% of global triathlons do not allow drafting in their cycling portions of events.
Officials have traditionally made naked-eye judgments during races to combat drafting, but a new device made by New Zealand-based startup RaceRanger would reduce the ambiguity. The company’s sensor-embedded device attaches to the front and rear end of a bike to detect real-time distance between cyclers. A light on the device flashes when an athlete spends too much time in the ”draft zone.”
Officials could view this distance data on RaceRanger’s app before deciding whether or not to penalize a cyclist for drafting. World Triathlon will trial RaceRanger at events in New Zealand before evaluating the system for expanded global use. 
“With this agreement with RaceRanger we want to make the athlete experience better, providing new technologies that will increase the fairness of the competition for all athletes, especially the ones competing in longer distance formats,” World Triathlon president Marisol Casado said in a statement. 
University of Connecticut basketball star Paige Bueckers has signed a three-year brand ambassador deal with sneaker and apparel marketplace StockX. The deal is the first NIL endorsement for Bueckers, who won the John Wooden Award as a freshman last season.
 “My partnership with StockX is about equity and authenticity,” Bueckers told ESPN. “It’s about product I love and about shining a light on all the creatives that drive culture. I’m here to celebrate them and, together with StockX, invest in making sure women and women athletes are prioritized, elevated and recognized for their style and their leadership.”
StockX partnered with the NBA G League Ignite to auction the team’s uniforms for charity in March. The company, which was co-founded by Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, sold $1.8 billion worth of items in 2020 and valued itself at $3.8 billion in April. 
Audience analytics platform StellarAlgo has raised a $16.5 million Series A funding round to expand its software across sports and live events. The company’s existing clients include 85 sports teams such as the New York Yankees, Kansas City Royals, Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Kings.
StellarAlgo’s cloud-based Customer Data Platform analyzes data across ticket and merchandise sales, email marketing and other touchpoints. Its goal is to generate insights on consumer behavior that teams can leverage to further monetize their fanbases. 
In 2019, StellarAlgo competed in a data visualization challenge hosted by SportTechie and the San Francisco 49ers for Horizon Summit at Levi’s Stadium.
The round was led by Toronto-based Carallas Holdings, while NewBound VC and Bleacher Report founder Dave Finocchio also invested. With its new funds, StellarAlgo plans to double its staff and open headquarters in the U.S. and Europe. StellarAlgo was profitable in 2020 despite Covid-19’s shutdown of live sports.
“Engagement and connection are at the heart of what every fan wants from their favorite team—no one makes this relationship more central to how properties interact with their fanbase than StellarAlgo,” Finocchio said in a statement. “This is a company that’s poised to disrupt the sports tech space with advanced technology that every organization in the sports ecosystem should salivate over.”
Nike teased a new augmented reality running activation using Spectacles, the smartglasses product made by Snap Inc. A video posted to Nike’s Twitter account on Nov. 5 shows a runner wearing the glasses on her 1-mile run throughout Brooklyn. 
 The video captures a first-person view from the runner’s AR Spectacles, recorded through its built-in camera. Animated gizmos that appear during her run include an augmented bird wearing Nike shoes, targets that share words of encouragement for the runner and digital Nike ads.
 Nike’s Twitter post was captioned, “Nike + @snapchat AR = no more boring runs. What do you think @EliudKipchoge?” Kipchoge is a record-breaking marathoner, a Nike-sponsored athlete and the face of Nike’s 2017 Breaking2 Project.
Nike’s Snapchat AR integration follows last week’s CNBC report of recent trademark filings that foretell Nike’s intent to sell virtual Nike sneakers, apparel and accessories. 
Will Ventures—an investment firm focused on the sports, health and media spaces—has formed a strategic partnership with OneTeam Partners, the athlete licensing firm co-founded by the NFLPA and MLBPA. Startups under Will Ventures’ portfolio can now leverage OneTeam athletes for marketing purposes.
 OneTeam holds group licensing rights to more than 4,000 athletes across several players associations for the NFL, MLB, WNBA, MLS, U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team and U.S. Rugby. The deal will also allow OneTeam-represented athletes to invest or further collaborate with startups backed by Will Ventures. 
 “Having been a professional athlete, an entrepreneur, and an investor, I have seen the outsized value that engaged athletes can bring to startups. That’s why we believe that our partnership with OneTeam will help early-stage consumer, health, and media companies win,” Isaiah Kacyvenski, a former Seattle Seahawks linebacker and co-founder of Will Ventures, said in a statement. 
 Will Ventures has invested in companies such as electromagnetism muscle recovery startup Impact Biosystems, youth sports management app Aktivate, sports data company Tempus Ex, crowd monitoring software Armored Things, media startup Just Women’s Sports, and at-home boxing machine Liteboxer.
The NHL’s Florida Panthers have partnered with Nova Southeastern University’s Alan B. Levan Broward Center of Innovation to launch the Magical Hockey Stick Challenge. The competition aims to identify sports technology startups in the South Florida area. 
Applications for the challenge are due Nov. 13; it is open to students from NSU and other schools, as well as entrepreneurs who are not students. The contest is looking for startups from three main focus groups: wearable technology, fan experience and consumer insight products. 
“The Levan Center and the Florida Panthers are collaborating to create a culture of innovation in the region through a corporate innovation challenge that ultimately creates new pathways for breakthrough ideation, new technologies, talent skills pipeline, company formation, job creation, and scaling of early-stage and young startup companies,” John Wensveen, chief innovation officer of NSU, said in a statement. 
Executives from the Panthers and the Levan Center will select three finalists and one winner. The winner will receive tickets to an upcoming Panthers home game, a custom Panthers jersey and in-game recognition of their winning product.
Peloton has launched the new AI-enabled strength-training device Peloton Guide, which connects to a user’s TV and monitors their workout in real time for expert in-home instruction. Peloton Guide uses machine learning technology to track the user’s movements and identify patterns in training. 
In addition to movement tracking, Peloton Guide’s features Self Mode, Body Activity, voice activation and member-controlled privacy. The device’s smart camera technology allows users to compare their workout techniques to professional instructors in Self Mode, while Body Activity will track which muscle groups a user has deployed or ignored. Voice activation means that Peloton Guide can be operated hands-free. 
The product includes a Peloton Heart Rate Band—a piece of wearable tech that measures a user’s heart rate to track effort, activity levels and improvement. The band is compatible with other Peloton products. Peloton debuted their new gamified experience Lanebreak in July and announced plans to construct its first U.S. manufacturing facility in May. 
The burgeoning U.S. sports betting market received two big boosts early this week as New York state finally granted licenses for legalized mobile sports betting and the Manning quarterback family partnered with Caesars Sportsbook as brand ambassadors.
New York has lagged behind neighboring New Jersey in the betting market, as the Garden State became the first to exceed $1 billion in monthly wagers in September—nearly 91% bet via mobile devices. But the New York State Gaming Commission has just recommended licenses to nine operators: FanDuel, Bally Bet, BetMGM, DraftKings, Caesars, PointsBet, Resorts World, Rush Street Interactive, WynnBET and Kambi.
In a separate but related agreement, MSG Sports and MSG Entertainment named BetMGM the official betting partner of the New York Knicks and Rangers, as well as Madison Square Garden in MSG’s first foray into mobile gaming.
To date, New York was limited to offering sports betting to on-site sportsbooks at four commercial casinos. The state legislature passed a bill this spring to allow servers at those casinos to power statewide mobile sports betting. Full implementation of mobile betting is expected in time for the Super Bowl.
The Manning family deal with Caesars includes all three retired quarterbacks—father Archie and sons Peyton and Eli—as well as the third brother, Cooper, whose son, Arch, is the No. 1 QB recruit in the Class of 2023. The older Mannings will make appearances, film ads and promote responsible gaming on behalf of Caesars, which is currently operational in 20 states. New York will be its 21st state and 15th with a mobile presence. Caesars acquired sports betting giant William Hill in April and relaunched its mobile sportsbook app in August.
Techstars and MLB’s Minnesota Twins have selected 10 startups to join their inaugural joint accelerator program. The three-month program will see the startups receive funding and mentorship from Twins executives and access to workshops held at the Ford Center in Minneapolis. 
The 10 startups include zero-waste condiments packaging company AWSM Sauce, esports commentator marketplace BeyondRanked, audio technology developer Edge Sound Research, online booking event platform Happied, social search engine Knoow, esports registration software LeagueOS, high school sports community app Local Sports Network, influencer marketing app Node, advertising software One.Screen.ai and sneaker insurance provider SoleSafe
“We’re thrilled to welcome these talented and diverse startup founders to the Twin Cities and into the Twins family,” Joe Pohlad, EVP of brand strategy and growth for the Minnesota Twins, said in a statement. “We are excited to watch these companies as they progress and ultimately work together to help advance the sports and entertainment business.”
More than 120 companies applied for the program, which will end with a demo day on Feb. 15, 2022. The Twins are the first U.S. professional sports team to be the sole funder of its own Techstars accelerator. Techstars also runs an Indianapolis sports accelerator program in partnership with the Pacers, Colts and NCAA.