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.
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.
The PGA Tour and WWE have joined the Comcast NBCUniversal SportsTech Accelerator as advisors. Both organizations will now have access to products from the sports technology startups accepted into the program.
WWE and the PGA Tour now join NASCAR, U.S. Ski & Snowboard, USA Swimming and USA Cycling as partners of the accelerator, which invests up to $50,000 in early-stage startups. Some of the companies in the inaugural 2021 class included Sharper Sense—developer of a neck-worn patch tested by NASCAR and U.S. Ski & Snowboard that sends signals to an athlete’s brain to increase reaction time—and Pitch & Predict, which had its analytics appear during MLB broadcasts on NBC Sports.
Both the PGA Tour and WWE are longtime media partners of NBCUniversal — which also owns Golf Channel and exclusively streams the WWE Network on Peacock. The accelerator’s second-annual program will begin in February 2022.
“By embracing emerging technologies like those uncovered through [this accelerator], we aim to deliver an unparalleled, fan-first experience whether you’re attending a tournament or watching on your favorite screen,” PGA Tour SVP of new ventures Lance Stover said in a statement.
The parent companies of ProPlayAI and HitTrax have collaborated to integrate hitting biomechanics into HitTrax’s batted ball data solution to provide more complete analysis of swings and results.
InMotion Systems, which produces the HitTrax batting cage technology, and 3MotionAI, which created ProPlayAI’s biomechanics assessments, are combining to launch a beta program this month, with a full release planned for early 2022. HitTrax uses two cameras and computer vision to provide accurate ball tracking data, such as exit velocity, launch angle and pitch location at ball strike. HitTrax recently partnered with the new Pelotero assessment and training platform.
This is the first widespread deployment of ProPlayAI’s hitting product; its pitching product, which requires only a single smartphone camera, has been around for about a year. Both ProPlayAI and HitTrax have been used from amateur ball on up to MLB organizations such as the Toronto Blue Jays. Such an integration helps advance hitters’ understanding by syncing data from the process (swing) and results (contact).
“Combining these technologies brings further insight into what makes a player excel,” HitTrax CEO and founder Mike Donfrancesco said in a statement. “We can now tell you, for example, the optimal angle between shoulders and pelvis needed for a hitter to achieve their maximum exit velocity. This is ‘next level analysis’ and will become a standard on how to improve performance.”
An artificial intelligence system was used to analyze the voices of judges and referees at the men’s World Boxing Championship in Belgrade, Serbia, from Oct. 25 through Nov. 6. The International Boxing Association (AIBA) deployed the system to detect possible dishonesty and prevent match corruption.
Prior to the tournament, all officials were asked a series of questions such as: “Have you ever cheated in a boxing event?” The AI system analyzed their verbal responses and assigned a low, medium or high integrity risk to each participant. Two officials were removed from the event after being queried by the system.
“It measures the cognitive functions of the brain in the verbal responses,” AIBA integrity advisor Richard McLaren told the Associated Press. McLaren also explained that the voice analysis system is not the same as a lie detector test.
McLaren previously led AIBA’s investigation into the 2016 Rio Olympics that concluded some boxing referees accepted bribes. Retired U.S. boxer Roy Jones Jr., who lost on an infamous judging decision against a South Korean opponent at the 1988 Seoul Olympics, was on-site in Serbia and approved of the judging.
“To say the least, I’ve been very satisfied with the judging … I’ve watched at least 300 fights and I haven’t seen one that I thought was corrupt, ” Jones Jr. told Reuters.
But Jones went on tell the Associated Press: “It would have been very beautiful to have this [AI] technology at that time [in 1988].”
Spectators were able to track runners in this year’s New York City Marathon for the first time through the event’s app. Sunday’s race saw all runners — about 30,000 — run with radio frequency identification chips in their bibs so fans, friends and family could follow their route on the TCS New York City Marathon app.
RFID chips sent real-time location data each time a runner passed sensors embedded along the 26.2-mile course across New York’s five boroughs. Spectators could track runners by entering an athlete’s bib number into the app and by then following the participant’s progress once they appeared as a blue icon.
Mumbai-based Tata Consultancy Services, the marathon’s sponsor, developed the app. About 10,000 runners competed virtually in this year’s race, as the in-person field size was limited due to Covid-19 restrictions. Runners in the virtual race could compete 26.2 miles from anywhere in the world while tracking their activity on the Strava app. Their progress was also trackable on the TCS app.
“This year, the big problem was how do we unite both the virtual experience and the in-person racing experience under one hybrid platform,” Haley Price, the head of sports sponsorships in North America for TCS, told The Wall Street Journal.
The World Games has hired digital sports media company Team Whistle to handle sponsorship sales for its 2022 event in Birmingham, Ala. Whistle will also help produce social media content around the World Games, which will run from July 7-17.
Whistle will offer sponsorship packages around its original content such as No Days Off, which provides behind-the-scene looks at the lives of top youth athletes. About 3,600 participants from 100 countries are expected to compete at next year’s World Games, which are organized by the International World Games Association with support from the International Olympic Committee.
The NFL will be a presenting sponsor of flag football at the 2022 World Games, which have typically been held every four years since 1981 to highlight sports not contested at the Olympics. Next year’s event will be the first to feature flag football and first to take place in the U.S. since 1981 in Santa Clara, Calif.
“We are thrilled to be working together to not only bring fresh content sponsorship ideas to life leveraging Team Whistle’s production, talent and network for Birmingham 2022, but also help to expand social content strategies both paid and organic,” Kyle Young, EVP of solutions at Team Whistle, said in a statement.