As the sports industry continues to embrace new technology, the value proposition for getting into the space as a startup continues to rise. But even with the growth in interest in the sports and technology space, fundamental flaws exist between the venture capital and sports technology startup dynamic. With a lot of this innovation in sports occurring at such a rapid pace, much of the industry is learning on the fly. As a result, inefficiencies are often created during the emergence of a startup and its eventual growth into a solution provider for the sports industry.
Sports Tech Tokyo to trying to rewrite how this process is accomplished and, more importantly perhaps, who is advising startup companies as they attempt to transition a promising idea into a sports industry solution. Sports Tech Tokyo was launched less than a year ago, in October 2018, by Scrum Ventures, a US-based venture capital firm with significant experience in the space throughout the Silicon Valley and Japan, as well as Dentsu Inc., an integrated communications design agency based in Japan. Sports Tech Tokyo was formally announced last February when 159 companies, from 33 countries, were selected from hundreds of applicants to participate in the inaugural Sports Tech Tokyo cohort.
The program kicked off formally in May when the initial cohort of chosen startups, along with the program’s stakeholders, including Japanese corporate partners, the sports advisory board, mentors and investors, discussed business-building opportunities.
While 159 companies made it through the admissions process into the first cohort, only 12 have the opportunity to present at Sports Tech Tokyo’s World Demo Day, taking place today at Oracle Park in San Francisco, the home of MLB’s San Francisco Giants.
In late April, Sports Tech Tokyo’s Managing Director Michael Proman had this to say about the participating companies: “Much like our general startup cohort, our 12 finalists are a diverse representation of the sports tech space –– from seed to Series B, seven countries and numerous industry areas of focus — this group truly embodies the global spirit of SPORTS TECH TOKYO.”
The World Demo Day will represent the culmination of this mentor-driven program by taking a specific look at opportunities within sports and technology within Asia, a region, Proman told me, where he sees as an especially under served area in the field, given the massive population base, large sports fandom, and a technology-inclined populous who can be quick adopters of much of this new technology and innovation.
“Part of what we like to do with Sports Tech Tokyo is work with a wide range of companies in our cohort and look for opportunity for these companies within Asia, which I feel is very under served,” Proman said to me. “During this process in choosing companies for our demo day, we often don’t choose the best 12 companies on paper, but the companies that our investors and stakeholders believe have the best opportunity to make a true business impact in these regions, based on their business solution they are trying to provide. We have specialists in a wide range of areas that can lend expertise for how a number of how these companies will look to grow and operate.”
World Demo Day represents the culmination of the mentor-driven program that is focused on startups from around the world developing cutting-edge sports technology to reinvigorate undeserved, but highly passionate regions, such as Asia, as well as the global sports industry as a whole.
“Tech investment in the field of sports has been growing globally but with major sporting events coming to Asia, it’s an opportune time for corporations from Japan and beyond to reinvigorate the industry worldwide,” said Fumihiko Nakajima, SPORTS TECH TOKYO Program Owner and Senior Director, Business Development at Dentsu Inc. “Our 12 finalists, hailing from seven different countries, are a perfect representation of the global spirit of the program and the opportunities the world stands to benefit from through global collaboration.”
As startups in the finalist program worked towards today’s demo day, they developed and fine-tuned a “proof of concept” with Sports Tech Tokyo partners, including ITOCHU, Sony Music Entertainment, Microsoft Japan, SoftBank and CBC. There are high hopes that these companies will be able to make a major mark as they continue to grow after their showcase today at Oracle Park.
“The sports community has to work quickly to keep up with the pace of innovation and tomorrow’s next big thing,” said Proman. “This is what we’re addressing at World Demo Day, where we’ve brought together the industry’s best and brightest from around the world to set the direction, build relationships and preview new technologies while discussing the changing world of sports.”
The event today also includes an impressive panel discussing “The Changing Face of Sports Venture,” that will feature Brano Perkovich, Chief Investment Officer with the San Francisco 49ers; Michael Spirito, Managing Director at Sapphire Ventures, Co-founder and co-lead investor of Sapphire Sport; Milos Ribic, Director at Adidas Corporate Ventures; and Kim Frisch, Vice President Corporate Development at World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE).
As Sports Tech Tokyo turns one year old in a couple of months, their immense impact on the industry is already clear. As their 12 finalists get set to present today, the global community, looking to change the way sports tech startups and mentors/investors co-exist, will take another big step towards further impacting the ever populating sports technology intersection. With the Olympics now less than a year away in Tokyo, there are surely some big plans in store for the near future.
12 Sports Tech Tokyo Finalists At World Demo Day
These were decided based on specific areas of opportunity, as defined by program partners and advisory board members that attended the kickoff conference, SPORTS TECH TOKYO is announcing 12 finalists today (listed alphabetically):
– Media technology company that brings 360-degree time-slicing video highlights to a variety of professional sports, commercials, movies, and events
– HQ: San Francisco, United States
– CEO: Hongsu Jung
– Data-driven, real-time sports sponsorship valuation engine enabling brands to leverage and maximize their sponsorship investments
– HQ: London, United Kingdom
– CEO: Michael Flynn
– A.I. powered fan engagement platform with state-of-the-art player recognition, contextual content delivery and social engagement to millions of fans
– HQ: Bangalore, India
– CEO: Ashok Karanth
– Sports biotechnology company that utilizes next-generation sequencing of microbiome of elite athletes to identify and isolate novel probiotic bacteria for applications in sports performance and recovery
– HQ: New York City, United States
– CEO: Jonathan Scheiman, PhD
– Display technology company that allows brands to personalize content in public places –– enabling multiple viewers to simultaneously share the same display and realize different experiences
– HQ: Redmond, United States
– CEO: Albert Ng
Mobile Media Content (3D Digital Venue)
– Provides interactive digital venue management solutions to sports and entertainment venues across the globe
– HQ: Barcelona, Spain
– CEO: Michele Marino
– Specializes in the development of training and performance management solutions –– providing athletes, teams and coaches a faster way to maximize results while avoiding injuries and overtraining
– HQ: Espoo, Finland
– CEO: Gerard Bruen
– Sports media company that streamlines the production workflow by deploying an unmanned multi-camera system that covers the entire playing environment
– HQ: Tel Aviv, Israel
– CEO: Alon Werber
– Utilizes computer vision and deep learning to automatically identify, clip, and distribute sports highlights
– HQ: Santa Monica, United States
– CEO: Cullen Gallagher
– Ultra-low latency live video platform for sports that brings studio-quality features to anyone with an iPhone, including real-time score-bugs, broadcast quality motion graphics and augmented reality
– HQ: New York City, United States
– CEO: Kevin April
– Integrates fans and supporters of teams/athletes through purchase and collection of digital trading cards, which then acts as a token of support as well as a ticket for various services and rewards
– HQ: Tokyo, Japan
– CEO: Yutaka Kobayashi
WILD Technologies AI
– Enables women to optimize their training and performance potential via an app-based AI coach
– HQ: San Francisco, United States
– CEO: Helene Guillaume