I was fortunate to be a judge this past week in Frisco, Texas for the 9th cohort of the Stadia Accelerator
, which is one of the best run startup programs in the world. Many accelerators lack focus, over-promise on their connections, and take on too many companies. Conversely, the Stadia team convenes the who’s who of the sports ecosystem to judge a well-curated group of emerging startups, focused exclusively on sports - where Stadia can make connections that move the needle. While we aren’t allowed to share the new companies we judged, we can share a few of our favorites from the demo-day reveal.
A crowdfunding platform empowering professional athletes, high school teams, and fitness enthusiasts to raise money and earn donations, based on their athletic performance. VentureFuel has been huge fans of them since they presented at our client-pitch event at CES this past January and it was thrilling to see their growth. Teams and athletes (James Harden, Mike Trout, Lindsay Von, Klay Thompson, etc.) have raised more than $12m for causes like the American Cancer Society and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. We LOVE the potential brand integrations here and the ability to use athletic performance to make a change in the world.
Improve athletic performance by boosting brain performance 20-30%, via IntelliGym’s computer-based training system. NASA, DARPA and 40,000 soccer and hockey players have improved their on-field, on-ice, in-cockpit, and in-space performance using this system from Israel. It works for elite pro-athletes all the way down to kids. For brands, there is a monster opportunity to tap into neural training in the same ways brands sponsor and embrace traditional coaching, to provide competitive advantage and loyalty to their consumer-athletes.
For our clients on the coasts, you may not realize that outdoor enthusiasts are a BOOMING market and Go Wild is the fastest growing social media and activity tracking platform in the space. In the last 90 days, their community has grown by 75% as they enable people to live track hikes, scouts, hunts, archery practice and more. Think a social network, but specifically for this community, where people can keep a log of photos and stats. They are launching an e-commerce integration which will enable them to leverage their rabid fan base.
One of the first projects VentureFuel worked on was the idea of high-resolution sports photography for brands to reach fans at the point-of-cheer - so we have had FanCam on our radar for a long time. They are taking their core technology (the zoomable 360 images) to their new product, CrowdIQ, which enables computer vision and AI to extract data from large crowds. This product will help teams better understand their crowd and let brands tap into audience analytics to better evaluate their sponsorships.
The entire cohort was exceptionally impressive, ranging from haptic yoga pants, to AI video analysis for sports scouting. Our team vets hundreds of startups every month, and when we see Stadia is an investor or involved in any way, we know to put the company to the top of the consideration set.