HYPE Sports Innovation’s first Global Virtual Accelerator is wrapping up with the ‘clubs and federations’ vertical about to announce the startups fortunate enough to produce pilots with some of the world’s most renowned clubs, franchises and sporting federations.
Amir Raveh, HYPE Sports Innovation’s founder commented on what delivering this accelerator meant. “This venture proved that even during challenging times, it’s possible for all the sports ecosystem to unite and work together in order to find solutions for real challenges, and take the whole sports tech universe a major step forward, in an unusual reality.”
With that said, we got back in touch with Ryan McCumber from Sportstech.ai to reflect on the conclusion and what startups earned pilots.
So what are some of the pilots that are going ahead? Can you give a sneak peek?
Ryan McCumber: “Yes, I’ll give you a few that I can go public with. Starting with FlashPlays Live which is prop bet fantasy betting and they’re going to do a pilot for the Miami Dolphins all season. They were the first pilot agreed with a club and the Dolphins have been working diligently with them to be ready for the first home game. This is great for FlashPlays as last season they became the largest in getting fantasy betting solution but were solely B2C, this is their first white labelled B2B product”
“Pronto is a big winner in the program potentially securing four pilots. They provide contactless payment solutions and they are also doing a pilot with the Dolphins. I can’t announce the other three yet, but stay tuned on Tuesday.
“Then we’ve got Emaze a social media aggregator which allows the club to create social ambassadors and consolidate all social – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tik Tok and more – onto a new site that can be monetised by the club. They secured a pilot with Juan (Iraola) from Real Sociedad and Sport Innovation Alliance (SIA). Juan and I went over all the 20 startups and Juan picked four to present to the SIA, and he specifically agreed on a partnership contract with Emaze. This was the official first signed agreement of the cohort. Ironically the whole program was initially intended for SIA as a football specific vertical. It was 165 days ago now that I landed in Porto and Amir reached out to me with a football specific vertical. Unfortunately both Spain and Italy at the time were in a crisis with the pandemic and weren’t ready to take on an endeavour like this. I shifted gears and made it all sports and well here we are. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Juan was the first signed contract sometimes fate plays a role.
“Next there’s OnePlan, an event planning solution which includes social distancing in venues has a pilot confirmed with FIBA.
“Full Venue, one of my favourite success stories is going to be doing a pilot with the Royal Belgian Football Federation and they help with organising how and what people should come to the stadium. It tackles problems like fan targeting, so it’s like a deep big data solution, propensity modelling. This solution was literally hatched just before corona hit and I had a call with one of the founders about SportsTech.ai helping them. A day later I contacted them about HYPE GVA, they entered and now they have their first client, and an awesome one at that.
“The Belgian national team has a game at home versus Iceland on the 8th same as Demo Day. They will be trailing two technologies from the program Hear Me Cheer and VICI Fan Fest. These two systems have been integrated as a result of the program. It’s also very rewarding when two start ups start to work with and help each other. So Tuesday 8th September you can jump in a watch party room on Fan Fest and Cheer and the noise is being pumped into the stadium and with the broadcaster.”
VICI Fan Fest had a lot of interest didn’t it?
RM: “They recently did a phenomenal trial with Paris Saint-Germain during their run through the Champions League and they had hundreds of fan clubs all watching on the Fan Fest – kind of an exclusive, in the moment experience. Even Univision picked it up in the US for the finals and at breaks they cut to show the fans cheering and mentioned its Fan Fest, this was viewed by two Million and a great promo for VICI.”
What comes next then? As some of these pilots have been executed, the relationship wouldn’t end there?
RM: “It starts with Tuesday the 8th where we announce all of the pilots, then from our perspective we assist the startups with delivering an exceptional experience that turns into a commercial agreement. It doesn’t stop here I’ll be advising the startups through completion of the pilots.
“FlashPlays isn’t what I call a one-off pilot as they’re doing it all season with the Miami Dolphins whereas Hear Me Cheer and VICI are officially a pilot, that’s a one-time thing for the Belgium game and they’ll see if they like it and they’ll consider doing more pending how that game goes.
“From a HYPE perspective we’re committed to seeing all of these companies turn to unicorns and whatever we can do to enable that we will, starting with providing hype around the pilots so other clubs take notice and want to replicate. We want the Miami Heat, Marlins for example to see what the Dolphins are doing and we expect the fans to want similar experiences.
Can you give a little bit about the next cohort? What’s happening?
RM: “We’re actually discussing right now a Global Virtual Accelerator 2. So what does that look like? We are actively putting down on paper, do we replicate the exact same thing? Assuming we replicate something similar to it, we will add a rugby and cricket partner but we’ll still do one team per sport, instead of Miami Dolphins or Golden State Warriors we might switch it up to other franchises. We’re just starting to think now of who those companies may be, but we will be reaching out to clubs soon with a planned kick off around November.
“The whole new model will be around pilots. The traditional accelerator model, while it’s really good and there’s a need for it, we want to do pilots, and we think doing that is more business oriented, business outcome driven and we want partners who want to sign up to agree to do pilots.”
Just finally, any reflections of the whole thing? Anything you would want tweak for the next one?
RM: “It’s a great question and I have thought about it. One is timing, we adjusted the timing. Originally, we had four weeks planned for these business development days, it’s just not enough time, the clubs need more time and you really need one meeting every two weeks instead of one meeting every week. Allowing for more time is definitely one. Then the other one we’d like to work closer with the direct decision-maker of each club, federation or franchise. So Kim Rometo is the Miami Dolphins CIO so she is the lead decision-maker so we weren’t going through someone else who is an intermediary to other parts of the business. It can work but it may not be as successful because they’re not empowered to make final decisions. The aim for our partners in the next round is we want to really identify those really strong CIO, CTO’s to make immediate decisions right away.”