Startupbootcamp Sports & EventTech Demo Day 2021

I have to admire the resilience and perseverance of startup entrepreneurs, who continue to build their businesses in the face of lock-downs, travel restrictions and associated economic challenges. Starting a new business is hard enough at the best of times, let alone during a global pandemic. The latest installment of Startupbootcamp‘s series of virtual Demo Days was another example of how founders and their teams have just knuckled down and got on with the job – this time, in the area of Sports and EventTech.

The 10 startups featured a mix of market places, content creation and distribution platforms, coaching and performance services, and fan engagement. In alphabetical order, they were (links in the names):

Atlas Coaching

Founded by and for women, this is a digital coaching service designed to provide better access to (and feedback from) professional athletes and quality coaches. This is one way to help female athletes offset the costs of being a professional (as well as help pay for their own coaching). A good example where the gig economy meets digital delivery.

CityGuyd

An app that brings AR into sporting events and tourism, to offer an enhanced fan experience and match-day activities, through virtual city guides, which could be presented by professional sport stars who are competing in the event you have come to see. For organisers and venues, the app provides great data on attendees. Offered as a
white label solution plus SDK.

Famecast Media

Designed as an all-in-one content platform, it connects creators and consumers – not just in sport coaching and training, but across music, education, hobbies, well-being and fashion. The founders reckon that creators spend 70-80% of their time on the tech, and only 20-30% on monetizing their content. A huge challenge is that disparate digital tools don’t play nicely together…. The suite of services combines content, streaming, ticketing, branding and merchandising – all built on a commission and revenue share model.

Full Venue

Presenting itself as a data analytics and AI platform for events and venues, the founders see the current pandemic as an opportunity for new business, as economies start to open up and fans want to return to live events. Using AI-based marketing tools, it claims to predict the likelihood of a fan making a purchase (both tickets and merchandising. Again, uses a revenue share model based on a % of the sales generated.

Homefans

This marketplace connects communities of fans who are traveling to attend events and watch live sports, with local fans and supporters. The latter can offer access to local experiences that visitors might not otherwise be aware of. Describing itself as “like Airbnb for Sports Experiences”, the platform takes a 20% commission fee.

PromoShare

Described as a “monetized fan community”, this platform enables organizers and promoters to realize the value of “billions” in unsold tickets for sports, events and concerts. Using primarily word of mouth, fans get to sell unsold tickets on behalf of the events – a form of “social buying”. It integrates into major ticketing platforms, and has proven that fan-generated content can directly lead to ticket sales, by offering the “ambassador” fans access to rewards and other engagement incentives.

refbook

According to the founders, managing sport officials is currently unsophisticated and disconnected, and lacks adequate no digital solutions. This is intended to be an holistic platform to help officials, and leagues co-ordinate, recruit, manage and process payments. With 200+ clients already on-board, the team must be doing something right! (It wasn’t clear from the pitch whether refbook can handle training, certification, accreditation and disciplinary aspects of officiating.)

Row Nation

The only startup here that is directly supported by the relevant sports body, this is a platform for indoor rowing (of which there are apparently 4+ million participants in Australia. Backed by Rowing Australia, it is positioning indoor rowing as a major
e-sport (“like Peloton for rowing”), and a significant part of the digital fitness market. Combining “community, connection, and competition”, at its core is the ability to track and compare personal performance.

SportMatch

A platform the early identification of future sporting talent, which, according to the founders, is currently a slow, sporadic and long-winded process. This solution uses predictive analytics based on measurements and movement, and takes an evidence-based approach to performance data.

SportVot

This is a live steaming service for community-based and grass roots sports and tournaments. The founders claim that only 1% of all sport (in terms of actual participation) is televised, so this is designed to bring access to local sport enabling organizers to broadcast (OTT) their competitions using standard smart phone devices. The platform monetize the content via streaming fees and advertising.

Next week: Same, same – but different?

 

Expats vs Ingrates?

Just as we were starting to think that Australia has largely beaten Covid, the past few weeks has seen the topic heat up again on a number of fronts, especially the thorny issue of border control.

First, a series of community outbreaks in and around Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne were all traced back directly or indirectly to returning overseas travellers. This again brought the hotel quarantine programme into the spotlight – and given the poor record of Victoria’s HQP management (which led to the Stage 4 lock-down for much of last year, as well as causing several hundred deaths among aged care residents), State Governments are under increased scrutiny not to stuff it up (again).

Second, there are something like 35,000 Australian citizens living and working overseas who are still trying to get home. Since many of them are based in countries with escalating infection rates (and extra-contagious strains of Coronavirus), it’s no wonder there is a lot of circumspection about bringing them back in a hurry. While I have a lot of sympathy for those expats who are stranded overseas, at the same time, they went abroad by choice. There is always a risk that international travel can be disrupted, as we have witnessed with increased regularity over the past 20 years, thanks to terrorism, volcanoes, tsunamis and geopolitical events. However, this has not stopped some expats complaining that their fellow Australians don’t want them back; some have been highly critical of this “smug” attitude: “we’re all right, but you can stay away and fend for yourselves”.

Third, the latest domestic border closures left numerous Victorian residents stuck in NSW. Many of them had only recently managed to travel interstate for the holidays, having just emerged from months of local lock-down. No doubt some of those affected may have a bit more sympathy for those Australians stranded abroad?

Of course, all these border restrictions might not be so hard to stomach if we didn’t have the spectacle of professional sports players being flown in (specially from overseas) to hit a few balls around. The fact that one cohort of these international visitors has managed to bring Covid back into the country is not helping. Nor the fact that a few of these over-paid sports “stars” and their partners appear to be acting like spoiled brats as they endure quarantine in 5-star hotels…..

Talk about being ungrateful.

Next week: The Day That Can’t Be Named…

Startupbootcamp Demo Day – Sports & EventTech

The latest Startupbootcamp Virtual Demo Day covered startups in Sports and EventTech. Given the current pandemic lockdown and the lack of sporting events and public festivities in Melbourne (“Australia’s sporting and events capital”), the pitch night was sub-titled “The Comeback…”

As with similar startup programs running during the pandemic, it was remarkable how much the teams had achieved in the circumstances. The 10 startups that presented were as follows (website links in the names):

FlipTix

According to the founders, 30% of all fans leave events early – so they have identified an opportunity to re-purpose those empty seats. Rather than re-selling existing tickets, this platform is issuing new tickets for seats that are no longer being used. Already working with key festival promoters, the team say they are not encouraging flipping or scalping, nor are they competing with existing event ticketing outlets engaged by organisers. As well as issuing new tickets, FlipTix offers event upgrades. However, they also mentioned “pre-event” flipping services – which I assume is different to scalping? Finally, it wasn’t clear how FlipTix verifies that seats have been fully vacated – what about all-day tickets for the cricket, for example, where spectators are free to come and go (with pass-outs).

Benchvote

As sports clubs struggle to maintain connection with their fans under the limitations of lockdown, Benchvote drives engagement with team sponsors and brands to bring them closer to their fans. Essentially an SaaS campaign creation platform, Benchvote offers annual licenses and individual campaigns, and is seeking to engage with other consumer brands, not just sports and events.

Globatalent

Described as “The Sports Neobank”, Globatalent helps aspiring athletes to “sell” shares in themselves to fans and investors (in return for a proportion of their future income). The founders claim that 48% of young athletes lack sufficient funds to continue their sporting careers. With a background as talent scouts in professional tennis, the founders are familiar with the challenges faced by struggling players. While the model seems simple (essentially securitizing future winnings and sponsorship money), it raises a number of questions: do these investments represent financial securities (and all the regulation which that entails)? is it a form of modern slavery (however willing the participants)? does it lay the athletes open to risks associated with gambling such as manipulation and collusion? why wouldn’t fans invest in the clubs instead, with their talent development structures? how does it apply to professional sports such as AFL that have strict salary caps and player drafts? and is it more suited to individual rather than team sports?

Floteq

The team presented data that suggests pubs and clubs waste 9-12% of their draught beer, because of their current systems. Not only does this mean lost sales and revenue, the lack of product consistency impacts brand Integrity. The founders believe that post-COVID there will be an even greater focus on cost controls within hospitality, with the added need to reduce waste and maintain consistency. Floteq comprises an IoT device at the point of delivery and service, to track volumes, sales, quality and consistency.

Friends of Mr Ed

This is an app called “Fred” for race horse owners, to facilitate communications between stables and syndicates. Fred offers a subscription-based B2C model, with the opportunity for additional revenue streams (from sponsors and other industry participants). I’m not familiar with the racing industry, but I don’t see why owners can’t simply use existing social media (and crowdfunding platforms)?

BindiMaps

This system helps blind and vision-impaired people to navigate indoor locations, even if they have never been there before. Designed for office buildings, shopping centres, university buildings and visitor destinations, it uses Bluetooth beacons operating on a standalone system, and can be up and running within 24 hours, complete with an analytics dashboard. Although originally intended for the vision-impaired, it can of course be used by anyone.

TRENDii

In recent years, fashion has “moved from the catwalk to social media”. TRENDii is an AI-powered fashion app and browser extension that allows users to “shop at the point of inspiration”. Aimed at fashion brands, publishers and consumers, TRENDii will rely on ad-based revenue, but with the ability to offer advertisers greater audience reach and context. The founders are also exploring audience partnerships and new verticals such as homewares and furniture.

IntelliCUP

This team is the Australian licensee for the IntelliCUP system for beverage point of delivery and dispensing. Pointing to poor UX at venues and events, the founders are positioning Intellicup as an integrated order, purchase and dispensing system, and are already undertaking client trials. Revenue will come from transaction fees, hardware sales, in-app purchases, and the sale of data and analytics.

Humense

Also referencing the challenges facing professional sport during COVID19, Humense is proposing an immersive on-field viewing experience for TV spectators. It brings on-field vision from a 20 camera system offering infinite angles and volumetric imaging, all viewed via VR headsets. The founders claim that this will be the future of sports broadcasting revenues.

SportsCube

The founders state that community and local sports clubs lack funds; yet sponsors face too much red tape. SportsCube is designed to help businesses to sponsor clubs, and the team is already working with clubs and corporate sponsors. The business takes a 15% commission or success fee (which is half of traditional agencies).

Next week: Blockchain and the Limits of Trust

Social Distancing in Victorian Melbourne…

At the time of writing Victorians, like most of Australia, are living under a Covid19 “stay at home and practise social distancing” regime in attempt to “flatten the curve” and reduce the spread of this contagion. I have been working from home for 3 weeks, only going out for essential food shopping and a daily walk for exercise (since my gym is closed). This perambulation has revealed some lesser-seen aspects of Melbourne (apart from the empty streets), including the way the modern city’s 19th century founders went about their approach to urban design – including some examples of built-in social distancing.

The first example is the number of public parks and gardens close to the CBD that were established in the 1800s, and which have managed to survive the onslaught of developers. As we know, public parks, with their trees and green spaces act as the lungs of the city, and provide a place to exercise, relax and get some fresh air. So we need these facilities more than ever in times like these. (Strange why the Victorian Government still insists in allowing vehicles to use the culturally and historically significant Yarra Park as a public car park on so many days, with all the horticultural and environmental damage that this causes…)

Second, the decision to incorporate lane-ways into the grid design of the CBD, as well as throughout the 19th century expansion of the inner city suburbs. While their design was mainly pragmatic (ease of access for night carts, storm drainage), the result is that in densely-built areas such as Richmond, Carlton, East Melbourne, Fitzroy and Collingwood, lane-ways mean even terraced houses can have ample space between them and the next block, allowing for better ventilation, natural light and reduced risk of disease. (For an example of the lane-ways importance to Melbourne’s character and psyche, check out Daniel Crooks’ video, “An Embroidery of Voids”.)

Third, the decision not to build right up to the urban banks of the Yarra River (and the straightening and leveling of the river itself) has left them accessible to the public, both as a means of cycling and walking to/from work, and for recreational purposes. In many cities, riverfront access has largely been blocked off as adjacent land has been appropriated for private, commercial and industrial use.

At a time like this, I truly appreciate the foresight of Melbourne’s Victorian town planners – I just hope we can continue to enjoy their legacy in the coming weeks and months!

Next week: #Rona19 – beyond the memes