Participating in Sport eXperience’s start-up accelerator program
A business is more than an idea, its about working to make that idea possible. When we started to get a bit serious about creating a company that will provide solutions for football talent development, we started to search for companies, influencers that were also in the sports tech domain. We wanted to learn how the landscape looked like.
We Googled about existing tech, events and names that were changing not only football but sports. One of the first results from that search was Sport eXperience, europe’s first sports tech accelerator. When we first saw their website we were surprised not only by the fact that there was an accelerator dedicated to sports technology (yes, we are *that* naive) but also by their program. However, there was a problem, they are in the Netherlands, we are in Costa Rica. We started asking ourselves: How could we participate in a similar program? 10 month after that discovery, Defter Sports finished its participation in Sport eXperience’s latest pressure cook program in Eindhoven. In this story we share our experience and how we were able to be there.
How did we find and engage with sport experience?
Seven months after finding about Sport eXperience, one day I (Mauricio) was going through our database of referents in sports technology and saw their name again. I decided to go back to their website just to check what news would they have and Eureka! They were opening a program in Copenhagen and another in Eindhoven! We were so lucky that they even had a virtual program. As a participant, a startup would take 4 sessions virtually and with the last session being face-to-face in Eindhoven. We exchanged some e-mails and voilà! we were part of the Eindhoven program along other startups (ELCIES and CloudTimer). Something that once seemed so far away was becoming a reality.
We were just weeks to go through a process that could help us find our north as a company and to know what things should we work on if we wanted Defter Sports to be serious. By going through this program we wanted to lay the foundations of our company!
There were some catches though, the virtual sessions were live, they were being held on Western Europe’s schedule. That meant that for all september mondays we would have to be connected to the virtual sessions from 1 am to 9 am. If we want Defter to grow, sometimes we have to go through these situations.
7 learnings from the program
So, what did we learn during the Sport eXperience program? here’s a glimpse.
- Pitch V1, pitch V2, …, pitch Vn.
Everybody in the startup work talks about having a pitch. As beginners we tend to think “I have my pitch, is rock solid” until you say it. The program helped us to solidify how we see our business in a way we couldn’t imagine, and the pitch is key to that because in a couple of sentences the business has to describe itself.
- Startups follow a process.
Before starting the program, our focus was on how to eat the world. We were thinking that we can dominate the industry and that sounds nice. The problem? we are only 3 people. It’s good to have a vision (see next point) but we also needed to understand that as a start-up we need to go step by step, trying to learn everyday how the current step can lead us to the next level.
- The basics of a business are a foundation for the future.
In my experience, I had always believed that things like a company’s vision, mission, values or its blue ocean could be overlooked and that they were just vague statements. During this experience I learned that this cannot be the case for a startup. Working and reflecting around your vision or mission will help businesses to take decisions. Everyday since we worked in our mission we have asked ourselves “how can this thing we are working on fits in our mission? How can it takes us closer to achieve our vision?” being able to answer those questions helps us to avoid working on waste.
- How amazing the sports tech industry is.
We were able to learn from marketing experts with experience in racing, companies that are trying to change how people engages with sport by creating new swimming pool experiences, or how people can use their fitness data, or how they can connect with fitness coaches. Sports are going through an unimaginable revolution, it’s amazing to be part of it.
- You are not the only one answering difficult questions.
Since the industry is so big and people is so eager to share the challenges they faced, lets you know that you are not the only one going through big questions. And feeling accompanied is very important, makes you feel understood and that even you are going through the correct patch.
- The european way.
This was the first time i was in a program with europeans. In my professional life I’ve mostly worked only with Americans or Latin Americans. It was very interesting to get to know the structure and the perspectives from other cultures. It was challenging (in a good way) for us to receive tough feedback from people that knows football and its industry (that was one of the reasons we looked at Europe), it made us improve our offering in an innovative way and to re-discover our Latin American essence.
- Get over the glitches.
When you are part of a virtual program, sooner or later you will have tech glitches. Maybe the audio is not the best, or the video freezes or your voice is distorted. In anyway, everybody at the program was able to get through the technical problems. The mentors were very flexible on how to solve them or to even re-schedule parts of sessions after my internet connection was broken on an early Monday. Luckily, we have the possibilities of being able to use different alternatives to communicate live from Costa Rica to the Netherlands.
The Eindhoven trip
For the last session of the program we travelled to Eindhoven.We had the chance to visit PSV Eindhoven’s training site and learn what they are doing with data analytics and how it helps them improve their performance.
We got to know SX’s building, a place that breathes sports innovation; it is amazing to experiment how in a single place 50+ companies are working side by side in an open co-working space (wish we had something similar in our region).
But the main objective of the last session was to present our pitch to people from the industry, get feedback and also get a sense (for the first time) to pitch our start-up in a real platform. During that session we were also able to meet the danish chapter of Sport eXperience's program, companies with great perspectives: GoSpoort, LevelUp, Motivo.
We closed our business trip with the sports startup dinner; there we learned how sports innovation is at the hear of sustainability and how tech (including ours) could help perpetrate the football legacy of Johan Cruyff.
What’s next for us?
We hope that we can return someday to Eindhoven with a more mature version of our business. We wish that we can attend future events (like the sports innovation day next month) where we can grow our network of contacts and also to find new business opportunities. Now that we are back in Costa Rica, we are working to finish our new version of prototypes and crafting details in our business plan. One of the most important learnings from being part of the accelerator is that success is about being focused on what we work. We are convinced that the sports technology industry will love to hear about how a group of Costa Ricans is helping football clubs to develop the next generation of more talented players.
If you are interested in knowing more about our products and services feel free to contact us via email or check out our website. You can engage with us through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or by commenting our Medium stories.
Mauricio Varela. Defter Sports Co-Founder