Colosseum Sports Tech Summit 2018: the future of sports technology in the Startup Nation

Tel Aviv, the ‘Big Apple’ of the Middle East: exciting, fun, cosmopolitan, innovative and independent. This fascinating city is the economic capital of Israel, pole of attraction for the brightest and most creative minds of the country and the world. A vibrant ecosystem where I could immerse myself, with a great admiration, during the Colosseum Sports Tech Summit 2018 event, from 24 to 26 July. In these days, a scenario characterized by a huge growth in the Sport Tech field has appeared to me, and, thinking twice, there is no surprise.

Israel is the country of innovation.

The government invests the 4.3% of the GDP in Research & Development, as there are 19 tech incubators kicking off around 80 new companies each year. And especially startups: 6.000 in total, in a context which is 15 times smaller than Italy. It is a true miracle that a young Country, with an ongoing war, produce more startups than bigger nations such as Japan, China, Canada and UK. So, it is no coincidence that Israel is known as the Startup Nation.

In this versatile reality, the Colosseum Sports Tech is an International Innovation Center, a platform born to connect local sports tech startups with the international sport industry and with investors, to take Israeli sports technology among the greatest in the world by 2020. Oren Simanian, a former referee, is the General Partner and the driving force of Colosseum, who is interested in technology applied to sport, and he is known for starting a lot of innovation projects in Israel over the last 10 years, as well as representing Indiegogo, the crowdfunding platform, and founding the StarTau entrepreneurship centre at Tel Aviv University.

Colosseum Sports 2018: Media & Broadcasting

The media industry is in the middle of a revolution, and a rearrangement is essential to intercept and entertain new targets. Therefore, no more ‘rigid’ broadcasters, pushing selected contents to the audience watching them on scheduled times on TV. The audience is now more demanding and aware, in terms of contents (especially the video ones), and in terms of ways and times to enjoy them. Marco Maddaloni — Former Director of Digital Media at ESPN International –, correctly observed that traditional broadcasters must adapt to change, digital and social.

But, according to Noam Bergelson — Sports & Media Executive — the most important question the world has to answer, is: how to satisfy the fans’ hunger, who want always more valuable contents and want to see everything from every angle, reviewing the highlights of the game wherever and every time they want? Video is, once again, the key.

We are experiencing a radical change in the way this type of format is wanted, produced, distributed and consumed, especially for the customisation and the use of artificial intelligence.

Daniel Shichman — Co-Founder and CEO at WSC Sports Technologies — explained how customised highlights of the match for fans watching the game on TV can be created thanks to video technologies for sport events — based on AI and Machine-Learning — analysing sports broadcasts in real time, identifying each athlete and generating customised highlights for every player, team and action, then to answer every possible request from the user. In this way, always new contents can be extracted from the broadcasts, creating new value to answer the different needs — broadcasters, associations, leagues, clubs and sponsors — while, in the meantime, fan engagement and interaction are stimulated.

So, the question to ask is not about the methods of the digital transformation, but about how broadcasters will answer the change, exploiting the opportunities offered by digital video. For example, new players are entering the market, catching the attention of consumers, putting them in the centre of the experience and giving them the possibility to enter the communication process, becoming broadcasters themselves.

Alon Weber — CEO at Pixellot — explains that: the Pixellot S series offers a solution to the production of videos at low cost, high quality and in a completely automatic way. The interesting fact is that it allows fans not only to play videos, but also to select them, edit them and share their highlights and other customised video clips on social media.

Colosseum Sports 2018: Smart Stadium & Organization

During the panel moderated by Maureen Flores — Leader in Innovation, Sports at O Globo — and focused on the Smart Stadium and Organization topic, Gaby Kaminski — CEO at UDOBU — underlined an important change of mentality: not connected stadia, but connected leagues. The best example is the Spanish one, with clubs such as FC Barcelona, Real Madrid CF and Atlético de Madrid which are making great progresses, investing huge budgets in tech development at 360°, since they understood the importance in terms of growth and opportunity of monetization.

Sports venues are transforming into the most technologically advanced locations on Earth.

Of course not everyone, but the change has just started and it will not stop. The main goal is to revise the services offered — especially in relation to Wi-Fi and Bluetooth — to keep them up to date with the ones based on apps maintaining high the interest and the interaction of fans. On the need to have appropriate infrastructures, Ofir Bar Levav — VP Ventures, Johnson Controls Open Innovation — said that “in a stadium, where 50.000 people post contents in the same time, fast connections are essential, and without this important prerequisite, the transition to smart stadium is not possible.” Enosh Cassel — CEO at Dynami-cam — added that smart stadia — in the next 5 years — will be great data gatherer, collected in a more precise way and usable for targeted strategies. Furthermore, Cassel noticed the lacking foresight of many clubs, refusing to have a CRM.

Moreover, big eSports Stadia are in the projects of many — from Texas, to China and Dubai — but, is the business ready to the eSports progress? An important question, answered by Ofir Frank — CTO at Maccabi TLV Basketball — who said that, even if eSports are not comparable to standard sport events, their stadia are becoming fuller and fuller: so, the need to design eSports stadia — or better, smart stadia — like the standard ones. Indeed, as underlined by Oferi Bar Levav, “the eSports audience is even more technologically advanced than the standard one, and it is more demanding, so we must work properly on this.” Also here, clubs, developing functional structures to the different types of events, can increase their revenue streams.

Colosseum Sports 2018: Athlete Development

Tomer Seker — Head of Strategic Planning and Innovation at Elite Sport Department — opens the debate on the evolution of athletes and their training. “In Israel, our sport philosophy is focused on study and education”. It is a culture built observing in a proactive way other models: “Three years ago, we started studying and making comparisons abroad, to understand where to improve. The goal is to create a sport tech industry to compete with the ones of the other countries.”

Technology evolves over time, and so sport: modern athletes are the fastest and the strongest ever, with training techniques and the possibility to recover from injuries — and to prevent them — reaching a quality and a precision never imagined in the past. The key is in the timing: as claimed by Seker, “if an athlete can use technologies before the others, he or she has a competitive advantage that could be the difference between participating to the Tokyo Olympic Games or not, for example.”

Adir Shiffman — Executive President at Catapult Group International — talking about wearables and technologies, observed that “technology becomes incredible when, in addition to the stats — as the goals scored — it is able to tell you how much tired you are after a game and which skills you have, so to give the coach the possibility to arrange the best possible line-up for the match.”

A link, between player and technology, to confirm the quality of the vision and the job we are doing at IQUII Sport.

Colosseum Sports 2018: Sports Financing and innovation

The fourth panel was opened by a nice observation from Nacho Martinez-Trujillo — Former Managing Director, Innovation & Media at La Liga — : “sport is passion, more than any other business, and everything we do, we must do it keeping people into consideration, because it is the best way to unite.”

From this, the need to renovate sport under the fan standpoint, because “it is essential to understand sport once again, it must be reinterpreted. Real time, for example, should be considered always more because, nowadays, people want immediate contents. There are millions of people waiting for solutions, and these people are business opportunities. We must connect people, and sport can do that better than religion”, continued Martinez-Trujillo.

So, to innovate connecting people, thanks to technology and sport: this is the key, the new engine of the sport industry. And innovation is the cornerstone of FC Barcelona strategy, topic of the panel “Strategy and Innovation as the Drivers of the Sports Industry”.

“I Can. So I Have To”. This is the iconic sentence summing up the Blaugrana philosophy, according to Aitor Jimenez Villar — Head of Strategic Information at FC Barcelona — : 300 million fans on social media, 99.000 sold tickets every home game, 145.000 members. The innovative strategy of the club is based on 5 pillars:

  • Health and wellness: from genetics to nutrition;
  • Sports performances: outdoor and indoor tracking systems, positional data;
  • Fan Engagement: new experiences, virtual reality, augmented reality and mixed reality;
  • Smart infrastructures: smart city and connected devices;
  • Social impact: social inclusion, fundraising and foundation.

And these are the goals:

  • to create value through new products, services and experiences;
  • to promote innovation through the club and its shareholders;
  • to boost strategic projects focusing on 2021.

The global dimension of sport — and the one of many clubs — makes it essential to move the game closer to fans who are geographically far away. Ariel Galinsky — from Texel — claimed that the solution, but also the biggest challenge, is to allow clubs to sell virtual seats, so that everyone can enjoy the game with a stadium-view experience, from Tel Aviv to Tokyo. The new frontier of the Virtual Reality, is real time.

Colosseum Sports 2018: Fan Engagement & Community Management

In the digital era, the Fan 4.0 wants more: to interact, comment and share, having the full control of the experience and the contents he or she enjoys. We have found something of our idea in Aviram Sharon’s words — Co-Founder at Inthegame — who opened the final panel: “the fan wants to be part of the action, watching it from every angle, feeling like on the pitch. But, when the match ends, so the engagement. This does not happen if clubs begin to switch the attention and the contents to other touchpoints, such as social media or Twitch.”

“How to engage fans all over the world, and, for example, the ones who are in China?”, Ronen Artman asks himself, Vice President Marketing at Live U: once again, the answer is in a better and well tested model to follow. In this case, the one offered by NBA, that tried to acquire visibility in China to make new fans approaching to American basketball, taking them directly onto the pitch. For this reason, Philadelphia 76ers and Dallas Mavericks will play some matches next October during the China Games, with many initiatives dedicated to fans, to engage them and to make them participating in a direct way.

The last speech of the panel took the attention back to eSports, with Marcus Eguillor, the FIFA world champion. The player from Madrid underlined that it is not important to focus on why eSports reached this importance, or if they are effectively to be considered as sports. The most important thing is that there is an audience: 107 million of fans, mostly millennials, but not only. Profits come certainly not from the youngest fans, and the eSports field is opening to new investments. Eguillor founded Mad Lions — an organization which has teams in League of Legends and Clash Royale — joined by clubs such as Real Madrid CF, Manchester United FC, Paris Saint-Germain, FC Barcelona and FC Bayern München. His next project plans to build an eSports arena in Tel Aviv.

Colosseum Sports 2018: Israeli startups

I could not finish the report of this amazing day, without talking about the meeting with the startups, before and after the panels. Naming everyone of them would be impossible, so I would like to focus on some of the many interesting realities I had the opportunity to meet:

  • DynamiCam: it offers a new way to watch and film sport, with a technology allowing to create aerial videos — thanks to a camera with a gyroscope — with an innovative system of 3D moving cable cameras.
  • FanPassTick: offering interesting dynamic pricing, re-selling and automatic discount features to sell all the available tickets.
  • Fans League: fandom becomes sport in a mobile, engaging and fun competition, which is also a source of precious data.
  • Griiip: a platform taking advantage of data to create the first sport smart connected car, to offer advanced contents both to fans and drivers.
  • InSoundz: it offers new contents through sound, creating a 360° audio experience. Thanks to a technology able to identify even the softest sound, the spectator can hear — and feel — a baseball player slipping, or enjoy a VR experience with a 3D sound adapting to the user.
  • Inthegame: it is a Twitch and YouTube extension, allowing the user to be followed in an active way by fans. Spectators can predict the actions of the game earning coins, or interact with the player and other spectators sending messages.

Finally, the Tel Aviv event has been a precious networking opportunity, allowing companies and clubs to enter in touch with international realities, to know the latest trends and to open up to the possibility to incorporate or develop them into their current activities. The Summit welcomed more than 350 guests: sports global organizations such as NFL and ESPN were there, with experts to interact with exciting discussions. At the opening ceremony — held at the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange — more than 150 sports people, startups of the field, investors and international sports companies representatives participated, as well as players of the sports ecosystem from 15 countries from all over the world.

The future of sport technology of the whole planet, starts from the Start-Up Nation.