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SportsTech in February - A summary

The digital collectibles have arrived!

Before we come to that here’s a little intro: This is the second edition of our new, monthly wrap-up of the things happening in Sports and Technology. Speaking of new: We started to discuss the top SportsTech findings in a weekly show that is aired on YouTube and Twitch. We’re going live on Thursdays at 6pm Berlin time (CET) / 12pm New York time (EST) aka noon. The show is also available on-demand in case you wanna watch it later.

Coming back to what happened in SportsTech in the last month. We’ll cover one main topic that stood out for us and will throw in a few additional topics. Here we go!

👾 Digital collectibles have arrived

NFT — WTF? The non-fungible tokens are here. All theory aside (Google will help you out here) this is what happened over the last weeks:

🏀 NBA Top Shot grossed more than $200m in sales

First things first: What are they selling? On the platform you can buy (limited) highlight clips from NBA games, let’s say a deep 3-pointer by Steph Curry. The question arises: Why would you do that as you can just watch the highlight on YouTube? Well, that is what is heavily discussed these days. One of the main points is that you can say that you own that moment. Well, mostly not exclusively, some or many others also own that moment, depending on how many of these items have been issued by the NBA in this case. Owning moments seems to be something special for a fan and creates a certain (emotional) value.

To make things a bit more complicated: All of these transactions and the storage of those moments are happening on the blockchain, which allows to authenticate each token (in this case highlight clip) and provides the history of previous transactions. This leads to another interesting aspect: Not only can you buy those clips (also available in packs where you don’t know what’s in them) but you can also sell them on a marketplace on the platform. And there is money to be made! Recently a dunk by LeBron James was sold for over $200k, making the previous owner really happy. Expect to see some serious NFT-traders in the future.

Coming back to the headline: NBA Top Shot brought in over $200m in revenue for the NBA, who is operating the platform together with Dapper (mostly known for the CryptoKittens hype in 2017). We have officially entered a hype cycle! The big question is: Is this gonna last or is it a bubble that is gonna burst sometime soon? One thing is clear: With those numbers on the table big leagues and players are definitely going to watch the space and put their toes/tokens in it!

⚽ Sorare raises €40m for its digital collectibles platform

A few days after Top Shot reported its unbelievable numbers, Sorare announced a big funding round that involved investors like Benchmark, Accel, Gary Vaynerchuk, Antoine Griezmann, Rio Ferdinand and Oliver Bierhoff. So what is Sorare? Well, also there you get your tokens. This time it’s not basketball but football (aka soccer). It’s not highlight clips but player cards (think of Panini). And it’s not a league running it but Sorare is entering agreements with the clubs directly, which currently includes the likes of PSG, Real Madrid, FC Liverpool, Bayern Munich and more. Another difference is that Sorare also offers a 5-a-side fantasy sports game in which you can win cards and rewards.

Same as with Top Shot the tokens (in this case player cards) can be traded on its marketplace. An interesting angle to it is the bidding system for cards that are getting issued to the market, which adds some extra flavour. Sorare didn’t report any revenue numbers yet, but we have seen cards change owners for high 5-figure amounts. Let’s see to which new heights the platform will bring it and which teams are going to join in the upcoming weeks.

To sum it all up: Both NBA Top Shot and Sorare are highly interesting use cases for tokens in sports. We’ll be watching this space and are curious who else is gonna enter!

💥 More highlights of the month

🤸 Big tech fitness war in the making!

It’s not news that big tech is entering the sports/fitness market. But the moves are happening more frequently than ever before. Soon after the news broke that Apple is working on a VR headset that will ultimately lead to AR glasses for the mass market there was a very good article by Outside Online on Apple seeing its future (and purpose) in fitness, health and wellness. This fits well to the recently launched fitness+ offering and the announcement of the Time to Walk audio walking experience. Potentially as a reaction to Apple’s move we saw news coming out about Facebook building its first smartwatch that — what a surprise — also includes fitness features. That all in the context of Google’s FitBit acquisition and Amazon having launched its Halo devices. There’s rumble in the (fitness) jungle!

🧓 The discovery of the 50+ target group

Yes, we’re talking about fitness again but it doesn’t have to stop there. Reason to bring this up is the $7m round raised by Bold, a fitness program offering for “older adults”. That itself is already interesting, but the key here is that the lead investor is Andreessen Horowitz. Quoting Julie Yoo, general partner at AH: “Bold’s fresh approach to virtual fitness programs for older adults is perfectly timed with the transformation happening across the industry around ageing in place in the context of one’s broader clinical and social needs.” A space to watch!

📡 Comcast announces first SportsTech cohort

For its accelerator program 10 startups were selected from over 1,000 applicants in 70 countries and will work with Comcast NBCUniversal and an impressive partner consortium, which includes NBC Sports, Sky Sports, Golf, NASCAR, U.S. Ski and Snowboard, USA Cycling, USA Swimming, and Comcast Ventures. On top they receive $50k and 12 weeks of training. Target areas are media and entertainment, fan/player engagement, athlete/player performance, team and coach success, venue and event innovation, fantasy sports and betting, esports, and the business of sports. In our opinion the program is one of the most promising ones out there, as we see a really good potential to push the startups with Comcast’s offering and the one from its partners.

🏈 Rethinking Football — and sports leagues?

The Fan Controlled Football League has launched! As the name already suggests this new model puts the fans first, mainly the ones watching at home or on the go, as the experience is optimised for streaming (of course they’re using Twitch). But the real deal is the possibility to interact and influence the game, as decisions are democratised amongst the followers of the teams. That includes aspects like drafting players, deciding on the lineup and calling plays during the game, all of them voted on with the FCL app. And as a special highlight fans can buy a part of the team and become and owner, for example the popular Beasts. All together a very interesting model that changes the dynamics of how a sport is owned and operated. Viewership was 700k+ during the opening weekend, it’s to be seen how much that continues to hold up!

🤑 Gaming and fantasy sports keeps attracting money

Only five months after it secured a $90m funding the Bangalore-based esports and gaming platform Mobile Premier League (MPL) has raised another $95m. Say what? The Series D round was led by Composite Capital and Moore Strategic Ventures, boosting the valuation to $945m. Not a unicorn quite yet :) With the fresh money MPL looks to grow in international markets. Why? Even though the user numbers are impressive, they are mainly distributed between India (60m) and Indonesia (3.5m). Currently the platform offers 70 games across multiple sports and also offers fantasy sports. So off to new markets it is, especially as India does not permit fantasy sports apps on Play Store in a market where 99% of the phones have Android running on them. An understandable move!

🧹 Finishing up

And that is it, the second article in our new monthly series that looks back on what happened in the world of SportsTech. The next article of this series will be published in the first week of April. In the meantime make sure to check out our other content:

And have a look at Hello SportsTech, our latest initiative in which we showcase cool, new SportsTech products.

Have a great day!

Benjamin Penkert is the Founder of Berlin based SportsTechX — Data & insights about startups and innovation in sports. You can get in touch via Linkedin, Twitter or email.

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Benjamin Penkert

Benjamin Penkert

Founder of @sportstechx. All about #sportstech and #startups.