Startups and Sports Technology tend to be quite analogous. Or rather a lot of companies that are developing innovative sports products tend to be startups. If you look through some of our product reviews or tech articles, almost all of them will have at least have one sports tech startup mentioned in there. They have either had a go at crowdfunding or partnered with sports teams to validate their product or gone through an accelerator or incubator program or done all the above. Whichever way they went with to get some financial support or mentoring support, there is one thing they have to do – and that is to pitch their idea/product/solution and how it will revolutionise the future of sports.
Just this week, I had the chance to attend the sportstech pitch event in Melbourne organised by Startupvic and Launchvic. It was pretty well attended with perhaps around 200 in the audience. The judging panel consisted of experienced professionals in the sports and sports tech industry. There was also an introduction to a new initiative called Track developed by Victoria University (VU) which is a platform for the sports industry to collaborate with sports experts/researchers from VU. The highlight of the night, of course, is the pitching by four sports startups and their founders. Here’s a look at who they are and what they are bringing to the world of sports.
BenchVote – Fan Engagement
Benchvote is a startup that is aiming to help sports organisations do better at fan engagement and digital marketing. They have identified the challenges that digital marketing teams at sports clubs have – that their exisiting polling campaigns are disengaging. So they built a customisable platform (somewhat like Canva) that allows sports organisations to create more engaging competitions and polls for the fans. The platform then collects data and insights so sports organisations can better understanding their audience, get more leads, and also creates new monetisation opportunities. Some of BenchVote’s current clients include the National Basketball League (NBL), Collingwood FC and Western Bulldogs. Other than trying to grow locating in Australia, they have also started looking for opportunities in the U.S. and Europe.
Read more about them in their interview with Bullpen here: link.
MarineVerse – VR for Sailing
MarineVerse is democratising sailing by enabling people to sail in virtual reality. The team at MarineVerse are all passionate sailors and they recognise that there are various barriers that might keep ex-sailors from sailing again and it can be daunting for newbies who want to have a go at sailing. So MarineVerse is bringing sailing from the sea to your couch with a VR headset. It creates an immersive sailing experience in a safe environment regardless of what the weather is and it also allows a user to connect with sailors from around the world. They have developed their first game called VR Regatta which is available on Steam and works on the HTC Vive, Occulus Rift and Go. They are reaching out to sailing clubs across the world to help them increase sailing participation by reducing barriers to the sailing experience. During the pitch, the potential of expanding the concept to other water sports such as kayaking or rafting was also brought up. There is also the potential for this to be used as a training platform for competitive sailors.
Check out their launch trailer for VR Regatta below:
WedgePro – training aid for golfers
WedgePro is the only startup on sports tech pitch night that had a hardware product. Based in Bendigo, the team has invented a novel golf training aid that aims to improve a golfer’s chipping performance. The training aid focuses on a golfer’s short game and helps build muscle memory for specific distances. They had previously won the La Trobe Accelerator program and subsequently collaborated with the La Trobe sports science department to test its validity. The training aid is purely a mechanical solution for now. But the team is currently planning to add technology to it so that it allows players to track their practice sessions and monitor their own performance. This might be something we could review in the future.
Unite – management software for professional teams
Unite is a software platform created by Eastwood (a digital sports company) to help professional teams do, well, basically everything from managing people, facilities, equipment, scheduling, logistics and communications. Currently, most teams will have multiple systems for doing all those things. From using computer softwares to web based programs and mobile apps, to physically pinning up updates on boards and making phone calls. It can be difficult to keep track of things and adds confusion. Unite will bring all these functions onto a single management platform and ensure that everything is planned and managed well and there is proper communication with proper accountability. They are currently trialing it with sports teams and the best way to find out more is probably to reach out to them on their website.
As it was a pitching competition, there had to be a winner. The judging panel decided that the best pitch was from MarineVerse. I think the judges were all excited about the potential of the product (both in the amateur and elite sports) and that it was built on an exciting emerging technology. Besides that, there was also a People’s choice award voted by the audience and that went to Unite. One thing I noticed that a couple of judges (and the MC) tried to do was to give some tips/advice to the pitch participants. They also reminded the audience to reach out to the startups especially if they have the relevant skills or money to invest. So in the end, I am pretty sure all of the pitch participants got something out of the pitch night whether it was tangible or intangible or it might be leads for future opportunities. Here’s wishing them all the best and we look forward to seeing their next steps.