How one thought, a competition, and many pitches later nine Sports Tech startups make it to Silicon Valley

By Stina Lundgren Högbom, PhD, Master student at GIH: the Swedish School of Sport and Health Sciences

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How can I reach all the great innovations within Sports Tech in the Nordic countries? There are so many great ideas and startups within this sector, and I had never heard about them.  
- Mounir Zok (US Olympic Committee)

It all started in the fall of 2017 as Nordic Innovation House in Silicon Valley and Smash collaborated on a joint venture of organizing the Nordic SportsTech Challenge. There were 100 applications from the five Nordic countries, in five different areas of Sports Tech. Ten were chosen for the final, held at Smash in Helsinki in November 2017, and the five winners won a trip to Silicon Valley. The program was opened for other Nordic companies to apply to as well.

Nordic Innovation House held workshops on sales strategy with Scott Sambucci, pitching with Nathan Gold, and tips and tricks on how to be ready to meet VC-firms with the investor in residence Arne Tonning. The companies got an amazing opportunity to meet top people at the Golden State Warriors and San Jose Sharks as well as have a tour of the innovative Levi’s Stadium. Sports Innovation conference at Stanford offered great opportunities for networking, especially for some of the companies who got a chance to showcase.

An intensive day with UC Berkeley Innovation Acceleration Group gave the startups the chance to get individual coaching and find clues where they might need to look deeper in their business model and customer development to reach their full potential. But the program was not finished before a session with Hannu Uusitalo from HP and a visit to Area 404 at Facebook, who displayed their vision of the future in terms of technology and how collaboration is often the key to success.

SportsTech is the latest hot topic and a growing business with new approaches, which is why Nordic Innovation house also invited the public to an open event with an expert panel from the industry that discussed the new era in Sports Tech. The panelists included Per Lundstam (RedBull), Neda Tabatabaie (SJ Sharks) and John Paul (VenueNext). Discussion was moderated by Mounir Zok (US Olympic Committee) who also played a key part in making the whole Nordic SportsTech Program a success.

Even though the startups represented very different fields within Sports, for example VR, wearables, e-sport, AI-cameras, and streaming, many of them had the same issues to deal with. The program gave them insights into what the industry is looking at right now and see as challenges in the future, coaching on how to be a lean startup, the importance of understanding the customer, and importantly, what is the problem that your company is able to solve.

Several of the startups met with both potential and current partners during the week and others had planned their trip to continue building their connections during the following weeks. At the end of the intensive week, what many of the companies returned to was not only how rewarding the program had been, but even more how high quality all the meetings had been, and how they all had felt the special Silicon Valley feeling of “paying it forward”.

 

The attending startups were:


Challengermode 

Captimax Sports Media

Playpulse

Sport Genius

Sport In Global

Sportywe

Streamify

Sweetzpot 

Zero Parallax Technologies

 

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