Category Archives: Finance

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New Collapsible Bike Helmet Shatters Fundraising Goal

Three years ago, Rachel Hall was hit by a car as she was riding through the Park and Diamond intersection near Temple University in Philadelphia. The driver didn’t stop. She wasn’t wearing a helmet. She ended up in a coma for four months.
Her brother David and his friend Jordan Klein, then both engineering undergraduates at Virginia Tech, reacted to Rachel’s accident by setting out to figure out why people don’t always wear helmets, and trying to solve that problem. Now they are shattering fundraising targets on Indiegogo as they accept pre-orders for a collapsible helmet that looks something like a baseball cap.
As of Thursday morning, their company, Park & Diamond, had raised more than $530,000, easily meeting its $50,000 fixed goal just a week into the month-long campaign. Pre-orders are expected to be completed by the first quarter of 2019. (Rachel is a long way along in her recovery, and now jokes that she should get a cut of the success.)
“She wasn’t wearing a helmet, and the question was why wasn’t she wearing a helmet?” Hall said. “We asked that question when she was in the intensive care unit, and after.”
Hall and Klein are driven by this statistic: 97 percent of cyclists who died in accidents in New York City in 2005 weren’t wearing helmets. While Rachel survived, they realized how fatal the decision not to wear a helmet could be. They sat down one day and thought “We have to do something about this.”
Hall and Klein won a series of startup competitions while at Virginia Tech, and then received a seed funding round that allowed them to hire their first employees: a former SpaceX engineer and a CBS employee who could lead marketing.

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They have conducted thousands of rider interviews so far. The reasons for why people opted not to wear helmets quickly surfaced. Notably, the people they talked to didn’t feel existing bike helmets were comfortable, aesthetically pleasing, or portable.
Hall and Klein figured they could address the aesthetic problem by outfitting helmets with removable covers that made them appear more like baseball caps. But addressing the portability issue meant figuring out a way to collapse the helmet itself.
Most bike helmets today used a foamed polymer liner, typically a denser version of the expanded polystyrene used in foam cups and coolers. EPS is bulky and hard, incapable of being rolled up or folded. A collapsible helmet couldn’t be built from EPS, so Hall and Klein developed their own proprietary composite material that they say also works as well or better in terms of protection than existing helmets on the market today.
“It’s our secret sauce that allows the whole helmet to work,” Hall said. “Our focus was how do we make a material with less volume that could take as much or more energy. Our helmet uses something completely different. The material is rigid, so at end of day what’s standing between you and what you’re about to impact is rigid and can absorb the energy.”
Unlike traditional foam helmets that might bounce and crack on impact, Park & Diamond claims its helmet shell does not bounce because it’s designed to immediately absorb and dissipate energy. At just eight ounces in weight, the helmet is light, portable in that it can collapse to the size of a water bottle, yet still adequately disperses the energy of a blow to the head. The exterior covers are removable and washable, so Park & Diamond is planning to even enable personalization of designs.
The company already has a number of patents and trademarks and is currently working to meet required U.S. and E.U. helmet regulations. While the first iteration will only be available in adult sizes, Park & Diamond has already surpassed all current U.S. CPSC Children’s Product Certificate standards. Further into the future, it plans to expand into other sports, such as skiing and snowboarding.


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SoftBank Backs Sports AI Platform HEED in $35 Million Round

Japanese tech conglomerate SoftBank is backing HEED, a platform powered by artificial intelligence that’s meant to better connect fans to the emotional and physical realities of sports.
The tech giant announced this week that it had led a $35 million funding round for HEED to accelerate the startup’s growth in internet-of-things analytics and artificial intelligence. HEED uses those technologies and a series of sensors worn by athletes to better visualize sports and enhance the fan experience on mobile.
The HEED platform promises to illuminate “the invisible insights behind key moments from live events.” It uses AI to identify the most exciting moments—similar to tech used by companies such as IBM for automating highlights—and IoT-based data to generate new insights about sports. Visualizations can be delivered in real time to fans’ mobile devices. According to TechCrunch, HEED can make “inferences about a player’s emotional state based on the data.”

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The startup, created through a joint venture between IoT company AGT International and advertising and talent agency Endeavor, plans to use the latest investment to bolster its expansion through partnerships with sports clubs and leagues around the world, notably across soccer, MMA, and basketball.
“HEED has developed a unique platform that is changing the way fans watch and interact with sports,” said SoftBank CFO Alok Sama, in a statement. “HEED is taking a traditionally static experience and providing fans with deeper insights into the physical and emotional aspects.”
In August 2017, HEED announced partnerships with the UFC, EuroLeague basketball, Professional Bull Riders, and a number of soccer clubs. With the EuroLeague, HEED deployed IoT sensors in all 16 arenas of the premier European competition, capturing data on audience, players, and coaches. With Pro Bull Riders, it outfitted both the bull and rider with sensors that measured spin, direction changes, kicks, and rider control, upgrading the league to a more objective, metrics-based scoring system.
“Technology has evolved tremendously in interpreting the physical world,” said HEED co-founder and AGT International owner Mati Kochavi in the announcement. “HEED is harnessing this to create a new sports fan experience.”
SportTechie Takeaway
Artificial intelligence is being deployed across the sports technology world to better identify highlights, while sensors are being used to accumulate as much data as possible about events and athletes. HEED is taking a unique approach in that it is attempting to make inferences about the emotional aspects of sports. Teams and leagues are hunting for ways to engage fans. HEED is attempting to solve that issue by enabling fans to feel more connected to the highs, lows, and general excitement felt by the athletes and coaches during athletic competition.


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Major League Triathlon Signs Deal to Pay Athletes With Bitcoin

Major League Triathlon has announced a partnership with Bitcoin.com that will pay top finishers of the 2018 MLT Championship event in Charlotte prize money via Bitcoin Cash. The race will mark the first time ever that athlete prize money will be paid out using cryptocurrency, according to an MLT press release.
MLT Charlotte takes place Saturday, Oct. 6 at the Mecklenburg County Aquatic Center. As the top five overall finishers step onto the podium to receive their medals, they will be awarded their individual winnings in Bitcoin Cash in real time.

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“This partnership is a really special one for MLT,” said Daniel Cassidy, CEO of Major League Triathlon, in the press release. “Cryptocurrency is a hot topic in the world right now, and there is no question that it provides a significant amount of benefit to the end user. With other major professional sports leagues across the globe beginning to bring Crypto into their sports, it is a huge step forward for MLT to partner with a world leader in the Cryptocurrency market.”
Founded in 2016, Major League Triathlon is the first and only professional triathlon league in the United States. The league consists of nine mixed-gender teams and several MLT triathletes have previously competed in the Olympics.
“MLT is a great partner to showcase the everyday usability of Bitcoin Cash, bearing in mind our goal of worldwide adoption of cryptocurrency,” said Gergo Szoke, Marketing Manager at Bitcoin.com, in the announcement. “We see BCH as the future of money and MLT as the future of sports and triathlon, which makes for great synergy between our brands. Spectators at this great event will be able to experience the security and speed of sending Bitcoin Cash from one wallet to another when we give away podium prizes on the spot.”   
SportTechie Takeaway
While this appears to be the first instance where athletes will receive their winnings via bitcoin, cryptocurrency has made a rapid surge into the sports marketplace through other mediums. The Houston Rockets recently signed a cryptocurrency sponsorship with bitcoin-mining company AntPool for the upcoming NBA season. The closest precedent to what MLT Charlotte is planning with bitcoin could be FanDuel’s experiment to award fantasy football contest winners with cryptocurrency prize money during last year’s NFL season.


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Suns Fans Can Now Venmo to Pay for Merchandise and Tickets

PayPal has signed a multi-year deal to become the official payment partner of the Phoenix Suns, Phoenix Mercury, and Spanish soccer team Real Club Deportiva Mallorca. The deal gives fans the option to pay for Suns merchandise and tickets through PayPal and Venmo via integration in the Suns mobile app.
Both the Suns and Mercury play their home games at Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix. RCD Mallorca is owned by Suns managing partner Robert Sarver, which explains its inclusion in the deal. Specific terms of the sponsorship were not announced. 
“PayPal will be a payment option at Talking Stick Resort Arena point of sale terminals and at the Suns Team Shop in the arena, while fans will be able to access PayPal through the Official Suns Mobile App,” an official Suns press release states. “The Suns will also make PayPal Credit available for Suns’ SixthMan members to purchase season tickets. PayPal Here card readers will be integrated at point of sale for chip, swipe, and tap payments, and fans will be able to pay with their Venmo balance throughout the arena.”
As part of the deal, the PayPal logo will appear on the front left of Suns jerseys for the 2018/19 NBA season. PayPal has operated a technology center in nearby Scottsdale, Arizona since 2006. In 2013, PayPal acquired ownership of Braintree, the parent company of Venmo, for $800 million.
“In an increasingly digital and mobile world, there’s no better teammate for this extensive partnership than an innovative industry leader like PayPal,” said Suns President and Chief Executive Officer Jason Rowley in the press release. “Through this partnership, we’ll utilize PayPal’s leadership and expertise in technology and innovation to help create a better experience for our fans at home and around the globe.”
SportTechie Takeaway
Venmo blends a mobile payment service with social interaction. User’s see a social media-like newsfeed and can share transactions with friends, and like other’s posts. The company reported $14.2 billion in transaction volume during the second quarter of 2018, representing a 78 percent year-on-year increase. Over a 12-month period, Venmo also reported $46 billion in transaction volume. “Venmo” is becoming a common verb in the technology augmented world, and the Suns appear to be ahead of the curve by integrating the service with their mobile app to facilitate payments. This is similar to what Venmo did through its partnership with Uber.


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Greg Norman Invests in Alternative Sports Commentary Provider Spalk

Spalk, a company that allows viewers to choose their preferred language, style, or even team bias for commentary, has announced a $1.5 million seed round. Former professional golfer Greg Norman and his business, the Greg Norman Company, led the investment. Stadia Ventures, Ice Angels, and Sparkbox ventures also contributed to the fundraising round according to a press release.
Commentators can call games remotely from a laptop anywhere in the world and Spalk’s proprietary Live Sync technology ensures lip-sync synchronization between their alternate audio and the livestream. Users can access the service using a plug-in.
A New York City-based company with New Zealand origins, Spalk was named the winner of “Greg Norman’s Search for the Next Sports Entrepreneur” held at the University of Miami in March 2017. Since launching last year, Spalk has covered over 5,000 live events with over 100 partners, spanning broadcasters, sports leagues, and OTT providers.

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“As the world becomes increasingly more global, a one-size fits all approach to sports broadcasting is no longer relevant,” Norman said in a Spalk press release. “Demographically targeted commentary is a win-win for both fans and broadcasters and Spalk is leading the way.”
Spalk’s broadcast commentary technology has been used by FIBA, World Rugby, and several Division I conferences in the NCAA. The press release states that the Greg Norman Company’s investment will help grow the company in North America and expand it into golf and other sports.
“By leveraging Spalk’s patented Virtual Commentary Studio, sports leagues and broadcasters no longer have to fly commentators to the stadium or studio to call games—they can do it from a laptop anywhere in the world,” said Ben Reynolds, CEO of Spalk, in the press release. “We place high value on the right strategic partners and are thrilled to announce the support from Greg Norman and our other investors.”
SportTechie Takeaway
Norman’s previous business ventures have indicated that the former player has an interest in technology that can disrupt the sports broadcasting experience for fans. Earlier this year, Norman partnered with the PGA Tour to equip his Shark Experience golf cars with PGA Tour Live streaming capability.
Last year, Spalk told SportTechie that it charges broadcasters $0.02 to $0.10 per viewer hour, based on the total number of viewers. FIBA used Spalk at the 2017 U19 World Basketball Championships. During that tournament, more than 90 commentators in five different languages covered games for six million basketball fans all around the world.


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