Category Archives: Finance

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Deltatre Acquires UX Streaming Specialist Massive Interactive for $127 Million

Sports media technology company Deltatre has acquired London-based firm Massive Interactive, which sells software tools to develop and manage over-the-top streaming user interfaces. The purpose of the deal is to expand Deltatre’s sports and entertainment streaming presence on a global scale, specifically within the Asia-Pacific region.  
The deal is worth up to $127 million and the two sides have targeted a closing date of Nov. 20, according to Variety. The companies reportedly see this deal as an opportunity to combine Deltatre’s existing back-end streaming video capabilities with Massive’s expertise in providing front-end user experiences. Massive will operate as a division of Deltatre, which will have 18 offices worldwide and nearly 1,000 full-time staff after the deal is finalized.

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“This shift to OTT is accelerating throughout the world, and the ability to customize individual viewing experiences and create genuine consumer engagement is vital to the movement,” said Giampiero Rinaudo, Deltatre’s co-founder and CEO, in a press release. “Massive’s next-generation user interface and audience engagement software are proven to drive [average revenue per user].”
Massive’s UX management console, AXIS, already supports streaming service interfaces for the BBC Worldwide, Bell Media, and Sony Pictures Television. Deltatre’s OTT platform called Amplify is currently used by the ATP’s Tennis TV, NFL Game Pass Europe, Juventus Pass, and several other services. In addition to OTT streaming infrastructure, Deltatre provides clients with a content management system, virtual broadcast studios, graphics, and real-time data distribution.
“The integration of our targeted UX platform, Massive AXIS, with Deltatre’s robust product portfolio will combine to offer our customers a highly scalable, quick-to-market solution that drives engagement and increase the profitability of over-the-top video services,” said Massive CEO Ron Downey in the press release. “By coming together, we are creating a business that will undoubtedly be the leading B2B vendor for live and OTT video platforms globally.”
SportTechie Takeaway
Bruin Sports Capital purchased majority ownership of Deltatre in 2016. Bruin was founded by George Pyne, who formerly held positions as the COO of NASCAR and president of IMG Sports & Entertainment. “[This deal] is transformative for us,” Pyne said according to Variety. “The future, to me, is the customization of content and the consumer experience.”


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VICIS Brings Youth Football Helmet to Market After Series B Investment From Aaron Rodgers

Football helmet technology company VICIS has completed its $28.5M Series B round of funding, which includes investment from Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. The company also announced the commercial availability of Zero1 Youth, its first helmet designed for youth football players.
The youth helmet maintains the same soft outer shell and protective layers engineered for VICIS’ adult helmet model, but the youth model is lighter and more compact to further protect youth football players from sustaining concussions through impact. Rodgers joins fellow NFL QBs Alex Smith and Russell Wilson as investors in VICIS. Both Smith and Wilson wear the Vicis helmet on the field. Rodgers’ investment comes via venture capital firm Rx3 Ventures.  
“We invested in VICIS because its commitment to player safety – specifically at the youth level – is one we wanted to support,” said Rodgers in a press release. “We look forward to working with VICIS as they continue to develop outstanding technologies for players at all levels.”

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While VICIS retails its Zero1 adult helmet for $950, the youth helmet will cost $495, according to TechCrunch. The helmet weighs just less than four pounds and offers the widest field of view of any kids’ helmet currently available. VICIS has now received $84 million in total investments since the Seattle-based company was founded in 2013.
SportTechie Takeaway
Separate studies conducted by the NFL/NFLPA and Virginia Tech Helmet Lab both named VICIS Zero1 as the safest football helmet available.  VICIS’ new helmet may be just as effective when worn by youth football players. But the helmet’s lofty $495 price tag may make the purchasing decision more difficult for the average American family or youth-level team. 


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Kobe Bryant Participates in $30 Million Funding Round for RingDNA

RingDNA, an enterprise sales management platform, has raised $30 million in a new funding round that was led by Goldman Sachs with participation from five-time NBA champion Kobe Bryant.
The round included participation from previous investors Palisades Growth Capital and Bryant Stibel, a venture capital firm jointly run by Bryant and Jeff Stibel.
The company, which uses “conversation data” powered by artificial intelligence to help sales teams manage their relationships with clients, said it has been cashflow positive for two years and plans to use the cash influx to power a new growth stage.
In a joint statement, Bryant and Stibel said they originally invested in ringDNA in 2014 because they believed in founder Howard Brown, his team, and saw a large and untapped market opportunity.

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“With this latest growth equity round from Goldman Sachs, RingDNA has added another world-class partner aligned with its goal of helping enterprise sales organizations analyze and learn from their game film to become smarter and more effective,” they said.
Brown said the company is focused on “augmenting, contextualizing, and training” sales reps to be better by guiding them through sales conversations. RingDNA analyzes millions of calls with deep learning, AI and psychological principles to surface patterns in calls so that reps can optimize conversations.
“Conversations are not as unique as we all assume,” he said. “There are patterns to how prospects and customers communicate with sales and support reps.”
Some of RingDNA’s existing customers include Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Amazon Web Services, Autodesk, SAP Concur, Cvent, Lyft, and Twilio.
SportTechie Takeaway
Kobe is among the former and current professional athletes who are making a post-athletic career investing in startups. His investments have taken him in and outside the world of sports. In 2015, for example, Bryant Stibel led an early investment in the Player’s Tribune. Bryant also made a lucrative $6 million investment in the athletic drink BodyArmor. The former Lakers all-star saw his investment in the brand, which is marketed as a healthier alternative to Gatorade, rocket in value to roughly $200 million after Coca-Cola scooped up a minority stake in the company earlier this year, according to ESPN.
SportTechie selected Bryant Stibel as a nominee in the Outstanding Investor category for the 2017 SportTechie Awards.


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Marshall Newhouse Wants to Change the Perception of What Athletes Can Be

SportTechie’s new series features the views and opinions of the athletes who use and are powered by technology.As part of this series, SportTechie talked to Marshall Newhouse about what he has learned from wearable devices, his interest in technology, and his post-NFL business plans.
To be the first to hear each athlete’s insights, subscribe to the Athletes Voice newsletter. And visit the Athletes Voice page to read the whole series.
Marshall Newhouse is a veteran offensive lineman for the Carolina Panthers, with prior stops playing for the Buffalo Bills, Oakland Raiders, New York Giants, Cincinnati Bengals, and Green Bay Packers. He won the Super Bowl with the Packers as a rookie, and later became the team’s starting left tackle charged with protecting quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ blind side.
He studied advertising and public relations at TCU, graduating in 2010. Newhouse lists “entrepreneur” first on his Twitter profile, even ahead of “Super Bowl Champ.” He lives in Austin in the offseason, and in 2017 he joined a SXSW panel on the intersection between technology, fashion, and politics.
The Use of Wearables
“There’s a nonstop kind of assault in that area for athletes, whatever you want. Whether it’s heart monitoring, GPS, biometrics, sweat—there’s a litany of stuff. I haven’t been an early adopter for a lot of stuff. I’ve known about it, but I haven’t actually implemented it into my routine because I’m so habitual.
“Offensive line is a unique position. It’s still misunderstood by a lot of people who do football stuff for a living. That applies directly to GPS, too. We’re in a stance. Sometimes we’ve moving backwards or applying force in different ways biomechanically. Sometimes we’re moving forward pushing things or pushing other players. And sometimes we are flat-out running, but it’s not as fast or as linear as other positions, so it’s harder to track.
“What they tracked when we had it, it was just distance covered. As a lineman, if I’m covering a ton of distance, most likely I’m running a lot, and that means there’s an exponentially larger wear and tear on my body. They use that data for recovery. I’d be interested to see what Catapult’s doing as far as fine-tuning that to what a lineman does on a play-by-play basis, factoring in his weight and how much force he’s producing and how that affects how he breaks down over a practice, a game, or a season.”
Heart Rate and Sleep Monitoring
“I’ve learned how unique everyone’s body is and how it reacts to stress and stressors and how that affects your performance. When you read a chart after you’ve worn a heart-rate monitor, you realize where you’re peaking, where you’re having lulls, and where your body’s freaking out a little bit. You learn about stuff that you knew innately, but you could never really translate it into a language of sorts and a way to actually apply it.
“I’m 29 and have been playing for nine years, so there’s a lot of stuff I wish I had known when I was in college about my stamina, my explosion, my output, or even what day of the week to hit legs, or when after a hard practice to get stretched—all those little things that go into fine-tuning how an athlete performs.
“I’m a terrible sleeper, and I absolutely knew it. I had actually been tested a few times for sleep apnea, and every time they tell me that I have a mild case but not bad enough to need a CPAP machine. I have known for a decade now that I don’t sleep through the night, but eventually I hope something comes along that helps me with that. A lot of it has to do with the fact that I’m an offensive lineman and we play at an unnatural weight.”

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Origin of His Interest in Tech
“My dad’s a computer programmer, so we built PCs back in the day. Tech’s been in my blood. I used to play video games all the time, and I briefly did it for small amounts of money because I thought I was cool, not knowing that there would eventually be esports. I used to watch the old TechTV nonstop. I’ve always been interested in tech, not really thinking it could be a career choice especially because I was focused on football, but that’s always been a hobby of mine.
“I used to play a lot of CounterStrike back in junior high, high school—probably more than I needed to, if you ask my parents. Then I transitioned off that to console gaming. I’ve been wanting another [PC]. I’m waiting until I retire to get in one place and I’ll probably get back into it.”
Entrepreneurship
“Earlier in my career, I had a lot of good advice and good advisers in my life—from my parents to other people—about something as accessible as real estate. I’ve got residential properties, I’ve gotten involved in small [limited partnerships] for shopping malls, strip centers, and commercial real estate. That exposure jogs your business mind and gets you thinking on a different level about your return on your investment and about how you go into those situations.
“It’s just a constant learning process that transitions into other avenues of business, whether that’s tech, [consumer packaged goods], food and beverage, or stuff like that. That was my first foray, and I still do real estate. The goal is to have that in the background, churning and making money, eventually for my kids to take over. That was my initial interest in getting into it, especially in Texas, which is so real estate- and business-friendly.”
(Photo credit: Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
CES 2018
“I had a mentor of mine, Ryan Nece, lead me around. He runs a venture fund in Silicon Valley, and we just spent four, five days out there—going to booths, talking to start-up founders, venture CEOs, and just immersing myself as much as possible with people in that industry.
“It’s overwhelming. It’s like a flash-bang grenade of the entire industry in one place. On top of that, it’s in Las Vegas. I stayed for the first day in the health tech side, which kind of ties directly into sports and what I do on a daily basis.
“There were a bunch of virtual reality booths, augmented reality booths that, as we’re seeing, are going to revolutionize what you can accomplish in sports as far as rehab, as far as prehab, as far as taking players’ games to the next level. There was a big shift to biometrics and health monitoring. There’s a company called Orig3n—they do a lot of blood testing. They’ve got a partnership with the 49ers, I believe. “
Life After Football
“I did a week at a business summit in New York City [in February] put on by Kaleb Thornhill called Athletes Transition University. He works for the Miami Dolphins, and it’s a way to help NFL players plan for the future and plan for whatever business looks like for them, either while they’re still playing or when football’s done.
“It’s been awesome meeting other players who are doing great things in business and have high expectations for themselves – either in tech and investing like me or in different ways. From a guy like Kelvin Beachum who’s all over the place and just killing it—he’s doing an incredible job in business while also executing his day job, which is football. Or a guy like Ndamukong Suh, who’s really involved. His involvements are less public, but he’s got a lot going on behind the scenes. Then there’s a guy like Justin Forsett who’s literally got a company right now called ShowerPill, which is now sold at Target stores nationwide.
“A lot of athletes are out there doing incredible things in business, and I don’t think it gets talked about enough. These guys are pillars in the community. They’re doing amazing work in the nonprofit sector to give back while also working hard as leaders and innovators – all on top of being professional athletes. I don’t think I’m doing anything particularly unique, but I do want to be a part of changing that public perception of what athletes can do and can be.”

Marshall Newhouse reviewed this content before publication.


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Hashletes Debuts NFLPA-Licensed Fantasy Football Crypto-Collectibles App

A new fantasy football mobile app called Hashletes debuted this week. The app uses blockchain technology to verify the ownership of tradable digital collectables, which fans can purchase to build weekly lineups to compete for cash prizes.  The digital player tokens in the platform have been licensed from the NFLPA.
Hashletes launched Tuesday with 25,000 individual tokens created for all of the more than 2,000 current NFL players. Player tokens are available via packs priced between $3.99 and $4.99 and range from eight to 18 random players per-pack. Users can also buy top-tier single player tokens for $1.99. The MLBPA released its own player tokens digital collectables platform back in August, but Hashletes adds a fantasy gamification aspect to the burgeoning blockchain-powered crypto-collectable space. Hashletes is financially backed by billionaire venture capitalist Vinod Khosla.
“We curated down to four to five companies that truly met the criteria for us,” said Ricky Medina, Head of Business Development at the NFL Players Association. “Hashletes really stood out because they took a novel approach to the the layers on top of the player token. That was a real differentiator, tying it to fantasy. Other groups alluded to fantasy, but it was very much in the abstract.”

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Users can create lineups for three different game modes within Hashletes. They also own of all their player tokens and can chose to sell or trade them via the Hashletes marketplace. Offensive mode consists of a quarterback, running back, two wide receivers, one tight end, one kicker, and one FLEX option. Defensive mode lineups require 11 defensive players. There is also a franchise mode where users must enter 24-player lineups that include five offensive lineman and one punter. Hashletes has its own scoring system, which is mostly comprised of standard fantasy metrics. Eventually, Hashletes also has plans to release a multiplayer mode, where friends can combine their individual player tokens to build a team.
Similar to HQ Trivia style gameplay, Hashletes participants will compete against all signed-up users during free-to-join weekly fantasy contests and winners will evenly split from a designated prize pool. Hashletes will set a specific point marker each week and if a user reaches that point total, they’ll earn a piece of the weekly prize.This week’s Hashletes prize pool consists on $10,000.
“We are a much more casual experience compared to FanDuel or DraftKings,” said Michael Anderson, co-founder at Hashletes. “You really have to understand the complicated budget maximization [in FanDuel or DraftKings contests],” he continued. “We think we become different by creating the casual gaming experience for people like my mom, who understand a little about football but won’t understand if Tom Brady at 12,000 dollars is a good purchase or if she should go with Aaron Rodgers instead.”
Hashletes was founded this past April and reached a multi-year partnership with the NFLPA in June. The company was co-founded by Silicon Valley product designers Michael Anderson, Brennan Erbeznik, and Vance Spencer. Spencer, 27, previously worked at Netflix while Erbeznik, 26, and Anderson, 28, both worked for Snapchat. The Hashletes app is currently only available for iOS devices.
On the technical side, each player token will posses a smart contract that is viewable on the Ethereum blockchain, aiming to eliminate the threat of fraud. Anderson says the blockchain database is intentionally limited to the back-end of the Hashletes app since the technology is still a relative unknown to the average sports fan.
As part of Hashletes’ licensing deal with the NFLPA, several NFL stars will post their own player tokens across their personal social media accounts to market the app. The NFLPA and Hashletes are banking on digital player tokens gaining the same valuable collectable status among sports fans that physical trading cards and memorabilia amassed before the digital age. Anderson expects Hashletes player tokens to eventually serve as a new way for fans to connect with athletes through future-planned engagement features such as live question and answer sessions.
“Growing up we were infatuated with collectables of our favorite players and teams,” Anderson said. “In the digital ecosystem, nothing yet represents the same sort of collectability that I once had with trading cards. Our ultimate goal is to enhance the already existing relationship between fans and athletes.”


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Vikings Owners Launch WISE Ventures Investment Company

Minnesota Vikings owners Mark and Zygi Wilf have formally launched WISE Ventures, a Manhattan-based investment firm. The firm seeks early investment opportunities within sports, entertainment, real estate, and technology.
Wilf Innovative Sports and Entertainment Ventures will pursue tech-related investment opportunities that include streaming media, data analytics, fitness and health technologies, gaming, and communications platforms, the firm said in a news release on Tuesday. Zygi Wilf is the principal owner of the Vikings, while younger brother Mark serves as the team’s president and co-owner.

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“We have a passion for investing in, and collaborating with, next-gen companies who are on the leading edge of ideas that can ultimately enhance people’s lives,” said Mark Wilf in a statement. “With our deep industry networks and management experience, we are able to assess, champion and add value to accelerate growth in rapidly evolving industries.”
The firm has already invested in sports technology companies such as fantasy sports content provider SportsHub Games Network and automated video highlights platform WSC Sports. A full list of WISE Ventures’ current portfolio is available on the company’s website.
SportTechie Takeaway
The Wilf family net worth stands at $5 billion according to a 2015 report of the 50 wealthiest people in New Jersey. Before purchasing the Vikings in 2005, the Wilfs originally achieved wealth through real estate company Garden Homes, which was founded by Mark and Zygi’s father in 1954. The Wilf family’s existing investment portfolio also includes stadium-tech company VenueNext. Their newly minted venture capital firm figures to establish them as prominent investors in the sports-tech space.


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Ryan Howard Hopes to Help Athletes Play Bigger Roles in Venture Capital

SportTechie’s new series features the views and opinions of the athletes who use and are powered by technology. As part of this series, SportTechie chatted with 2008 World Series champion and 2006 NL MVP Ryan Howard at the Ascent Conference in New York City on Oct. 4, and again later on the phone. Howard retired from playing in September and is now a partner at SeventySix Capital and chairman of the VC firm’s Athlete Venture Group.
To be the first to hear each athlete’s insights, subscribe to the Athletes Voice newsletter. And visit the Athletes Voice page to read the whole series.
MLB all-star Ryan Howard played first base for the Philadelphia Phillies for 13 seasons, before signing short minor league contracts with the Braves and Rockies. In 2008, he helped bring the Phillies their first World Series title in 28 years, and just the second in franchise history. That championship was also the first for Philadelphia sports since the 76ers won the NBA Finals in 1983.
In September, Howard announced his retirement with a moving tribute to his fans titled “Thank you, Philly” on The Players’ Tribune. He covered everything from his first at-bat and his first home run to that World Series win and the birth of his son, Darian. (Howard postponed one of our calls so he could be present for one of his son’s games.) “My career, man, it had some interesting bookends. But in between? During the heart of it all? I’ll tell you what—it was a dream come true,” he wrote.
Long before his retirement, Howard was building a post-baseball career for himself. He had told his agent about his ambitions in business, and was connected to long-time venture capitalist Wayne Kimmel and investor Jon Powell. The three eventually joined forces in the venture capital firm SeventySix Capital. Now Howard serves as a partner in the Philly based VC. He’s the chairman of SeventySix Capital’s new Athlete Venture Group, connecting entrepreneurial athletes with emerging startups.
Planning for Life After Baseball
“I was always very forward thinking and that came from my parents. I knew that one day my career was going to be done. A lot of athletes at that time would wait until they got to that point of where they were finished and then try to figure it out. So I was always very proactive in that sense. I had the conversation with my agent at the time, saying ‘Hey, this is what I’m interested in and trying to do post-career.’ Looking to have that seamless transition so that when I’m done I already know the direction I want to go.”
“It’s hard to find good, genuine people to work with. That’s what I was looking for and that’s what I found with the guys at SeventySix.”
Adversity in Sports and Business
“Coming from the athletic world, there’s a lot of parallels to the business world. My personal story starts back when I was a sophomore in high school. Believe it or not, I was on the varsity team, then got cut and sent down to the sophomore team. My sophomore coach came up to me and he said ‘Look, I know it sucks, I know you’re disappointed, but you can do one of two things. You can either sit there and cry about it, saying your shoulda-woulda-couldas, or focus all your energy on doing what you need to do at this level to get back to the varsity level. So I put all my energy into doing what I needed to do on that level so that when I got called up to the varsity level, my first game on varsity I went four-for-four with two home runs and seven RBIs and we still lost eight to seven.”
“For me, it was being faced with that little bit of adversity, and that’s for any company or entrepreneur that’s out there: you’re going to be faced with adversity. All people see is the end product of the major leagues. What people don’t see is the work that goes into it, the behind-the-scenes. What people don’t see is the jungle right in front of you because all you see is the mountaintops that are the major leagues. What people don’t understand is the jungle is what you have to go through to get to the mountaintop. The similarities in the business world mirror each other.”

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The Keys to Success
“To win, you have to have a good team. You have to have people that are aligned with the thoughts that you want to have, that are going to push you, that are going to make you better, that are going to make your business better and make everybody around you better. That’s how you win championships and that’s how you have a successful business.”
“It’s doing the stuff behind the scenes, it’s making the sacrifices and trying to completely better your business. You don’t want to have any assholes on your team. That’s point blank No. 1: No assholes on your team. You’ve got to have people that are wanting to sacrifice, wanting to work, wanting to build this company or build this enterprise up to where it is a championship [contender].”  
“The mindset for me, honestly, is cut and dry. I’m not going to let anybody dictate what my worth is, point blank. You’re going to run into people that say no, you’re going to have doors shut in your face. The first thing is you have to believe in your product, you have to believe in what you’re putting out there. And if someone else doesn’t believe it? Oh well. There’s somebody out there that does and you continue to work until you find that person that does and can help you. In the meantime, it’s continuing to put in, and put in, and put in all the work that you need to give. It’s not being deterred by any means.”
The Part Athletes Can Play
“It dates back to the older days of marketing where they would hand you a product. ‘Here it is! Smile, cheese, and say Hey, buy this product.’ A lot of that has changed. Before, the athlete would get their paychecks, their endorsement check and whatnot, but you didn’t really know what your value was. Now, because of all the social media platforms, you know what your value is. Now you have the Lebrons and the KD, where they can physically see what their value is that they can bring to a company to help grow that company with their multi-millions of followers on different social platforms.”
“The goal of what we’re doing with the Athlete Venture Group is basically take the athlete and help them help businesses. Having a guy like a Ralph Sampson, or having a guy like DeMarco Murray, being able to utilize their social capital, or my social capital, is something that can be very beneficial to all of these different businesses and startups.”
(Photo credit: Hunter Martin/Getty Images)
Entrepreneur Role Models 
“I’d have to look at Jay-Z. Ten, 15 years ago Jay-Z was just a rapper, now Jay-Z’s one of the biggest moguls in the world. You have to look at Lebron, you have to look at Steph, you have to look at KD and Andre Iguodala. You have to look at what those guys are doing.”
“And before those guys, you’re looking at the Michael Jordans of the world, the Magic Johnsons of the world. And it’s understanding, again, that everybody has those trials and tribulations. Even Michael Jordan, the great Michael Jordan, got cut his sophomore year from his basketball team, but was still able to take that, grow from it, use it, and he is where he is today.”
The Potential of Wearable Devices
“I would have loved to have wearables. As an athlete, you want to be able to to be as efficient with your time as you possibly can. Even if you’re willing to put in the work, you want to work as efficiently as possible. Wearables tell you ‘this is how much you’re doing, you’re putting out more than you need to put out because this chain of muscles isn’t firing so you’re overworking which is thus going to lead to fatigue which is thus going to lead to a potential injury.’ When you have a device that helps you understand your body and where you’re trying to go, you minimize your risk of injury which is going to keep you on the field.”
“When wearables were first coming in, there was this fear about potentially using that data against you in contract negotiations and whatnot. But if you understand that the organization is a business, and thus is looking at potentially investing in you, so they need to know what they’re going to get into, which will help them protect their investment, which will help us all win championships. Thus you have success and they have success … it’s a win-win situation. You’re in this informational age and you’re able to use that data to try to make your team more efficient.”


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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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