Tech Talk: Early-stage pitches at the Super Bowl
Both the NFL and the NFLPA’s OneTeam Collective held early-stage company competitions in Minneapolis, and they are among the events I get the most out of during Super Bowl week, as I learn about new technology and innovation.
The NFL held its third annual 1st and Future event at The Guthrie Theater on a snowy Saturday morning. Its first competition, at Stanford Business School, was geared toward new tech and the fan experience. In the past two years, its focus has been on health, wellness and injury prevention.
Ten companies pitched to the NFLPA
- Bio-tech company FitBiomics
- Matthew Berry’s Fantasy Life
- Video hub WePlayed
- Female sports content company The Relish
- Augmented reality company Altered Reality Corp.
- Sports glove and training company PowerHandz
- Body cleaning wipe ShowerPill
- Digital media brand CampusLore
- Online sports gear marketplace SidelineSwap
- Augmented reality company Octi
Nine companies pitched at the NFL’s 1st and Future event
- Helmet device company Exero Labs
- Zorbz absorbing helmet company VyaTek Sports
- Athlete treatment company Cartilage Repair System
- Eye tracking platform EyeGuide
- Recovery connected device RecoverX
- Biometric tracking and sleep enhancement company Aladdin Dreamer
- Athlete development platform Curv.ai
- 3-D motion tracking company Xensr
Nine companies had five minutes to make pitches with five minutes of Q&A from seven judges across three categories: Advancements in Protective Equipment; New Therapies To Speed Recovery; and Improving Athletic Performance. The winners were liquid-crystal elastomer company Impressio (Equipment), athlete development platform Curv.ai (Performance) and recovery device RecoverX (Recovery). RecoverX has Courtside Ventures, basketball agent Wes Wesley and former NBA Commissioner David Stern among its investors.
Winners received $50,000 and two tickets to Super Bowl LII.
During a panel discussion while the judges were making their decisions, Commissioner Goodell was asked if the 1st and Future could be turned into a full-fledged televised program (it was streamed live on NFL.com and NBCSports.com), and Goodell deftly and sarcastically told moderator Scott Hansen of NFL Network, “If we could find a good host for it, we might.” NBCUniversal’s Mark Lazarus chimed in, “We are in if it’s a part of our rights fee.”
The NFLPA’s OneTeam Collective Pitch Day featured 10 companies that sought funding, consulting and access to PA group licensing rights. The 10 companies were selected from more than 400 applications, with the process being handled by the athlete advisory board of the collective — which includes active NFL players — as well as executives from Blackrock, Kleiner Perkins, Madrona, Intel, Harvard Business School, LeadDog and Sports Innovation Lab.
At a hip WeWork location, each company had six minutes to present, with a brief Q&A. Augmented reality company Octi took the top prize of $10,000 in player marketing, consulting with OneTeam Collective and a pair of Super Bowl tickets. Octi had a few things that stood out: Prominent investor backing from Goldman Sachs COO David Solomon, Snap board member Scott Miller and WeWork’s Shiva Rajaraman, among others, as well as its proprietary technology where fans can use their phone to create augmented reality content geared toward a young audience. Whoop, the human performance company that won last year’s Pitch Day, eventually received investment funding from OneTeam Collective.