George Sun and its partner, the “Smart Thread” sports tech company, were keen on product development and early funding when they learned about the NBA LaunchPad program last year.
Sun, founder and CEO of Nextiles, a Brooklyn-based materials science startup, and John Peters, chief business officer of the company, are using the league’s third-party technology accelerator program to drive movement and pressure. I jumped at the chance to advance the idea for . – Capture fabrics and sensors that can create data-driven, performance-enhancing garments such as shooting/pitching sleeves, ankle sleeves, and knee sleeves.
So they applied online. And they were announced as the winners in his January. This meant we could leverage the league’s expertise, partners, technology and funding. Naturally, Sun applauds the program.
“We really enjoyed having access to multiple layers of decision makers in the NBA. “(The) NBA has done an amazing job. I was able to create the
The NBA Launchpad — at its core, a kind of technology business pitch program and incubator — is currently vetting hundreds of applications for its 2022-23 program.
While the original 2021-22 program focused on the NBA’s on-court priorities, primarily focusing on youth and adult player health and performance, and umpire training and development, this year, fans Added off-court aspects such as improving the experience.
Below are the official categories for 2022-23 in the league’s own language.
- Basketball: Prevention and recovery from soft tissue injuries. Healthy Playing Habits, Game Disruption in Youth Basketball (Open Category)
- Fan Experience: Game making and viewing experience.Seating Experience; Sports Betting Experience
The application period for the current program opened on September 15th and ended on October 27th. The league and its partners are currently in the review process. There is no fixed number for the number that can be selected. Based on ideas, business cases, and applied science, a few from each topic category will be selected and presented to a panel of leagues, teams, and subject matter experts, following NBA Launchpad guidelines.
One winner will be selected from each category, likely to be announced in January, enter a six-month R&D period, and be open to league officials, partners and potential investors at the NBA Summer League Demo Day. pitch in front of There is no guarantee that the project will be able to obtain funding or league contracts.
Last year, five companies were selected from hundreds of submissions to proceed with the process. Applicants from 25 countries ranged from mature companies to early-stage startups, according to the league.
Besides Nextiles, other winning ideas include a German ankle brace manufacturer, a UK virtual reality training service, a California company’s 3D performance tracking program, and an LA-based company’s mental health app.
Nextiles, who also developed a lightweight, portable fabric force plate, continues development and validation testing to ensure it can be used in the NBA. The intention is to sell Nextiles products directly to his NBA team and, ultimately, to anyone playing basketball who needs the insight that the technology provides.
Sun said the company was a little further along in both development and funding when the NBA LaunchPad came out. He said the program has helped Nextiles gain name recognition and credibility as it continues to develop its technology and raise more funding.
“This is really the next (capital) raise where the NBA is a strong voice for us,” Sun said.
In June, the company announced a $5 million seed funding round led by Drive by DraftKings, with additional funding from the NBA, Madison Square Garden Sports Corp., Alumni Ventures, SmartSports, Phoenix Capital Ventures, and Newlab. I was.
That funding was separate from the NBA Launchpad, but Sun said the program was invaluable to the company and the league was more involved than he expected.
“It was amazingly hands-on,” he said. “They responded well.”
The idea to formalize the pitch-to-NBA process was born in 2019, but the pandemic delayed its debut until 2021.
Matt Wolf, NBA Head of Strategy and Innovation, who will oversee the program, said:
The game viewing/presentation category is of particular interest due to the evolving media consumption habits of younger fans. This is paramount to the league’s future and what many advertisers are looking for in the changing landscape of TV and live game streaming.
The NBA did not set specific parameters for the categories as they are looking for a variety of potential ideas, technologies and more.
“We intentionally left this large area to see what’s out there,” Wolfe said. “We’re thinking about something specific about the viewing experience: how technology will change the way games are presented to fans as we move to digital.”
The league launched the new NBA app earlier this year and plans to use it as a key part of its fan engagement strategy going forward. This app is a potential beneficiary of external ideas via NBA Launchpad.
“If there’s an interesting technology we can incorporate into our app to improve the fan experience, that’s what we’re looking for,” said Wolf.
This includes back-of-house technology for capturing, producing and delivering game content, he said. Interesting ideas backed by NBA Launchpad can be tied to the league’s media rights holders, ESPN and Turner Sports, where appropriate. ESPN and Turner Sports will pay the NBA a total of $24 billion through 2024-25 to broadcast live games.
The league is reportedly seeking up to $75 billion in its next round of media rights deals. This may include streaming-only game sets. So the NBA is interested in ideas in that area.
As sports betting is legalized interstate, gambling is widely seen as a potentially large source of revenue in sports leagues.
“On the sports betting side, one of the challenges in this space is that sports betting rollouts are state-by-state. is getting a little bit harder,” said Wolf.
Data giant Sportradar will help the league evaluate stakes, he added. The league also wants a share of gambling revenue, but sees wagering as part of its engagement strategy to build and grow its fan base.
“Overall, we know that there is a relationship between people betting on NBA and sporting events and their consumption of NBA and sports content,” said Wolf.
NBA Launchpad finalists will be selected by the end of the year, after which a six-month research and development process will begin. At that time, the league connects companies with development support and investors. The league has an internal committee of experts who handle the submission evaluation process for the various tracks.
There is no single final decision maker as to who is selected for the program.
“No one. We intentionally envisioned this as a very collaborative process,” said Wolf. Executives from major leagues have a “significant voice” in the review process.
After a period of research and development, the winners will make a presentation at the NBA Summer League event in Las Vegas next July. With Demo Day audiences including NBA executives, owners and staff, as well as sports tech industry executives and potential investors, the NBA Summer League is like a laboratory for new ideas and products.
“The intention is an opportunity to front senior leagues and team executives focused on startups and technology, but also to continue building relationships in the areas of innovation and technology,” said Wolf.
He labeled the forthcoming project as “intentionally bespoke” rather than pushing into narrow expectations within the track. said Wolfe.
“We use this as an opportunity to see the interesting companies out there,” says Wolf.
League experts determine where companies are in the business and development lifecycle, link them with additional expertise, guidance and funding, and provide access to the league data they need, he said.
This has brought Nextiles closer to finalizing the product for future B2B or retail sales.
“We’re making a lot of strides to make a viable product that the NBA can use,” Sun said.
Also, if one of the selected NBA Launchpad ideas or products is more conceptual and perhaps not organized as a formal business, the league can help, Wolf said.
“In that scenario, it would be a more co-developed partnership,” he said. “The flexibility here is what makes this program so unique.”
Funding for companies that still need funding can come from outside investors, league partners, or the NBA itself.
“We intentionally leave all options open,” says Wolf.
And what is the status of last year’s winners? The league did not provide details.
“We continue to work with many of these companies,” said Wolf. “We have had a lot of success with the first iteration of NBA Launchpad and we maintain relationships with several companies that we continue to build relationships with.”
It remains unclear when the 2021 winners will get to see the products used by the league and its players.
“The time frame for these to be implemented and visible to NBA fans is flexible, as is the design of the relationship,” Wolff said.
The league is ready to alert 30 teams along with other products and news when products in the NBA Launchpad pipeline become available.
“We will continue to use the mechanisms we have to give teams the opportunity to provide interesting information,” said Wolf. The league holds regular meetings and phone calls with the team’s front office to share best practices, discuss emerging trends, and identify companies that can advance business goals.
Interestingly, NBA team governors include Mark Cuban of the Dallas Mavericks, who has invested in a number of sports tech companies over the years, and since 2011 has hosted ABC’s “Shark Tank” business reality show. is widely known as one of the investors in
However, he is not involved with the NBA Launchpad.
“I think it’s great that we’re doing it. But I’m not involved in any decision-making,” Cuban said in an email.
Wolf said the league is proud to be at the forefront of technology and innovation. We hope NBA Launchpad will help us maintain and grow our loyal paying fan base well into the future, along with in-game ideas that can help players and the basketball side.
“Fortunately, our fans are young, diverse, tech-savvy, and the type of consumer who is excited about embracing technology.
(NBA Launchpad logo image / launchpad.nba.com)