Comcast just launched a startup accelerator to help it grab a slice of the $32 billion sports-tech industry - and entrepreneurs looking for funding in 2020 should take note
- Comcast is launching a new startup accelerator focused exclusively on sports technology companies, a gambit by the cable giant to tap into the projected $32 billion industry.
- The company is partnering with startup bootcamp Boomtown Accelerators, as well as brands NBC Sports, Sky Sports, and Golf Channel, NASCAR, US Ski & Snowboard, and USA Swimming.
- Comcast is banking on that consortium of partners differentiating it from the pack of other similar incubators, according to Will Connors, president of Comcast Cable's central division.
- Each participant will receive a $50,000 investment and other perks, like discounted cloud storage from vendors like Amazon Web Services, totaling as much as $20 million in annual investments from Comcast.
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Comcast is trying to get a slice of the potentially $32 billion sports technology market.
The cable giant on Tuesday announced a new startup accelerator called SportsTech focused exclusively on helping industry entrepreneurs across the globe scale their small businesses. The deadline for applications is May 15, with the first class of startups beginning the three-month program in Atlanta in August 2020.
"We're at this really interesting intersection between technology and sport, and entrepreneurial innovation," Jenna Kurath, vice president of accelerator operations and partnerships at Comcast, told Business Insider. "We become this natural catalyst to be the right ones to bridge together startup founders and entrepreneurs who are looking to gain access into this space."
Despite its credentials - Comcast had $94.5 billion in revenue in 2018 - it is entering a crowded market. In 2019, for example, the nationwide incubator program TechStars launched a sports-focused accelerator in Indianapolis and is providing the 10 startups that are accepted every year $120,000 in investment. London-based HYPE Sports Innovation also announced last year a new, $75 million fund tailored to sports tech. Several athletic organizations, like Arsenal Football Club, have their own innovation hubs as well.
But the company is hoping its slate of partners will differentiate it from the other initiatives. Comcast brands NBC Sports, Sky Sports, and Golf Channel are all partners in SportsTech, along with NASCAR, US Ski & Snowboard, and USA Swimming. Helping to run the initiative is Boomtown Accelerators, a startup bootcamp based in Boulder, Colorado.
The consortium of partners gives the startups not only access to a wide spectrum of industry leaders who can provide valuable advice, but also help in solving potential challenges that may arise across different sports - especially critical insights, since many participants will be aiming to scale in the different verticals.
"Our biggest differentiator is the active participation level of all these large... multi-billion-dollar organizations," said Will Connors, president of Comcast Cable's central division, which encompasses 17 states.
'More eyeballs watch sports on our platform'
It's not Comcast's first attempt to build relationships with promising startups.
It launched LIFT Labs in Philadelphia in 2017, an accelerator tailored specifically for media and entertainment companies, as well as The Farm in Atlanta that is more broadly focused outside of Comcast's core businesses. Through those two ventures, the firm has equity in 60 startups.
The sheer number of sports tech companies that tried to get into those two programs led Comcast to launch one specific to the industry. "It started to force conversations within our organization," said Connors.
It also made it easier that Comcast already has such a presence in sports. The company paid $12 billion for exclusive rights to air the Olympics through 2032. It is also the title sponsor of the NASCAR Nationwide Series through 2024, among other commitments.
"We write more checks I think than anybody. On a consumption basis, more eyeballs watch sports on our platform around the world versus anybody else," Connors said.
Comcast will pour $50,000 into each startup for a minimum of 6% equity. Participants will have access to other perks - including discounted cloud storage from providers like Amazon Web Services, totaling as much as $20 million in annual investment - more than its other two accelerators.
In return, the partners involved will have the first opportunity for licensing agreements or potential acquisitions. The accelerator will focus on seven areas, including sports betting and fan engagement. Startups chosen for the incubator will sign on for three-month programs beginning in August 2020.
"We're constantly looking for new technologies that we can utilize to more efficiently deliver our content to consumers that are using these kinds of devices," Will McIntosh, executive vice president of digital and consumer business at NBC Sports, told Business Insider. "We think there's a big opportunity to create more interactivity inside of live sports content."
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