Five Startups Accelerate in Lake Nona Courtesy of LeAD Sports and Health

By Andrew Cohen

The LeAD Sports & Health Tech Accelerator in Lake Nona, Fla., has graduated five startups from its second annual program. The four-month accelerator concluded with a Demo Day earlier this month and saw the five startups receive commitments for 65% of their combined funding goals.

 AI nutrition guide Kutai, oxygen monitoring ear device OxiWear, biometric health tracking app Point, blood flow restriction compression device Suji and fitness instructor schedule planner Indifit were the five startups to finish LeAD’s second cohort. They were accepted out of 495 applicants.

 Highlights from the program included Kutai securing a partnership with the Lake Nona Performance Club and three letters of intent from Genexia, Bio4Tech and LifeFactor. OxiWear raised $1.25 million in pre-seed funding during the accelerator, while Point received three acquisition/merger offers.

 Suji sold 200 of its units to 30 sports clients, including D1 college teams. Indifit signed deals with Barry’s, SoulCycle and Lululemon—and grew its revenue per instructor from $200 to more than $1,000 during the program. 

 The accelerator is a joint venture between Tottenham Hotspur majority owner Joe Lewis’s Tavistock Group and LeAD, a VC firm founded by a grandchild of Adidas founder Adi Dassler. The program is hosted at Lake Nona, a community near Orlando that uses Verizon’s 5G network to help startups test products and aims to be known as the “Silicon Valley of the East” for sports and health innovation.

Morgan Stanley Adds Financial Tips to Athlete Wellness App The Zone

By Joe Lemire

Mental wellness platform The Zone will now integrate Morgan Stanley’s financial tools and educational resources within its app for athletes. This is part of a partnership with the Global Sports & Entertainment division of Morgan Stanley announced on Tuesday. 

The experience of The Zone CEO Ivan Tchatchouwo, a Cameroonian native who had mental health problems while playing Division II college basketball, inspired the idea for the company. Young athletes input their mood and other information, and The Zone’s AI algorithms generate personal feedback and help connect users to helpful resources. So far, most of its partners are university athletic departments including Division I Lehigh University and Division II Seton Hill in Greensburg, Pa..

Studies have shown that financial stress has a demonstrable negative impact on college students’ performance in class and in sports. Morgan Stanley’s educational curriculum includes fundamentals of personal finance and tips toward starting on a path toward financial wellness. 

MaximBet Launches Free-to-Play App With $10,000 College Football Contest

By Andrew Cohen

MaximBet—a sports betting app founded through a partnership between men’s lifestyle brand Maxim Magazine and online gaming company Carousel Group—has launched its first free-to-play prediction offerings. The new MaximBet Play app was developed by online gaming software provider Splash Tech.

 A new gaming challenge on Maxim Bet Play will ask fans to correctly predict the outcomes of 25 college football bowl games played Dec. 28, 2021 through Jan. 10, 2022. Users will be competing for a piece of a $10,000 prize pool. Outside of cash prizes, the app also plans to offer the chance to win experiences such as a trip to attend the MaximBet Big Game Party in Los Angeles around the Super Bowl in February. 

 The MaximBet sports betting app is live in Colorado and has secured market access in Indiana, Iowa, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The company can now launch its free-to-play app in states where it does not yet operate its sportsbook. In September, MaximBet offered to pay $500 to any NCAA female athlete over the age of 21 in Colorado as part of an NIL marketing opportunity. 

Cinemark Movie Theaters to Screen ESPN’s College Football Playoff Broadcasts

By Dominic Massimino

Movie theater chain Cinemark has partnered with ESPN to screen the College Football Playoff Semifinals and National Championship in select theaters. The games will be shown in theaters across 19 states and 27 cities, including the local markets of all four playoff schools — Alabama, Michigan, Georgia and Cincinnati. 

 Fans will be able to reserve seats by purchasing a $10 concessions package at participating Cinemark theaters. Each showing will also show ESPN’s live pre-game studio programming, according to Market Watch.

ESPN has owned exclusive rights to air CFP games since 2014 through its 12-year deal reportedly worth about $470 million annually through 2025. Cinemark, which is based in Texas and operates 345 theaters across the U.S, also lets guests visit its theaters to play video games such as Mario Kart and Rocket League. 

Utah Jazz Add LGCY Power as Solar Energy Sponsor and All-Star Promoter for Donovan Mitchell and Co.

By Dominic Massimino

The Utah Jazz has announced a multi-year partnership with Utah-based solar energy company LGCY Power that anoints LGCY as the team’s exclusive solar energy provider. LGCY will receive the naming rights to Vivint Arena’s second-floor Legends Club, as well as branding throughout the arena and on game broadcasts. 

 LGCY will also serve as the presenting sponsor of the NBA All-Star voting campaign for Jazz players. The company will help organize voting efforts for the team, which sent three players to All-Star Weekend last season: guards Mike Conley and Donovan Mitchell and center Rudy Gobert. 

 Other teams to have signed renewable energy partnerships include English soccer’s Manchester United, MLB’s Los Angeles Dodgers and the NBA’s Washington Wizards. SolarFi, which makes solar powered pods for students to use as study spaces, recently partnered with the University of Alabama

Pixellot AI Cameras to Automate Sports Streaming in UAE

By Andrew Cohen

Pixellot has expanded its automated video production technology into both youth and professional sports venues in the United Arab Emirates. The Middle Eastern expansion for Pixellot comes through its new partnership with Dubai-based sports streaming app Cam Plus Sport.

 Pixellot’s AI camera system has been added to 11 venues in the UAE, including those for Sharjah FC, Al Ain FC and Al-Nasr—all of which play in the UAE Pro League, the country’s top tier of soccer. The system will also automate video streaming at The Sevens rugby stadium and Hartland International School in Dubai, as well as at venues for the UAE Futsal League and the UAE Handball Federation.

 More than 18,000 Pixellot systems are active in 57 countries across the world, with the Tel-Aviv-founded company expanding in May to cover high school sports in Africa. Pixellot, whose cameras follow the flow of ball and player movement during games and automatically zoom in or out, has developed products in partnership with FC Barcelona and records broadcasts for MLB’s new summer leagues for college players. 

 “This is an exciting partnership forged in the wake of the historic peace agreement signed in August 2020 between Israel and the UAE, unlocking business opportunities and increasing economic co-operation between our nations,” Pixellot CEO Alon Werber said in a statement. 

Crypto Firm FTX Is New Exclusive NFT Partner for the Washington Wizards, Capitals and Mystics

By Andrew Cohen

Cryptocurrency exchange FTX has reached a new multi-year deal with Monumental Sports & Entertainment to become the organization’s exclusive NFT partner. FTX will help launch NFTs for all MSE properties—including the Washington Wizards, Washington Capitals and Washington Mystics. 

 The Wizards mark the second NBA team in as many weeks to partner with FTX, who recently paid a reported $10 million to sponsor the Golden State Warriors, according to CNBC. MSE plans to integrate NFTs into fan engagement initiatives such as loyalty programs and digital commemorative tickets, which the NFL debuted last month.

 “Whether you describe it as NFTs or blockchain programs, I think ticketing is going in that direction,” Jim Van Stone, MSE’s president of business operations & CCO, told SportTechie. “Certainly, collectible tickets are, I think, a no brainer.”  

 MSE opened a Caesars Sportsbook inside its Capital One Arena in May, and Caesars has a jersey patch sponsorship with the Capitals. The organization’s sports betting tie-up is notable given FTX’s interest in sports betting, as the crypto exchange recently attempted to buy sports betting app PlayUp for $450 million.

Gympass Buys Personal Training App Trainiac to Expand Corporate Fitness Offerings

By Andrew Cohen

Corporate wellbeing platform Gympass has bought personal training app Trainiac. The acquisition boosts the number of fitness options available on Gympass, which offers memberships for companies looking to provide their employees with health and fitness benefits. 

 Trainiac pairs users with certified coaches to provide personal fitness programs. Its app shares workout schedules, tracks health metrics and enables video and text communication. In June, Gympass raised a $220 million investment round at a $2.2 billion valuation. 

 Gympass offers access to more than 50,000 gyms and studios, including chains such as Crunch Fitness, SoulCycle and Barry’s—as well as the mental wellness app Calm. Current corporations that use Gympass for their employees include McDonalds, Santander, Accenture, Unilever and KPMG.

Serena Williams, Michael B. Jordan Invest $1 Million During Startup Competition at Legacy Classic

By Andrew Cohen

Construction industry management app TracFlo won a startup pitch competition held as part of the inaugural Invesco QQQ Legacy Classic HBCU men’s basketball event played Saturday at the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ.

 Tennis star Serena Williams and actor Michael B. Jordan partnered with the competition to invest $1 million in TracFlo, whose app streamlines contractor documents and workflow operations for construction projects. The competition aimed to support startups founded by current HBCU students or alumni. 

 Williams invested through her Serena Ventures company, while Jordan contributed through MaC Venture Capital. Kevin Durant’s Thirty Five Ventures served as an advisor during the pitch competition, which was sponsored by Amazon’s Black Business Accelerator and Audible. 

 Saturday’s four-team Legacy Classic aired on TNT. The two-game event saw NC Central defeat Delaware State, while Howard University beat North Carolina A&T.

English Soccer Club Close to Being Purchased by U.S. Crypto Investors That Include 76ers President Daryl Morey

By Andrew Cohen

Philadelphia 76ers president Daryl Morey is part of a crypto-fueled investor group that is nearing a deal to buy an English soccer team. The group, Wagmi United, has not specified which team it is close to buying, but The Washington Post reported that the club is a member of the English Football League 

 Wagmi was founded by former ESPN sports betting analyst Preston Johnson and NFT entrepreneur Eben Smith, and its investors also include Gary Vaynerchuk. The group announced on Thursday that its transaction would mark the first sale of a professional sports team to be partially financed through cryptocurrency. 

 The investors told the Post that the club plays in one of the two lower EFL levels known as League One and League Two. Wagmi’s website reads “Crypto’s Road to the Premier League,” and the group intends to reinvest money made from NFT sales into analytics that would help the club reach the top level of English soccer. The team has already inked a deal with English sports data provider StatsBomb.

 Wagmi, which stands for “We’re All Gonna Make It,” will make its own crypto tokens to let holders access exclusive fan engagement opportunities—similar to the Socios fan token platform that has swept deals with teams across European soccer, the NBA, NFL and NHL.

 “I’m excited to be a part of it, and I look forward to working with Preston and the rest of the team to make sure our club has the best data and smartest analytics minds available,” Morey, the NBA’s data-driven executive and founder of the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, said in a statement. 

NBA Hires Gregg Winik, Executive Producer of Michael Jordan’s Last Dance, to Lead Content Production

By Joe Lemire

Gregg Winik, executive producer of the Michael Jordan docuseries The Last Dance, has been hired as the NBA’s new president of content and executive producer. 

Winik will oversee all live game production and multi-platform programming spanning the league’s many properties: the NBA, WNBA, NBA G League, NBA 2K League and Basketball Africa League. In the hiring announcement, Winik noted the “striking” opportunities that exist with premium direct-to-consumer platforms.

He will report to the NBA’s president of global content and media distribution, Bill Koening.  A 16-year veteran of NBA Entertainment from 1990 to 2006, Winik collaborated with broadcast partners and helped launch NBA TV.

 He left the league to start his own independent studio, Winik Media. In that role, Winik created CineSport, a digital video platform for newspapers. He also helped produce basketball-centric documentaries such as For Ball and Country on NBC’s Peacock about the U.S. men’s basketball team at the Tokyo Olympics.

 The Last Dance, a 10-part docuseries co-produced by ESPN and Netflix, won the 2020 Emmy for outstanding documentary or nonfiction series.