A group of sports organizations is making a big bet on sports tech through a three-year, multi-million-dollar partnership with a worldwide entrepreneurship network. The Indiana Sports Corp., NCAA and Pacers Sports and Entertainment are among the founding partners of a sports tech accelerator that will launch in Indianapolis with the backing of Colorado-based Techstars. Techstars SportsTech Accelerator Powered by Indy will select 10 companies from throughout the world each year to come to Indianapolis for a three-month program to push development of technology that will meet sports sector needs including fan engagement, safety and merchandising.
Indiana’s Next Level Fund is also a founding partner of the program. Supporting partners include the Indianapolis Colts, Verizon IndyCar Series and Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The 2019 Indianapolis 500 will serve as a kick-off event for the accelerator program. Techstars and partnering organizations will select 10 tech companies each year to take part in the program, which will be housed in the NCAA Engagement Center in Indianapolis’ 16 Tech innovation district. The companies will also have the opportunity to take part in a "Demo Day" in front of some of Techstars’ worldwide network of investors. Indiana Sports Corp. President Ryan Vaughn says, on average, about half of the companies that take part in Techstars accelerators keep some kind of presence in the city where they are accelerated.
Techstars, founded in 2006, is a Boulder-based entrepreneurship network that helps oversee 46 mentorship-driven accelerator programs. The group’s portfolio includes more than 1,400 companies with a market cap of $16 billion. Vaughn says Indianapolis is a natural fit for Techstars entry into sports accelerators because the state is home to several professional teams, the NCAA, Indianapolis Motor Speedway and several sports governing bodies. It has also hosted more than 450 national and international sporting events ranging from the 2012 Super Bowl to seven NCAA Men’s Final Fours.
Vaughn says the accelerator will help Indiana build a brand as a global sports technology leader. He says it will also help put the state and city on the "VC map," thanks to access to Techstars’ network of more than 10,000 founders, partners, mentors and investors.
He says the initial partnership includes three one-year accelerator cycles, but he hopes the partnership will last beyond the initial agreement period.