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Diamonds in the [Tech] Rough: Unveiling HYPE’s Game-Changing Strategy for Sports Startups

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Diamonds in the [Tech] Rough: Unpacking HYPE’s Game-Changing Strategy for Sports Tech Startups

In 2016, we embarked on a bold journey with the launch of HYPE, fueled by a vision to bridge the gap between sports tech startups and industry giants. My co-founder, armed with invaluable insights from Adidas, and I leveraged our deep networks to champion the cause of emerging innovators. Our mission was straightforward: to forge transformative partnerships that could redefine the sports industry.

The Startup Founder Strategy

The first failure:

We initiated a program dedicated to identifying and nurturing startups that represented the real “diamonds” of innovation. Despite our enthusiasm and industry connections, the path proved more arduous than we anticipated. None of the startups managed to secure a deal or even a pilot test with the brands during that period. The feedback was, not good timing, not my current focus…

The Pivotal Moment:

This was a pivotal moment for us at HYPE, presenting a steep learning curve and leading us to a crucial realization: understanding that first we need to have the specific needs and challenges of brands!

This insight significantly shifted our focus. We began to engage more deeply with the brands, aligning our strategies to effectively serve both the startups and the established players. Building on this new approach, we have introduced a tailored initiative for 20 specific brands, meticulously designed to address their unique challenges and requirements. This program aimed to facilitate meaningful and impactful collaborations, ensuring that both startups and brands can thrive together in this vibrant ecosystem.

As HYPE continues to evolve, we are proud to mark this significant milestone. We have refined our approach to create an environment where innovation aligns seamlessly with practical, market-driven needs. 

Below are the five main elements that sport tech startups should consider when approaching sports properties, enriched with real-life examples from the industry:

1. Understanding the Property’s real Needs and Goals

Before approaching a sports property, it’s crucial for startups to have a deep understanding of the property’s specific challenges and strategic goals. This knowledge allows them to tailor their technology solutions and proposal to address these needs effectively.

Case Study: During the peak of COVID-19 one of our GVA 1 companies, had a specifically well-tailored solution to the needs of our partner Miami Dolphins. Miami Dolphins were after a touchless journey for their fans, and Pronto quickly customized an offer based on their NFC Tech to ultimately seal not only a pilot but a commercial deal with Miami Dolphins, resulting in thousands of fans enjoying a seamless journey from parking to stadium and tailgate once fans returned to games.

2. Proving Your Value Proposition

Startups must articulate a clear and compelling value proposition that distinguishes their technology from competitors. This involves demonstrating the technology’s benefits and its potential impact on the sports property’s operations.

3. Present a know brainer Pilot proposition:

Startups must articulate a clear and compelling/easy/risk-free Pilot . This involves demonstrating the Potential ROI and a glimpse into the solution benefits and its potential impact on the sports property’s operations.

4. Scalability and Integration

It’s essential for startups to ensure that their technology can scale and integrate with existing systems of sports properties. This ensures seamless adoption and functionality at larger scales.

Case Study: FanFest, a fan engagement startup joined HYPE in 2020, and with only a prototype available and a short piece of code, they were able to pitch the concept to PSG and secure a deal which resulted in the product scaling and fully implemented show regularly with the English fan base of PSG.

5. Compliance and Security

Startups need to adhere to all relevant regulations and demonstrate that their technology is secure. This builds trust with sports properties concerned about data privacy and system integrity.

Case Study: Mindfly.live, HYPE Alumni successfully implemented their technology with our partner 1.FC Köln in a unique innovation match. The footage generated within the match comes under strict copyright protection and through transparent communication and synergy the club, startup and rightsholders together were able to leverage the footage to drive record-breaking engagement on social media.

6. Cultural Fit and Communication

The success of any partnership often hinges on the cultural fit between the startup and the sports property. Effective communication and shared values can greatly enhance collaboration efforts.

Case Study: Ultrawide Air, a HYPE Portfolio company based in Armenia completed a pilot with Indian-based Disney Star Sports in India, through the HYPE GVA Program, facing multiple cultural challenges and through efficient and transparent communication were able to deliver a top-class pilot in two different leagues.

Our early stumbles taught us a valuable lesson: understanding a brand’s specific needs is crucial. We shifted our approach, aligning our startup’s tech with these needs, turning initial setbacks into strategic wins. This change has been key to our growth, sharpening our focus and enhancing our partnerships.

Key strategies for securing successful deals also include building a strong network, showing flexibility in product adaptation, offering robust demonstrations, maintaining patience through lengthy decision processes, and ensuring clear legal frameworks. These strategies have proven essential in navigating the complexities of sports partnerships.

Femle Sports Tech Founder Pitching to Sports industry Executives

This blog is intended to guide and inspire those navigating the sports tech landscape, emphasizing the critical aspects of successful collaborations and the continuous evolution necessary to meet the changing dynamics of the industry. As we move forward with our new initiatives at HYPE, we remain committed to fostering an ecosystem where innovation thrives on the bedrock of practical, market-driven solutions.

Sports Tech Founder? – Join Our HYPE GVA 4.0 Program & Showcase Your Solution to Top Sports Brands. Apply Here.


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