Inside the Head of a Sports Tech Founder 🤯

A short dive into the mindset of a sports tech founder in an evolving ecosystem.

2 Min Read…

I discovered something quite concerning in recent discussions with some of the startup ecosystem’s founders in sports. All of them are ready to break into the sports industry and shape the future with their innovation, however, almost across the board, there seems to be some sort of a hindrance to entry – let’s term this as a ‘business block.’ Breaking into the big leagues can feel like punching a cement wall, from mismatching your product to their challenges or simply pitching your world changing solution to the wrong person in the organization. Below are some of the most dominant challenges I have recently encountered from founders with a bit of sporting flavour added.

⚽ Access Denied: Gaining entry into major sports brands often feels like trying to score from midfield, you can see the goalposts but the distance to glory is astounding. Time to elevate your pitch by focusing on only two main areas: aligning your solution with the brand’s vision and showcasing tangible ROI.

Suggestion: This is the 1st port of call, make sure the proposal includes a clear display of potential ROI alongside a timeline to manage expectations. Take it a step further and include multiple models that project the ROI Trajectory based on various scenarios which may arise, see the next point for an example of those scenarios from the brand’s perspective.

🏀 Long Shot Negotiations: Convincing decision-makers without prior connections and a listening ear on their end can seem like a three-pointer at the buzzer. And even once you’ve convinced them… You’re likely to come across point #4

Suggestion: When approaching large sports brands or properties, there is a lot at risk from their point of view. Thoroughly research, consult and prepare a multiangle approach that will address any potential threat or risk they will be particularly aware of, this includes everything from operational risk to financial and brand perception risk, and throw in one or two that they perhaps might not have thought about. In addition, business boils down to people, make sure to develop a healthy relationship with your go-to-person within their organisation, they will ultimately be your in-house champion to drive your solution forward on their end. This will pay off BIG in the long run.

🎾 Proof of Game: Demonstrating your tech’s impact can be as challenging as a grand slam tournament. Even the most seasoned people in innovation and solution management know that every demonstration has a slightly different element to it as the testing environment is never the same as the prior. Challenges to your implementation will always arise.

Suggestion: Make sure you have a case study or success story with a comparable entity. If this is not the case, work on generating a pilot for an organization with similar needs that however is not a competitor of your key prospect. Be open to feedback, and adjustment, while tracking every piece of data along the way, small incremental improvements create a major impact in the bigger picture.

🏈 Budget Blockers: Budget constraints can sideline even the most promising tech. But remember, money loves money.

Suggestion: Be open about your expectations and commitments, setting the right tone in the beginning will save a lot of bottlenecks and unpleasant situations along the way. Depending on the importance of this specific client in your quarterly, annual or overall roadmap you will want to create a mechanism that allows for the deal to go through regardless of current circumstances. Work with a 3rd party media sponsor, and find an investor with a specific interest in that sports property. Ultimately you want to create a no-brainer decision, money should not be the primary barrier.

If you are a sports tech founder, let’s talk. Introduce yourself and I would love to learn more about your tech and which of the big leagues we should get it into!

🥊 The Winning Play: Don’t sit on the bench. Be where innovation plays
You might be pleasantly surprised how many big dogs in the sports industry are looking to break boundaries with innovation.

Suggestion: Map the industry and influential players, even if they are not in your immediate basket of priorities. Make sure your name is on their radar, you never know when or where the next golden opportunity may appear. Often founders fall into the selling trap due to multiple sources of pressure, make sure to connect and nurture relationships for genuine interest. The more tight knit your relationship will be, even the brand will initiate more avenues of collaboration for you. These relationships when harvested with commitment and persistence will often generate some of your greatest ambassadors, bare in mind that, unfortunately, the opposite is also true.

PS: SportsTech Founder? If I missed one (And I probably did…) Feel free to contact me with yours so I can add it to the starting team 👆🏽

David Olwyn – VP Marketing & Digital at HYPE Sports Innovation


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