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The digitisation of sport is strengthening the ties between the worlds of sport and technology. This transformation is being driven not just by partnerships with big tech, but also by agile, innovative startups that bring fresh ideas to the table and are better equipped to react to changing trends.

SportsPro’s annual ‘ideas to invest in now’ list celebrates these emerging companies and identifies those worth keeping track of.

Once again, we’ve canvassed the opinions of a diverse group of experts from across the sports technology ecosystem to select 20 companies that should be on the radar of every investor and sports organisation in 2023.


ClubView

Country: UK

Funding stage: Unknown

Sector: Data and analytics

ClubView’s financial data platform allows soccer clubs to analyse their commercial performance in real time, rather than through retrospective reports, enabling better decision making. Aggregated, anonymised data provides teams with an understanding of how they perform compared to clubs of a similar stature, and offers insights into revenue mix, investment priorities, and expansion opportunities. The company currently supports 114 clubs in the UK, including all 72 English Football League (EFL) teams and the entirety of the Scottish Premiership, and has plans to expand into Europe.


Cue Audio Cue Audio

Country: USA

Funding stage: Unknown

Sector: Stadiums and venues

Stadiums are challenging environments for networks, but Cue Audio’s ultrasonic audio tech makes it possible for stadium and arena operators to connect with up to 120,000 smartphones without the need for a WiFi, mobile, or Bluetooth connection. The technology is used at more than 100 venues, including National Football League (NFL) stadiums and National Basketball Association (NBA) arenas, powering everything from light shows to multiplayer trivia.


EncoreIdeas to Invest in 2023 Encore

Country: USA

Funding stage: Pre-seed

Sector: Data and analytics

Encore believes Web 3.0 can transform the relationship between fans and the sports industry by allowing the former to ‘own’ their identity as an NFT. This ‘Fan ID’ gives individuals greater control over how their data is used and enables direct relationships between supporters, rights holders, and content creators. Fans are rewarded for their fandom and receive more personalised experiences, while teams and leagues benefit from better quality data, lower costs, and greater revenues.


Fantium

Country: Switzerland

Funding stage: Pre-seed

Sector: Web 3.0

Switzerland-based Fantium helps athletes fund their profession by allowing fans to purchase non-fungible tokens (NFT) that promise a share of seasonal or career earnings from prize money or sponsorship, as well as exclusive access and other incentives. Headquartered in the ‘crypto valley’ of Kanton Zug, the blockchain-based athlete financing platform has a portfolio of investors that includes 2020 US Open tennis champion Dominic Thiem, Sandbox co-founder Sebastien Borget, Sorare growth lead Brian O’Hagan, and OneFootball chief executive Lucas von Cranach, all of whom participated in a US$2 million pre-seed funding round last year.


Griiip

Country: Israel

Funding stage: Seed

Sector: Data and analytics

Griiip promises to revolutionise motorsport on and off the track. The firm was initially founded as a racing car production company that created the first Israeli-built sports car before deciding its data-gathering efforts were more valuable to both itself and the industry. It has created a data platform specifically for the motorsport sector, generating insights that can be used by bookmakers to unlock new markets, broadcasters to drive fan engagement, and drivers to enhance their performance. Its customers include Formula E and DTM, and the company counts Porsche Ventures among its backers. Griiip was named ‘best startup tech company’ at the 2022 SportsPro OTT Awards in Madrid.


HomeCourt

Country: USA 

Funding stage: Series B 

Sector: Athletic performance 

San Jose-based HomeCourt is an interactive basketball app that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to analyse player performance, providing metrics such as shot accuracy, speed and vertical jumps, to help players of all ability improve their skills. Founded in 2017, the company raised US$4 million in its initial seed funding round before delivering US$20 million in Series B investment in 2021. Investors include the NBA, Philadelphia 76ers and New Jersey Devils owner Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment (HBSE), Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, and tech giant Samsung. 


Iconome

Country: UK

Funding stage: Seed

Sector: Media and content

Jet Media Network’s Iconome wants to help athlete ‘icons’ build digital-focused communities and establish direct relationships with their fanbases, bypassing traditional platforms that control data and take a ‘disproportionate’ share of revenue. It offers athletes the tools and resources to build applications to reach and grow audiences, deepening these relationships and unlocking greater revenue opportunities. Former Brazillian soccer star Ronaldinho’s app is now live and the company says more than 25 are coming in 2023. A seed round in 2021 raised US$2.5 million, and the company is a SXSW Pitch finalist.


Nextiles

Country: USA

Funding stage: Seed

Sector: Data and analytics

Brooklyn-based Nextiles is creating smart fabrics that could generate entirely new sources of data for performance analytics and fan engagement applications. The technology meshes flexible electronics with sewing technology to create ‘smart threads’ that can be added to any fabric and transmit data using Bluetooth. The company raised US$5 million in seed funding last year, with Drive by DraftKings and the NBA, which included Nextiles in its inaugural Launchpad incubator initiative, among its backers.

Class of 2022 alumni: Where are they now? (Click to expand)

All 20 of the startups featured in the class of 2023 will be hoping to emulate the success of previous intakes. Five startups from the class of 2022 have had a big 12 months, achieving commercial success, attracting new partnerships, or raising fresh investment.

Fantasy sports startup ASX Sports inked a deal with Sportradar for data to power its virtual stock market and launched its first game in time for the Six Nations. It then raised €953,000 in crowdfunding in just seven days and is now preparing to launch a new version of its platform in early 2023.

No sooner had portable cycling computer Hammerhead been featured in last year’s list, it was acquired by bicycle component manufacturer SRAM, with its technology integrated with the latter’s existing hardware and software portfolio. 

Belfast-based Pitchbooking raised UK£500,000 to continue development of its platform, which makes it easy to find and book sports pitches, courts and halls, while simplifying the process for facility owners and operators.

StellarAlgo certainly lived up to its name with a stellar 2022. Fresh from a US$16.5 million funding round in 2021, the Canadian customer data analytics specialist signed a multi-year strategic partnership with the National Basketball Association (NBA) that involves the league’s equity investment arm taking an equity stake in the company.

Veo has gone from strength to strength, capitalising on growing demand for artificial intelligence (AI) video camera technology. It raised another US$80 million in a Series C funding round, meaning it has now secured US$113 million in funding.


nVenue

Country: USA

Funding stage: Seed

Sector: Betting and gaming

nVenue is a predictive analytics and micro-betting technology platform helping bookmakers and broadcasters generate value from every moment in every game. Its machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) technology crunches historical and real-time data to generate real-time probabilities in the NFL and Major League Baseball (MLB). This zero-latency feed has been used by Apple TV to engage fans during its MLB coverage, while bookmakers can automatically create short-term markets and set odds, dramatically increasing the number of betting opportunities in a single contest. The Dallas-based company has so far raised US$4.6 million in funding.


OnePlan

Country: UK 

Funding stage: Series A 

Sector: Stadiums and venues 

OnePlan’s event management platform has been used to organise more than 8,000 events since the company’s launch in 2019. Its technology uses real-time data to make it easier to plan sporting events and make real-time changes by providing unprecedented visibility over venue capacity, the size of the site, and crowd dynamics. Customers include World Triathlon and various NBA and NFL franchises, while OnePlan will create digital twins for all competition venues for the Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games next summer. A Series A funding round in April 2022 garnered US$5.3 million, bringing the company’s overall valuation to US$58 million.


Playermaker

Country: UK 

Funding stage: Unknown

Sector: Athletic performance 

Israeli-founded and UK-headquartered Playermaker has developed a boot-based wearable to collect previously unobtainable player movement data. This insight can boost performance and provide additional metrics for broadcasters eager to give fans a greater understanding of the game they are watching. Playermaker is part of Fifa’s Preferred Provider initiative for electronic performance and tracking systems (EPTS), paving the way for the technology to be used in real matches, while it recently teamed up with AI specialist Pixellot.


Quintar

Country: USA

Funding Stage: Seed

Sector: Augmented Reality (AR)

Silicon Valley-based Quintar is using augmented reality (AR) to develop immersive sporting experiences for fans at home or in the stadium. Founded by Intel Sports’ former chief technology officer Sankar Jayaram and managing director of global business development Jeff Jonas, its technology creates real-time graphical overlays featuring statistics, tracking and other elements synchronised to the field of play on a smartphone, television or even a wearable device. Arguably its most high profile partnership is its role as official mobile AR developer for the PGA Tour. So far, the company has raised US$3 million, with SeventySix Capital among the key investors.


ScorePlay

Country: Portugal

Funding stage: Unknown

Sector: Media and content

ScorePlay’s media asset manager is designed specifically for the sports industry, serving athletes, teams, federations, leagues, and broadcasters. It offers intelligent, powerful tools for internal and external collaborators to create content for social channels, support marketing campaigns, and add value for commercial partners. Today, the company works with more than 100 sports organisations and in July 2022 raised €1 million in a seed funding round. Its backers include Sorare chief executive Nicolas Julia and Fifa World Cup winner Mario Götze.


Shot Scope

Country: UK 

Funding stage: Series A 

Sector: Athletic performance 

Golf has proved to be a fertile ground for sports tech startups with elite and amateur players eager to adopt new innovations that will improve their game. Scotland-based Shot Scope’s wearable tech tracks individual performance, providing detailed insights that improve decision making on the course. A recent Series A funding round led by Guinness Ventures and involving the Scottish Investment Bank, Edinburgh-based Equity Gap, and the University of Edinburgh’s venture capital division Old College Capital raised UK£2.7 million (US$3.3 million) to fund further expansion.


Sportlight

Country: UK

Funding stage: Seed

Sector: Data and analytics

A spin-off from defence and transport technology developer Createc, Sportlight is developing AI and Lidar-powered athlete tracking tools. The British firm was founded in 2017 and already works with a host of Premier League soccer clubs. It now plans to expand into other sports and last July it raised UK£4 million (US$5 million) in an investment round that included Sport Republic, Bolt Ventures, and City Football Group (CFG) chief financial officer Andy Young.


Sportswik

Country: Sweden

Funding stage: Unknown

Sector: Media and content

Sportswik is a white label social media platform for sports organisations who might lack the resources of a major sports property, but still want to expand reach and drive engagement without sacrificing control over the experience or data to a third-party platform. Sportswik makes it simple to distribute live scores, digital content and video highlights, while it includes tools for personalised marketing and sponsorship campaigns that maximise the impact of commercial partnerships. Its users include the Swedish Football Association (SvFF), which has more than 450,000 unique users alone. 


Stadium Live

Country: Canada

Funding stage: Series A

Sector: Media and content

Stadium Live was founded in 2020 with the intention of creating digital environments, or digital playgrounds, for younger fans. Its mobile metaverse platform combines social network features with short-form sport-focused gameplay and customisable avatars. It raised US$10 million in a Series A funding round last year, and its investors include the NBA, Kevin Durant’s ThirtyFive ventures and Dapper Labs. It has also secured a partnership with Fan Controlled Football (FCF).


Stakes

Country: USA

Funding stage: Seed

Sector: Betting and gaming

At first glance, Stakes’ online wagering platform might seem like many of its counterparts across the US, but for one key difference – that users place bets for NFTs rather than cash. The company held a US$5.3 million seed funding round last May and recruited former NBA vice president Sami Li to become an investor and strategic advisor in the gambling firm, as it seeks to capitalise on an expanding betting market in the US and the adoption of Web 3.0 in sport.


Tempus Ex Machina

Country: USA

Funding stage: Unknown

Sector: Media and content

Tempus Ex Machina uses AI, machine learning and data science technologies to help sports organisations, such as the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers, deliver interactive experiences during live events. The company is also working with the Pac-12 conference to help student athletes produce monetised name, image, and likeness (NIL) content for social media. In 2021, the San Francisco-headquartered firm closed a Series B funding round led by private equity giant Silver Lake and Endeavor, the parent company of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), and appointed Arizona Cardinals legend Larry Fitzgerald to its board of directors.


Trajektory

Country: USA

Funding stage: Seed

Sector: Spontech

Chicago-based Trajektory is billed as a one-stop-shop for sponsorship data, helping sports organisations deliver more in-depth and accurate reports for their commercial partners. It promises a more frictionless experience than using multiple reporting tools and claims to save teams more than 1,000 hours when compared to more manual processes. By being able to provide simple, regular reporting, Trajektory promises to build relationships and aid retention. It has customers from across the major US leagues and in July 2022 it raised US$4 million in a seed funding round.

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