Dodger Stadium — Game three against the San Diego Padres. The stands are overflowing, and a feeling of excitement, tinged with apprehension, is in the air.
With the entire stadium aware that he has a shot at a new record, first baseman Adrian Gonzalez walks to home plate. He takes a deep breath, grips his bat tightly, and leans in. At precisely the right moment, he swings. The ball soars up and out of the park, and the crowd goes wild. Gonzalez has just hit his 5th home run in the Dodgers first three games of the 2015 season — a feat never previously achieved in major league baseball history.
Gonzalez, who four years ago signed an eight-year, $154 million contract, admits he still gets anxious making his approach to home plate. I recalled this fact as I sat in Dodger Stadium on Nov. 10th for a different kind of competition: The Dodgers Accelerator Demo Day. There I watched the founders of the ten companies chosen to participate walk onto that same infield. In contrast to Gonzalez, they were not surrounded by thousands of cheering fans; instead, they were being scrutinized by a 500-person gathering that included some of the most influential people in the world of sports and high finance.
Power Players Partner Up
Demo Day was the culmination of work that began in April of 2015, when the Los Angeles Dodgers and digital giant R/GA announced a joint accelerator program targeting innovative companies at the intersection of sports, technology, and entertainment.
“The sports industry is ripe with opportunities for innovation,” said Tucker Kain, chief financial officer of the Dodgers. “There are countless ways for new technology to create more powerful consumer experiences, heighten fan engagement, and improve efficiencies. We’re thrilled at the opportunity to work with some of the best sports-centric startups from the L.A. area and across the globe.”
To get the program started, the Dodgers and R/GA put out a call for relevant startups to apply. To their surprise, they received hundreds of applications from companies based in 34 countries around the world.
From the 572 applicants, 10 companies were selected to complete the intensive ten-week program. Leveraging the full resources of the Dodgers organization and the global digital and design prowess of R/GA, the Dodgers Accelerator provided the startups with unparalleled access to industry partnerships and distribution channels. For R/GA and the Dodgers, the goal was to support companies that were developing great products and services, as well as creating enduring customer experiences and, ultimately, valuable brands.
Calling the Dodgers Accelerator “a watershed moment for sports technology,” R/GA Managing Director Dylan Boyd said it was inspiring to see how each company took advantage of the connections, mentors, and opportunities offered to them, and to watch how they grew during their time in Los Angeles. “I’m grateful to the Dodgers and the L.A. community for embracing and nurturing these companies,” he said. “It’s one of the fastest growing tech communities I’ve seen in a long time.”