In April, the Dodgers put out a call for all startups “at the intersection of sports, technology, entertainment and media,” which resulted in nearly 600 applications from companies based in 34 countries, Dodgers CFO Tucker Kain reports.
Different from your typical Silicon Valley (or Silicon Beach, I suppose) accelerator, the 10 companies in the Dodgers’ program vary widely in stage, funds raised, and revenue. Instead of shaping themselves up to close a seed round, these companies will be leveraging the network of the Dodgers and R/GA to run pilots, forge partnerships and ramp up sales.
The 10 companies selected also represent a broad range of industries, from stadium management and mobile ordering to wearables and connected health software.
“It’s not just about coming up with a better baseball bat or working with the Dodgers,” says Stephen Plumlee, Managing Director of R/GA Ventures. “Our definition of sports is much broader than just the major leagues; it touches on things like fan engagement and data analytics that really have a global application.”
LeagueApps, for instance, a startup that has raised nearly $5 million since launching in 2011, is a platform for local sports organizers to manage everything from running a league to hosting a tournament in order to create better experiences for participants and parents.
FieldLevel, another later-stage company in the batch, is the primary athlete-recruiting software tool used among scouts, according to Plumlee.
On the opposite end of the spectrum are comparatively early-stage startups like Swish Analytics, an analytics platform for fantasy sports players, and FocusMotion, a company that tracks and analyzes movements recorded by wearables for developers building apps around that data.
Program mentors include Magic Johnson, Dodgers and Golden State Warriors co-owner Peter Guber, and MLB Advanced Media CEO Bob Bowman.
I asked Kain and Plumlee if they anticipate athletes, whether Dodgers players or others, to invest in this batch of companies, considering that both A-Rod and Derek Jeter have gotten in on the venture game recently.
“You see those guys, and the Carmelo Anthonys and the Shane Battiers of the world, using the brand and the profile that they’ve developed through their playing careers to create value for young companies,” Kain says. “We’re obviously a resource in that space and happy to have those conversations with all strategic investors, including athletes.”