Last month, the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers announced the first participant in their new innovation lab. They also named a Managing Director for the project, Seth Berger. Via Philadelphia Magazine, Berger said “[The owners] are really forward-thinking about ways they can use the Sixers to build businesses—and not just businesses that are directly related to sports. This team and this organization is so connected in so many different industries that we can help many businesses grow.”
According to the 76ers website, the innovation lab “supports rapidly growing, early-stage companies in the consumer product space and provides speed and flexibility, individualized, industry-leading consulting and investment opportunities to startups with potential.”
This past September, news broke that the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings plan to house a startup accelerator inside their new state-of-the-art practice facility. Vikings Chief Operating Officer Kevin Warren told NFL.com “We’re looking to take advantage of opportunities at the intersection of sports, technology, business and community. We’re interested in incorporating what we see into our own operations.”
In the spring of 2015, Major League Baseball’s Los Angeles Dodgers were the first pro sports team to undertake this sort of venture. The Dodgers created their Sports, Technology and Entertainment Accelerator with the intention of improving the experience of their fans.
Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times wrote the following in April of 2015:
“Under the ‘Dodger Accelerator’ program launched Tuesday, the team will shepherd 10 start-up ventures for three months, with the hope of developing technologies to enhance sports and entertainment events. The Dodgers, like all sports teams, are flooded with proposals intended to help them serve their fans better and operate their facility more efficiently. In a program the team believes is the first of its kind in the sports industry, the Dodgers are soliciting ideas and furnishing the support that could bring them to fruition.”
Franchises from three of the four major American pro sports leagues have created (or announced plans to) versions of innovation labs in the last 18 months. Will this soon become the norm across the NBA, NFL, MLB, and the NHL as well?
Dodgers Chief Financial Officer Tucker Kain thinks so, and he’s pleased to see other teams following in his club’s footsteps. Kain recently told GeekWire that he eventually expects this sort of thing to “be a real portion of what it means to operate and own a sports team. … The accelerator model is one that can position an organization to be open to change and innovation. I like seeing other organizations do this, because one of us is going to help incubate and accelerate something that will change the face of our industry and benefit everybody.”
There’s no doubt that technology is taking the professional sports world by storm, and WHOOP aims to play a key role going forward.
Oh, by the way, WHOOP was born in an i-lab as well.