🔗 🏉 Sept Recap: NFL, MotoGP & Rugby World Cup Embrace NFTs. $1.49B in Sports Tech Invest., Up +827% In Sept.

Whoop Enters Smart Clothing Space.

Dear Colleague,

We had another busy month of September in the world of elite sports. In the world of soccer, all the major European soccer leagues are now back in full swing.

In Tennis, Djokovic did not win its 21th grand slam title at the US Open, defeated by Russian sensation Medvedev. Emma Raducanu, the 18-year-old qualifier from Great Britain, shocked the world by becoming a Grand Slam champion after beating Leylah Fernandez for the US Open title.

In the NFT/Blockchain space, the NFL, Moto GP and the Rugby World Cup embraced NFTs announcing strategic partnerships. Sorare & Dapper Labs banked on NFTs, raising $680M and $250M, respectively. They now have a combined valuation of $10B+. In the world of AR/VR and digital, Facebook launched its Ray Ban Connected glasses and announced a $50M fund dedicated to the Metaverse ecosystem, nReal raised $100M, and Xiaomi unveiled its smart glasses concept. In the world of wearables, Whoop raised another $200M and entered the smart clothing market. Apple unveiled its new Apple Watch Series 7 and Apple Fitness+ got an upgrade with new workout types.

In the world of sports tech investments, investments reached $1.49B in September, up +827% from August. You can see the details in the investments section below.


As a reminder, we launched our new Upside Global platform to bring together our sports, tech & health community of 2,500 executives under a single web platform. Members include executives from the NBA, NFL, NHL, MLS, MLB, Laliga, English Premiere League, Ligue 1, Bundesliga, Series A, Brazilian soccer league, Olympic teams, Pro tennis, as well as representatives of startups, brands, VCs, and athletes.

If you are a head athletic trainer, CTO, CMO of a major sports team or league looking to connect with the most innovative startups or connect with your peers to network, or if you are a startup CEO looking to connect with top teams or investors, you can join our Upside community of executives from the NBA, NFL, NHL, MLS, MLBLaliga, English Premiere League, Olympic teams, top VCs, startups (AR, VR, wearables, sleep tech..) and more!

Your opportunity for growth starts now, create your free executive profile today to join our online community and click on “become a member today” as a first step. It is free to join! It only take one minute to create your profile.

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📰 Top Stories We’re Reading This Month

⭐ Upside Analysis: Best Practices on how to build & Sell a Sports Performance Product to Pro teams

⭐ Outdoor GPS Market: Key Vendors, Trends, Recommendations to Pro Teams

⭐ Sports Betting, The Key To Allow Wearables During NBA Games & A New Major Revenue Opportunity For the NBA & Other leagues.

⭐ Upside VC Spotlight: Aser Ventures

🔗  NFL and Dapper Labs plan to launch an American football-focused NFT market

🔗  Sorare & Dapper Labs Bank on NFTs, Raising $680M and $250M, respectively

🔗  SLAM sells on Autograph, first NFT for the 2022 Asian Games

🔗  MotoGP launches Hot Shots, UEFA partners with Topps

🔗  Basketball NFTs from the Sixers and John Wall

🔗  Rugby League World Cup NFTs, big investment for new RECUR platform

🎮  Facebook Debuts its Ray Ban Stories Smart Sunglasses

🎮  Xiaomi shows off concept smart glasses with MicroLED display

⌚ Performance monitoring platform Whoop expands into smart apparel

⌚​ ​Apple Watch Series 7 brings bigger screen and tweaked design

⌚ Apple Fitness+ adds new workout types – integrates more with Apple Watch

💸 Startup investment recap (September/August 2021)

📊 Tech Stats of the month

📸 Snapshots & videos of the Month

Let’s jump right into the insights and upside for all of these top stories


⭐ Upside Analysis: Best Practices on how to build & Sell a Sports Performance Product to Pro teams

We have been working with pro teams in the MLS, NBA, NFL, NHL, MLB, European soccer, pro tennis, pro rugby as well as Olympic teams for 10 years, and oftentimes we come across great sports performance products (sleep tech, hydration assessment, neurotech, injury prevention tools, GPS..) but many of them do not get enough traction for many reasons. Sometimes the product does not fit into the sports performance’s and athletes’ workflow. Other times the product is too expensive, or the management team of the startup just does not know how to work with pro teams. In this analysis we will go through what we believe are the best practices to build and sell a sports performance product to pro teams and leagues.

To Read the full Upside analysis, click here.

⭐ 🛰️ Outdoor GPS Market: Key Vendors, Trends, Recommendations to Pro Teams

With 20+ leading GPS vendors (Catapult, STATSports, WIMU, McLloyd..) in the market today, GPS systems have become one of the most common tech used by pro teams today. Simply put, sports teams have to pick the right GPS system that fits their requirements, use cases, budget, and GPS accuracy requirements. In this analysis we will discuss the current and future market trends, VC/M&A investment trends, the GPS vendor ecosystems, and the key GPS vendors. We will also provide recommendations to pro teams looking to adopt a GPS solution. 

To Read the full Upside analysis, click here.

⌚💸 Sports Betting, The Key To Allow Wearables During NBA Games & A New Major Revenue Opportunity For the NBA & Other leagues.

Up until now the NBA has not allowed the use of wearables during live NBA games. But we believe that this will soon change thanks to sports betting. In this analysis we will explain the state of wearables in the NBA and other sports leagues, how sports betting will be a game changer, and how others leagues such as the NFL are now all in with sports betting as they see a new significant revenue opportunity, and a way to recover from the negative impact of COVID-19.

NBA star banned from wearing Whoop wearable

To Read the full Upside analysis, click here.


Upside Podcast Interviews of the Month

🔥 Upside Chat: Mark French, X2 Performance CEO

🔥 Upside Chat: Dr Ron Dick, Duquesne University on COVID-19, Messi, Clubs' Debts, Sports Betting, and Tom Brady.

🔥 Upside Chat: Machar Reid, Innovation Lead (Tennis Australia)

🔥 Upside Chat: Stan Larroque (Lynx CEO), leader in AR/VR/MR

🔥 Upside Chat: Quin Sandler, Plantiga CEO


⭐ Upside VC Spotlight: Aser Ventures

To Read the full Upside analysis, click here.


🔗 NFT Sports News

🔗  NFL and Dapper Labs plan to launch an American football-focused NFT market: | Via : The Block

The National Football League (NFL), NFL Players Association (NFLPA) and Dapper Labs, creators of the popular NFT projects like NBA TopShot and CryptoKitties, are reportedly planning to launch an American football-oriented NFT marketplace. Sports Business Journal reported on the deal Tuesday, citing anonymous sources. The site reported that the NFL and NFLPA will acquire equity in Dapper Labs, and that the new American football NFT marketplace is predicted to arrive before the end of this year’s football season in early January of 2022. 

Much like with the popular NFT platform NBA TopShot, this new platform would allow users to buy and sell trading card-like NFTs of NFL sports highlights, per the report. Dapper Labs secured $250 million in funding earlier this month, The Block previously reported, bringing the startup’s total valuation to $7.6 billion. Dapper Labs raised $305 million earlier this year. 

⬆️ The Upside: This is an interesting change of event as initially the NFL banned NFTs. Now that they have equity into Dapper Labs, one of the most talked about NFT vendors in the world, they can get some skin in the game. The NFL is looking to replicate the success of Top Shot, Powered by Dapper labs, in the NBA. This could help the NFL, NFPA and NFL Teams further drive their top line, which is critical in the pandemic world we are still living in. of note, some prominent NFL players such as Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes have already launched their own NFT collections. In the coming months, we expect other major sports leagues (Premier League, NHL, Calcio, etc..) to follow suit and launch a league wide NFT initiative. For more info, you can check out our latest analysis on the NFT Sports market here.

Picture: NFL

🔗  Sorare & Dapper Labs Bank on NFTs, Raising $680M and $250M, respectively | Via : Nifty NFT

Both Sorare and Dapper Labs announced big investment rounds and incredible valuations. Sorare kicked things off with a $680m round at a $4.3b valuation led by SoftBank's Vision 2 fund. This marks the highest-ever Series B round in Europe. And just one day later it was Dapper Labs who announced a $250m round at a $7.6b valuation led by Coatue Ventures. So what does this mean for the space? Well, we shall see... So far Sorare and Dapper are relatively free of overlaps, mainly because Sorare's focus on digital player cards while Dapper goes for highlight clips. So far Sorare is only targeting the football industry, but it became clear that they want to expand into other sports as well. Dapper, with a focus on basketball, but deals with UFC and LaLiga already in the pipeline, will also expand further. So we're expecting a clash at some point, the exact place shall be seen. One thing is clear though: Those two heavy weights are leading the pack and are now equipped with enough cash to secure the so important licenses. The third party that will join the race will be Fanatics who recently signed contracts for collectibles with the big American leagues. Exciting times with lots of money involved!

⬆️ The Upside: This should not come as a surprise for several reasons in our opinion: (1) The NFT market is booming. there is so much hype right now (2). Star athletes: Antoine Griezmann and Gerard Pique are among Sorare’s investors. (3). A french billionaire: Xavier Niel is one of Sorare early backers. (4) Softbank is doing what Softbank does: Softbank is known for making big bets especially in startup unicorns. Now Sorare plans to conquer other sports in the coming months, and they will most likely offer NFT collectables for athletes. so there you have it...your $680M raise. For Dabber Labs they are continuing to bank on their success of NBA’s Top Shot. This new raise will help accelerate their growth, especially as Dapper labs recently signed a deal with the NFL and Laliga.

Source: Sorare, Dapper Labs, NBA

🔗  SLAM sells on Autograph, first NFT for the 2022 Asian Games | Via : Nifty NFT

Tom Brady's Autograph platform has signed yet another good deal: This time it's with basketball brand SLAM to "create and distribute digital-collectible content on DraftKings Marketplace. As a launch partner for their basketball vertical, Autograph users will have access to SLAM’s 300-plus cover archive dating back to 1994, featuring some of the greatest basketball players over the last three decades". SLAM has tested the NFT waters earlier this year with a Zion Williamson collaboration, with a semi-successful outcome, as sales numbers were not as high as probably expected.

⬆️ The Upside: This announcement makes sense as it will allow SLAM to leverage Autograph’s and DraftKings’s growing marketplaces. We anticipate this deal to go well and have a positive outcome. This should help drive SLAM’s top line and future growth. You can check out our latest analysis on the NFT Sports market here.

Source: SLAM

🔗  MotoGP launches Hot Shots, UEFA partners with Topps | Via : Nifty NFT

After already having launched their first digital collectibles series earlier this year, MotoGP is now expanding from "static items" to video highlights, which they call Hot Shots (sounds a lite bit like NBA Top Shot, doesn't it?). Hot Shots are "unique collectible video NFTs distilled from the highlight reels of the best MotoGP racing moments". Naming aside, this seems to be a really good move, as they now cover both player card style NFTs as well as highlight clips. The sale will "started on 28 September 2021, and it will be broken into 3 segments; each segment will be held at a different time range and will have 2,000 packs on sale". Italian NFT startup STARgraph was the key technology enabler here.

The next news was a bit of a surprise for us: UEFA and Topps not only extend their partnership for physical collectibles, but they also extend it to the field of NFTs. This covers UEFA Europa League, UEFA Women's Champions League, as well as this year’s inaugural UEFA Conference League. No further details were revealed.

⬆️ The Upside: These announcements should not come as a surprise. As we mentioned before, world class’ sports organizations such as Moto GP and UEFA are getting into the NFT Sports space because they recognize that there is a big opportunity for them to generate incremental revenue. Now the Topps-UEFA deal was a bit surprising though because Topps recently lost a major licensing deal with the MLB which existed for more than 70 years, which lead to the failure of their planned IPO and Moody's downgrading them to B2 status, about midway on its scale of non-investment grade debt. This deal with the UEFA is a big deal for Topps and for the future of this company, but one has to be cautious on this deal as Topps is not currently an expert in the NFT space. You can check out our latest analysis on the NFT Sports market here.

Source: MotoGP, Topps, UEFA

🔗  Basketball NFTs from the Sixers and John Wall Via : Nifty NFT

Ahead of the new season we have some news from the NBA. Well, not from the league itself but from a team and a player. The Philadelphia 76ers have secured a jersey patch partnership with crypto.com that includes "special NFTs on Crypto.com’s platform in conjunction with their new city edition jersey that will debut in November". The multiyear deal is supposedly worth eight figures annually, and is a top-five jersey patch deal in the NBA. And then there was current free agent John Wall with his NFT collection "Baby Ballers" and another good example of how not do approach a drop. For context: Wall announced the collection with the goal to raise awareness for youth sports and promised to raise $100k for charitable causes. To be precise: For his own foundation.

⬆️ The Upside: This should not comes as a surprise to see crypto companies like crypto.com sign deals with pro teams. Now this is worth pointing out that this is Crypto.com’s first NBA deal. The company also recently signed PSG. We expect crypto.com to sign many more teams. For pro teams, it present another revenue opportunity to drive their top line which is important in the COVID-19 pandemic we are still in. Regarding the John Wall NFT deal, we like this deal because this is the perfect example of a star athlete using his notoriety and the power of NFT for a good cause.

Source: 76ers, crypto.com

🔗  Rugby League World Cup NFTs, big investment for new RECUR platform Via : Nifty NFT

The Rugby League World Cup has announced NuArca Labs as their official NFT partner, creating the "first official NFT marketplace in the history of Rugby League". As the statement says "fans will be able to participate in quests, earn experiences and collect a range of NFT drops with digital collectibles celebrating the history, heroes, nations, milestones and achievements of the second oldest World Cup in sporting history". No further details were disclosed.

Source: RLWC2021

⬆️ The Upside: This should not come as a surprise. But it is worth pointing out that this is the first major NFT deal in the world of pro rugby. We expect more pro rugby teams and leagues to follow suit in the coming months. With NFTs, there is a big opportunity for them to generate incremental revenue, and better engage their rugby fans globally. You can check out our latest analysis on the NFT Sports market here.


🎮 AR/VR/Video/Digital Sports News

🎮  Facebook Debuts its Ray Ban Stories Smart Sunglasses | Via : Techcrunch

Facebook announced its long-awaited foray into the smart glasses space Thursday morning, launching the Ray-Ban Stories smart glasses in partnership with eyewear giant EssilorLuxottica. The svelte frames are some of the most low-profile yet available to consumers and will allow users to snap photos and videos with the two onboard 5 MP cameras, listen to music with in-frame speakers and take phone calls. The glasses need to be connected to an iOS or Android device for full functionality, though users can take and store hundreds of photos or dozens of videos on the glasses before transferring media to their phones via Facebook’s new View app. The twin cameras will allow users to add 3D effects to their photos and videos once they upload them to the app.

The lightweight glasses weigh less than 50 grams and come with a leather hardshell charging case. Users will be able to control the glasses with a couple physical buttons including a “capture” button to record media and an on-off switch. A touch pad on the right arm of the glasses will allow users to perform functions like swiping to adjust the volume or answering a phone call. An onboard white LED will glow to indicate to the people around the wearer that a video is being recorded.

⬆️ The Upside: Facebook Ray glasses are not AR glasses. They appear to be Snap Spectacles alike glasses. Here Facebook is trying to accomplish a few things: (1) Partner with a leading glasses companies to build consumer grade sunglasses (2) Leverage Ray Ban’s consumer brand and distribution channels. (3) Try to convert a portion of its Facebook/Instagram users to this new offering and explore new use cases (video capture). (4) Collect users’ data and learn from consumer behaviors. (5) Lay the foundation in advance of the launch of its AR glasses, AR/VR glasses. (6) Add anther building block to its growing hardware strategy (Portal, Oculus Quest..). That being said we don’t expect Facebook to be successful here for several reasons: (1) Snap Spectacles only sold 150,000 units when it launched its Snap Spectacles in 2017. Snap also recorded a $40M loss. So we don’t expect Facebook to have more success here given the similarities and limited functionalities of the Ray Ban glasses. (2) Facebook is likely to face major privacy issues with its glasses. Ireland’s Data Protection Commission (DPC) recently said that it has asked the tech giant to demonstrate that an LED indicator light also mounted on the specs — which lights up when the user is taking a video — is an effective way of putting other people on notice that they are being recorded by the wearer. Now it is interesting to notice that the Facebook brand does not appear on the frame of the glasses. With all that being said we should give credit to Facebook for creating smart glasses with a slick design and with a leading glasses brand.

Picture: Facebook/Ray Ban smart glasses, 2021

🎮  Xiaomi shows off concept smart glasses with MicroLED display | Via : The Verge

Xiaomi has announced a pair of smart glasses called Xiaomi Smart Glasses. A company spokesperson tells The Verge that there’s no plan to actually put them on sale, but Xiaomi has provided enough detail to make the concept product seem somewhat plausible — at least for some point in the future.

Xiaomi’s glasses have a relatively conventional form factor, but unlike Facebook and Ray Ban’s just-announced Stories glasses, they actually do have a display that can be used for AR features. Xiaomi says it went with a monochrome MicroLED system because of its “higher pixel density and longer lifespan while having a simpler structure” when compared to OLED. According to Xiaomi, MicroLED “allows for a more compact display, as well as easier screen integration.” MicroLED is a self-emissive display technology that is widely viewed as the natural successor to OLED. However, it remains prohibitively expensive and is yet to be deployed in more than a handful of commercial products. There’s an unspecified quad-core Arm processor, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth modules, a battery, and a five-megapixel camera on board. Xiaomi says the glasses weigh just 51 grams.

⬆️ The Upside: The timing of Xaomi’s announcement should not come as a surprise. In fact, it is a direct shot at Facebook. They are essentially saying: “Facebook, we will soon have our connected glasses as well!”. We expect those Xiaomi connected glasses to be very affordable, likely in the $100-200 range as Xiaomi is notorious for its low cost strategy. Now we also expect many other OEMs (Samsung, Huawei, Microsoft..) to make similar announcements in the next 12 months. Now some of these OEMs will announce real AR glasses, and some won’t.

Video: Xiaomi, 2021


🚑 Wearables, Health, Nutrition News

⌚ Performance monitoring platform Whoop expands into smart apparel | Via : Fashion Network

Backed by new funding, Boston-based personal fitness membership service Whoop has announced the launch of Whoop Body, a line of smart apparel featuring the latest in the company’s performance-monitoring technology.  

Whoop Body is available in two collections: The Training Collection and The Intimates Collection. The former includes sports bras, compression tops, leggings, shorts and athletic boxers, while the latter offers bralettes and everyday boxers. Prices range from $54 to $109. The apparel features Whoop’s Any-Wear Technology, which can be used with the latest generation of the platform’s 24/7 digital fitness and health coach: the Whoop 4.0, also launched by the company on Wednesday. Indeed, Whoop Body pieces can only be purchased in combination with the Whoop 4.0, available free with a Whoop subscription, starting at $18 a month.

⬆️ The Upside: This announcement from Whoop makes sense. They have now become a unicorn having raised $400M. Whoop is likely to acquire new companies to acquire new talent and technologies which is what they did with the recent acquisition of Push. From a product strategy standpoint, it makes sense for them to expand their product line into smart clothing. That being said it is still unclear what new types of biosensing capabilities beyond HRV, sleep quality, they will offer. So right now it is a bit underwhelming from a biosensing standpoint. Moving forward Whoop should focus on introducing new biosensing capabilities for its products such as the ability to measure hydration, blood pressure, or lactate. Also it remains to be seen if Whoop can gain significant traction in the consumer smart clothing space as startups such as OMsignal or Athos have not had the success they hoped for. In fact OMsignal shut down its business years ago and some smart clothing companies like Hexoskin are now focusing primarily on healthcare and government/NASA these days.

Picture: Whoop, 2021

⌚​ ​Apple Watch Series 7 brings bigger screen and tweaked design | Via : Wareable

Apple has officially unveiled the Apple Watch Series 7 with new screen tech, a tweaked design and new rugged credentials. Announced at its California Streaming event, the Series 7 didn't bring wholesale changes to the Watch, and feels like an iterative update to the Series 6. On the design front, it grows to 41mm and 45mm sizes, but Apple has reduced the bezel sizes to offer 20% more screen estate than the Series 6. Apple says the Series 7's new display is 70% brighter than its predecessor, and is able to fit in 50% more text to make it better suited to read emails and long messages. With that extra screen space, Apple has redesigned the watchOS interface with larger buttons on apps and has introduced a full keyboard mode, which uses AI to help predict what you're going to type next. There are new exclusive watch faces for Series 7, such as a redesigned Modular face, that can host richer complications using the extra space.

Features-wise, it seems we can expect more of the same that we got on the Series 6. That means you'll still be able to monitor blood oxygen, take ECG readings and get access to all the same fitness tracking and sport watch-style modes and metrics.

⬆️ The Upside: This was expected from Apple. No surprise there. Apple’s strategy aims at providing incremental improvements over time, and maintain its high margins. However, from a biosensing standpoint it was disappointing especially as there are lots of speculations that Apple is working a new Apple watch capable of measuring hydration and even blood pressure and lactate. Now Apple is in no rush to do so. That’s what they do.

Picture: Apple, 2021

⌚ Apple Fitness+ adds new workout types – integrates more with Apple Watch | Via : Wareable

While the Apple Watch Series 7 may have only got an interim update at the Apple September event, the Fitness+ service got more love. Apple’s fitness platform, which integrates with the Apple Watch, got an all-new group workout feature, and extra workout types, with Pilates added to the mix.

The new group workout feature, which will land later this Fall, allows subscribers to start a joint workout from a FaceTime call. The workout will run as normal, but participants are shown on screen, so they can offer some encouragement or smack talk. And in a push towards mindfulness, Apple Fitness+ gets a new meditation mode, which has been spun off from the successful Mindful Cooldowns feature.

⬆️ The Upside: This comes as no surprise. Apple here is trying to address a growing demand for at-home workouts. They are also going after Peloton and other connected fitness companies and gyms. It also fits well into Apple’s growing services offering beyond the hardware. Over time we expect Apple to introduce new services and workouts for its fitness products (Apple Watch…).

Picture: Apple


💸 Sports Tech & Health Investment Recap - September / August 2021

Here is the recap of the major sports startups’ investments in August / September 2021, which totaled $1.49B and were up +827% in September 2021, compared to August 2021.

Source: Upside, Confidential, September 2021


📊 Key Tech Sports Stats of The Month

$12.2B: Nike kept its momentum going in its fiscal first quarter of 2022, posting $12.2 billion in revenue, a 12% increase year-over-year. The revenue figure was nearly identical to the $12.3 billion the sneaker and apparel giant posted last quarter, which represented a 96% increase over the same period last year. 

$10B: Leading NFT vendors Sorare and Dapper Labs now have a combined valuations of $10B+.

$8B: Sportradar finally went public and is now valued at $8B. Michael Jordan increased its stake in the company.

$2B: Amazon was reportedly in the lead for the out-of-market games package, for which the NFL is seeking $2 billion to $2.5 billion per season. Disney is interested as well.

$1.39B Euros: Barcelona may have been handed a lifeline as according to a report in Spain, a company from Dubai has offered to inject their cash and write off the club's substantial $1.39B debt

$1.2B: Endeavor is buying OpenBet from Scientific Games for $1.2 billion in cash and stock. The acquisition will bolster Endeavor’s role within the sports betting ecosystem, which is already by IMG Arena, a service that works with more than 470 sportsbook brands.

1B: TikTok Claims the App Now Tops 1 Billion Monthly Active Users.

$800M: Clippers Secure $800M in 10 Days for Intuit Dome. Less than two weeks after the Los Angeles Clippers made a 23-year, $500 million deal with Intuit for naming rights to its new arena, the team has reportedly secured more than $300 million in an agreement with Aspiration.

$50M: Facebook launched a $50M fund to responsibly build a Metaverse. Click here

$41.1M: Tom Brady, who will reportedly make as much as $41.1M from the Bucs this season, says he’d “love to request” getting paid in crypto. Of course, the guy with an equity stake in FTX would say that, though.

1.86M: ESPN’s ‘MNF’ ManningCast pulled in 1.86 million viewers last week, up 132% increase from its debut episode.

25%: Nike’s digital business in its last quarter grew by 25% overall and 43% in North America. 

Picture: Nike


📸 Snapshots & Videos of the Month.

Mixed Reality & sports: Mixed reality at Panthers (NFL) and Houston Texans (NFL).

GOAT coach: Meet Roger, the coach, at the Laver cup.

iPhone evolution? Not so fast…:)

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