🎾 Serena Serves Up Her VC Game
Tennis Star has now invested in 30 startups, with an accumulated market cap of $12B+.
|Apr 22, 2019|
Dear Friends and Members,
Last week we published our Sports management tools market analysis and showcased our deep dive into the various sports management tools tech and sub-segments and key players, as well as future trends that will impact the sports management industry.
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Photo: The Upside, Sports Tech Advisors, 2019.
Coming up this Thursday, we’ll publish our podcast interview with a leading player in the sports VR space.
To listen to this full interview published on Thursday, be sure to sign up for our premium subscription by clicking the “subscribe now” button above. This Friday premium members will also be able to get access to our full analysis of the VR sports technologies used in the world of pro sports to improve the fans experience, training, and drive the teams’ top line, in addition to a deep-dives into the best practices, key players, current and future market trends, and use cases that are shaping the world of VR sports.
📰 Top Stories We’re Reading This Week
🎮 Sony files patent for PSVR eSports tournament spectator tech
👓 Oculus job posts point to Facebook-built AR glasses are coming
📽 Luci, a new VR headset vendor, wants to take you to the movies
🔮 Weekly Sports Tech Prediction
📈 Weekly Sports Startup Case Study & ROI: Thermo Human
⌚️ Microsoft is allegedly working on an Apple Airpods competitor
🔊 Facebook is allegedly working on a Siri/Alexa/Google Assistant competitor
🏟 NBA 2K League adds YouTube as a new streaming partner
❤️ Tennis star Serena Williams launches her own VC to fund startups created by women and underrepresented founders
🏀 The Sixers (NBA) hire first female coach: Lindsey Harding
❤️ Gregg Popovich reportedly leaves $10,000 tips on team dinners, wads of cash, tickets to games, and more
💸 Investment Trends for April
📊 Tech Stats of the Week
📸 Snapshots of the Week
Let’s jump right into the insights and upside for all of these top stories
🎮 AR/VR/Video Sports News
🎮Sony files patent for PSVR eSports tournament spectator tech | Via VentureBeat
Do you own a PlayStation VR headset?
One day you might be able to watch eSports leagues from within the world of virtual reality. Sony recently filed a patent application titled “Spectator View Into An Interactive Gaming World Showcased In A Live Event Held In A Real-World Venue.” The patent describes using an array of cameras to make the VR user feel as if they’re attending the tournament. Cameras and microphones would be embedded in the seats themselves. A proximity sensor in the seats could tell whether real people are sitting in the seats, so as to not use those for broadcast. The patent also describes letting the VR user see inside the game being played. Imagine toggling between being in the audience and being in the game. It additionally envisions hybrid modes where elements of the game appear in a virtual augmented reality view around the arena.
⬆️ The Upside: This should not come as a surprise based on the large amount of interest around eSports these days. This is part of Sony’s strategy to get better traction in VR and leverage the growing popularity of eSports. It could help attract eSports gamers into VR as well. Sony is not the only player there. Intel, through the acquisition of Voke VR, is also pushing in the eSports market. Facebook also streams live events in VR with Oculus Venues but until then Facebook has been focused on physical sports. The opportunity to merge the world of VR and eSports all together is a great opportunity and those VR players are undoubtedly trying to take advantage of this opportunity.
Picture: Sony PSVR
👓 Oculus job openings indicate Facebook-built AR glasses are coming | Via: Road to VR
As first reported by PocketGamer, Facebook is advertising a few new posts at its VR subsidiary Oculus, laced with the notion that a Facebook-built AR headset is definitely on the rise. This confirms what Facebook’s head of AR Ficus Kirkpatrick told TechCrunch late last year.
“We are building hardware products. We’re going forward on this … We want to see those glasses come into reality, and I think we want to play our part in helping to bring them there.”
Now, Oculus has published a few job listings that make strong mention of ‘AR glasses’, namely Product Designer – AR Platform, Product Design Prototyper – AR Experiences, and Head of AR/VR Marketing Strategy and Operations.
For both product designer positions, Oculus/Facebook notes this in the job description:
“Augmented Reality will change our lives as fundamentally as personal computers and smartphones have. AR glasses will let you transcend space, conjure objects and devices into existence and amplify your senses, memory and cognition. Our mission is centered on designing useful technology and getting it out into the world. We are looking for motivated, team-oriented user experience designers who want to change the world and who are able to thrive in ambiguous new design spaces. Join our team of designers who are inventing the future of Augmented Reality and help define wearable AR experiences for Facebook.”
⬆️ The Upside: This should come as no surprise to see Facebook moving into the AR glasses space. The company is currently building a large AR team. The demo it showed at least year’s F8 with some impressive human holograms is an indication of where they might be going moving forward. We have to remember that Mark Zuckerberg’s vision is that we will be wearing AR type sunglasses where will be able to switch from AR to VR and vice versa.
👀 Luci, a new VR headset vendor, wants to take you to the movies | Via: Fortune
Virtual reality startup Luci is debuting a new headset that is intended for at-home VR movie viewing (though, yes, the devices can be used with video game systems, too).
The Luci Immers headsets can be used for 3D movies, and the headset can put them in a virtual movie theater for a more immersive experience. The company is following the growing trend of lighter, more mobile VR headsets, like the Oculus Go. The goal is to make the devices more comfortable to wear in public or on a plane.
There are three new Immers headset models: the crown, which mimics the more traditional style VR headset; the glass, which has a Google Glass-esque design of glasses attached to a frame; and the band, which is a lighter version of the crown style.
🎬 Watch the quick video of their VR headset here.
⬆️ The Upside: While Luci’s VR headset seems to have an appealing design, the reality is that at the end of the day it is a startup with relatively limited resources. Over the past 12 months it has become very clear that if you are AR or VR glasses startup, even with $50M in backing, it is very difficult to scale and build a business that can be fully monetized. It is just too challenging to compete against large tech companies like Google, Microsoft, Sony, Magic Leap who have much larger resources. That being said there are always exceptions to the rule.
Photo: Luci’s Immers VR headset
🔮 Our weekly Sports Tech Prediction
Each week we’ll make one sports tech prediction based on conversations we’ve had with top sources and our vision of the market.
This week we touch on the National Basketball Association.
We believe that in 2020 we’ll see an NBA team announce the league’s first NBA female head coach. It is only a matter of time. Becky Hammon, who became the first full-time female NBA assistant in 2014 with the Spurs, and is now Gregg Popovich’s top assistant, seems like a top candidate to lead an NBA team as head coach. But she is not the only one that could make history. Last week, the Sixers hired their first female coach: Lindsey Harding. We believe this could also inspire other major US sports leagues to follow suit.
Picture: Becky Hammon , assistant coach (San Antonio Spurs)
📈 Our weekly Sports Tech Case Study / ROI
Each week we’ll highlight a sports tech case study with a technology that helped sports teams get a solid ROI (e.g. injury reduction, ticket sales improvement, cost savings, diversity improvement, etc.).
So what’s our weekly sports tech case study?
As we mentioned last week injury prevention has become a major problem in the world of sports. Last week we talked about Kitman Labs, a startup that analyzes a large amount of data and assesses the risk of injury per player.
But data analysis is not the only way to prevent injuries. Another way is to use infrared thermography. This is what Thermo Human is doing.
How does Thermo Human’ solution works? Thermo Human’s home-developed software uses computer vision and machine learning algorithms, which allows it to automatically analyze each player’s thermal images to detect and measure thermal data. Teams typically need to get both the camera and software provided by Thermo Human. The software carries out a deep individual analysis of the athlete’s thermal responses for understanding the physiological internal processes measured both before and/or after the workout. The technology is backed by 9-year of R&D, more than 35 published research articles, and various innovation awards obtained throughout their trajectory.
The temperature differences, measured by Thermo Human, may be related to overload processes or risks of injury, which may appear even before the player feels discomfort. The objective is to quantify these differences and to carry out a detailed and individualized monitoring of the physical state of the staff.
Viewing the thermogram (see picture below) allows Thermo Human to make an initial qualitative analysis from which they can conclude that there is a higher temperature in the right rear thigh. In this particular example, after a qualitative analysis, the avatar confirmed an asymmetry of just over 0.3ºC.
The graph showed below the progressive increase of the asymmetry in that part of the body. This increase should be taken into account by the physical trainer of the team due to the risk of injury and which could be avoided by modifying the player’s training in subsequent sessions.
What has been the ROI on leading Spanish team Atlético de Madrid (Laliga)? Thermo Human’ solution has helped Atlético de Madrid see a 90% reduction in the days of loss due to injury.
Of note, as mentioned before, in the coming weeks we plan to publish a full analysis on the various types of injury prevention software and tools where we will highlight the key players, current and future trends, case studies, and challenges faced in the industry.
Picture: Thermo Human
🚑 Wearables & Health News
⌚️Microsoft allegedly working on Apple Airpods competitor | Via: Wearable Technologies
Wireless earbuds have grown exponentially since the arrival of Apple AirPods, and it now appears Microsoft is preparing to join the action. According to Thurrott, who spoke to sources familiar with the company's plans, the Redmond tech giant is currently working on a pair of buds under the codename 'Morrison' set for release later this year. The earphones would potentially be branded as Surface Buds, following the Surface headphones (shown above) that released last year. The arrival of the pair would mean the company would have both an over-ear and in-ear option for buyers to consider.
⬆️ The Upside: We believe this is a great move by Microsoft. Microsoft threw the towel in the fitness tracker space with its Microsoft band a few years ago. By launching smart earbuds, it would allow Microsoft to get back into the game. We also expect Microsoft to add biosensors to its earbuds in order to enable users to track their biometric data (HR). Microsoft is also likely to add a Cortana based digital coaching feature to provide feedback about their performance in real time while they are working out. By doing so Microsoft will also be able to tap into the hearable devices market, but it will face tough competition from Apple, Samsung, and soon Amazon.
📊 AI News
🔊Facebook working on a Siri/Alexa/Google Assistant competitor | Via: CNBC
Facebook is working on a voice assistant to rival the likes of Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri and the Google Assistant, according to several people familiar with the matter. The tech company has been working on this new initiative since early 2018. The effort is coming out of the company’s augmented reality and virtual reality group, a division that works on hardware, including the company’s virtual reality Oculus headsets. A team based out of Redmond, Washington, has been spearheading the effort to build the new AI assistant, according to two former Facebook employees who left the company in recent months. The effort is being lead by Ira Snyder, director of AR/VR and Facebook Assistant. That team has been contacting vendors in the smart speaker supply chain, according to two people familiar.
⬆️ The Upside: We believe this is a great move by Facebook. It fits nicely into Facebook’s growing AI strategy. Facebook already offers an AI assistant for its Messenger app called M, and launched an AI based smart speaker called The portal allowing users to say “Hey Portal” to initiative very simple commands, but the device also comes equipped with Amazon’s Alexa assistant to handle more complex tasks. To build this Alexa type competitor Facebook will be able to leverage its talented team of AI experts led by Yann LeCun. That being said we expect Facebook to face fierce competition especially from Google whose Google Assistant is available on 1B devices globally. Amazon is another fierce competitor as Alexa powers 100M devices today.
🎮 eSports & Crypto-Currency News
🏟 NBA 2K League adds YouTube as a new streaming partner | Via: eSports Observer
YouTube will livestream the rest of this season’s NBA 2K League games, the National Basketball Association (NBA) announced last week, as the platform joins Twitch as a streaming partner for the league. Twitch was the exclusive broadcast partner for 2018’s debut NBA 2K League season, in what was announced as a multi-year deal that included custom screen overlays and audience engagement strategies. The NBA 2KLeague is the latest major eSports league to quit streaming exclusively via a single platform. For the 2019 season, which began earlier this month, YouTube will also stream the entire season on its platform, including more than 230 regular-season games as well as playoffs and finals games. The 2019 NBA 2KLeague season concludes on August 3.
As noted by SportsPro, the companies have a long-running relationship, as the NBA was the first traditional sports league to partner with YouTube in 2005. Additionally, YouTube TV was a presenting partner of both the NBA Finals and Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) Finals in 2018.
⬆️ The Upside: It makes sense for the NBA 2K to add YouTube as a streaming partner. YouTube has become a key player in the eSports streaming space. For example, back in 2017, YouTube made a big investment into eSports, signing a multiyear broadcasting deal with Faceit to stream the latter's eSports Championship Series (ECS) pro gaming league. But the competition is fierce with media giants such as ESPN and Turner are broadcasting eSports tournaments and competitions. And in 2014, Amazon acquired Twitch, the live streaming video platform that has been and continues to be the leader in online gaming broadcasts.
🙌🏻 Social Impact Sports Tech News
🎾 Tennis star Serena Williams launches her own VC to fund startups created by women and underrepresented founders | Via: Afrotech
There isn’t much that Serena Williams can’t do. Not only has she been making major moves on the tennis court, but she’s quietly built an impressive tech portfolio. Recently, Williams decided to finally reveal her venture capital firm, Serena Ventures.
“I launched Serena Ventures with the mission of giving opportunities to founders across an array of industries,” Williams said in an Instagram post. “Serena Ventures invests in companies that embrace diverse leadership, individual empowerment, creativity and opportunity.”
Serena Ventures was originally founded in 2014 and has quietly funded over 30 companies led by women and underrepresented groups. The companies range across the beauty, food and retail industries.
⬆️ The Upside: This move by Serena makes total sense for several reasons: (1) She has been an investor for several years. (2) She has become a savvy tech investor and is now on the board of large tech companies like Survey Monkey. (3) Her husband has his own VC (4) Her focus on women and underrepresented founders should come as no surprise based on her personality, and activism. This is once again Serena’s way to give back to the community. Well done Serena!
🏀The Sixers (NBA) hire first female coach: Lindsey Harding | Via: The Inquirer
Lindsey Harding sat in a VIP courtside seat Thursday night, long before the fans arrived, and watched Sixers rookie Zhaire Smith shoot three-pointer after three-pointer. Almost all of them splashed. Harding didn’t care.
She leaned to her left, where Raptors scout Kevin Gamble sat, and, without taking her eyes off Smith, said:“Look. He tilts his head to the side a little bit. Gets it out of the way when he shoots.” Over the weekend, Harding became the seventh female assistant coach the NBA has seen. The Sixers promoted her from pro scout to player development coach on Monday. She is the first female coach in franchise history.
The Sixers hired her to scout last summer, but something like this was inevitable. This is just the next step on what the team is sure will be in a fast, fruitful climb.
“After we interviewed her this summer, everyone I spoke to about her said how driven she was and that her knowledge of the game was impeccable,” said Sixers general manager Elton Brand. He expects Harding to head her own team sooner than later: “Whether that’s the NBA, or a collegiate program — I don’t think she’ll be at the player-development level for very long.”
⬆️ The Upside: This is great news for the NBA and for pro sports as a whole. The NBA has been very vocal for the need to have better diversity in the NBA at the highest level. Harding joins Becky Hammon, who became the first full-time female NBA assistant in 2014, with the Spurs, and is now Gregg Popovich’s top assistant. Women’s legend Nancy Lieberman also has spent time on an NBA bench, with the Kings. Kristi Toliver coaches for the Wizards, Jenny Boucek for the Kings, Natalie Nakase for the Clippers, and Karen Stack Umlauf for the Bulls. We expect more NBA teams to follow suit. In our view, it is time for the NBA to have its first NBA female head coach. We believe this could happen in the next 24 months.
Picture: Lindsey Harding, Sixers (NBA)
❤️Gregg Popovich reportedly leaves $10,000 tips on team dinners, wads of cash, tickets to games, and more | Via: Business Insider
In 2017, San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich made the news for reportedly leaving a $5,000 tip on an $800 bill at a restaurant in Memphis, Tennessee. According to a story from ESPN's Baxter Holmes on Popovich's food and wine habits, that's par for the course for Popovich, who may be the NBA's most extravagant diner.
Popovich is a firm believer in team dinners and is renowned for choosing the nicest restaurants cities have to offer and ordering their best wines. Even chefs and sommeliers who spoke with Holmes said that Popovich knows his stuff.
According to Holmes, Popovich is also known for picking up the tab and leaving generous tips. Holmes estimated that, given Popovich's habit of picking up the bill at nice restaurants then leaving huge tips dozens of times during the NBA season, it's possible that he spends in the millions per year on dinners.
Factored into that is Popovich's generous tipping habits. According to Holmes, Popovich frequently leaves five-figure tips, hands wads of cash out for the kitchen staff, leaves tickets to Spurs games, and even sends workers bottles of his rare custom wine, Rock and Hammer.
⬆️ The Upside: This should not as a surprise as Popovich is known around the league for being an activist. On multiple occasions, Popovich has spoken out on behalf of social justice issues, including in support of the Women's March. Popovich has also spent considerable time and money working with several charities and nonprofits the likes of San Antonio Food Bank and Innocence Project. He also took part in Shoes That Fit, an organization that aims to deliver shoes to more than 200 students at Gates Elementary School affected by Hurricanes Irma and Maria. Popovich is helping raise funds for J/P HRO, a disaster relief program that operates in Haiti, and various disaster relief organizations in the U.S. and Caribbean.
Picture: Gregg Popovich, San Antonio Spurs’ head coach
💸 Sports Investment Trends — April, 2019
Tennis star Serena Williams announced on Instagram last week her VC firm Serena Ventures, to fund women and underrepresented founders. She has invested in more than 30 startups, with an accumulated market cap of over $12B. Read on here.
Actor Will Smith has is part of a $46M investment into the esports company Gen.G. Read on here.
📊 Key Tech Sports Stats of The Week
$134.9B: The top 25 public companies by game revenue accounted for almost 80% of the entire $134.9B global games market, according to the report.
$2.5B: Late last year, Legends, the marketing and hospitality company controlled by the New York Yankees and Dallas Cowboys, was put in charge of securing $2.5B in sponsorship dollars for the 2028 Summer Games in Los Angeles, according to Bloomberg.
$1.7B: Adidas and Real Madrid are set to sign a massive 12-year deal worth $1.7 billion dollars over the course of the agreement.
1B: According to CBS Sports, live streaming coverage of the 2019 Masters Tournament saw more than 1B total minutes of coverage streamed from Thursday-Sunday and an average minute audience of 447,000.
300M Euros: Manchester United plans to spend 300M euros during the off-season to attract new players.
$200M: The MLS announced that expansions fees would be set at $200M for the next two teams.
150-200M Euros: According to several reports, PSG allegedly has its sight on Romelu Lukaku for next season. According to Football Observatory, Romelu Lukaku’s trading value has fluctuated between 150M Euros and 200M Euros since 2018.
$150M: It has cost $150M in expansion fees to the Inter Miami the MLS team owned by David Beckham. This compares to $110M for the LAFC, and $100M for the NYFC (Source: SoccerAmerica, USA Today).
$134M: At $134M annually, as part of a new deal with Nike, Real Madrid will see itself fall behind Barcelona, who receives a reported $181M annually from Nike.
Source: The Telegraph, SkySports, BBC, The Guardian, 90Min, SportsPro, Mirror, Independent
22M: PSG has 22M people in the U.S. who are interested in the PSG brand. To get in front of them, the club is relying on fan clubs, which they have 15 of currently, academies, summer tours, and their list of partners including the likes of Nike and EA.
720k: 720,000 tickets got sold so far for the Women Soccer World Cup in France.
$10k: San Antonio Spurs’ head coach Gregg Popovich reportedly frequently leaves $10,000 tips on team dinners, wads of cash, tickets to games, and more.
45%: In 2018, 45% of the revenues from top 25 public eSports gaming companies came from mobile Vs 38% from gaming console and 17% from PCs (Source: Newzoo).
30: The MLS plans to expand to 30 teams in the coming years.
20%: The new Nike - Real Madrid deal will see Real Madrid earn 20% of the sales related to their products as well as $10M in material for all the teams of the club.
📸 The Upside: Snapshots of The Week
Notre Dame Cathedral tribute. On Sunday PSG and AS Monaco unveiled a new jersey to be worn by their players as a tribute to the Notre Dame cathedral that went up in flames last week. PSG‘s Qatari owners have also confirmed all the funds will be going towards the rebuilding of the 850-year-old historical landmark which went up in flames on the evening of April 15, 2019 in Paris. Well done PSG and AS Monaco!