While the temperature in the room slowly climbed on an unseasonably warm April night, the action behind the scenes at the third annual Sports Tank sports tech pitch event produced by TPG Sports Group was about to heat up in a big way.
Although Sports Tank’s name is an ode to the “Made for TV” show that Dallas Mavericks owner and tech mogul in his own right, Mark Cuban made popular, the dynamic of Sports Tank breaks the mold on the traditional buzz-word laden pitch nights we are all-too-familiar with. In lieu of the traditional three-judge (or “Shark”) panel, Sports Tank paired the sports coat-clad VC/”Money types” with an advisory panel of some of the biggest names in the sports industry, including Indiana Pacers General Manager, Kevin Pritchard. This unique dynamic allows the investor panel to ask questions about potential partners, market, and traction that can be immediately validated by feedback from the advisory panel. On more than one occasion, Michael Duda, the Managing Partner of Bullish was able to rope in Pritchard to see what he thought about a particular product and if he saw a need for it within his organization, which turned out to be a harbinger of things to come.
The apex of the event came when a company called Physiclo took the stage to pitch the panel on their patented compression training garment which uses physics and biomechanics to achieve the same physiological effect as weight/resistance training. The company’s cofounder, Keeth Smart, who is also an Olympic Silver Medalist in Fencing left the crowd and panel slack-jawed at the possibility that a piece of clothing could somehow replace ankle weights and resistance bands in athlete training. Little did most in attendance know that the advisory panel was cooking up an offer of their own, as Pritchard along with a few other panelists that included Tom Shine of XIX Entertainment and Former Nike Executive Rich Sheubrooks, pledged $100,000 for 3.3% of Physiclo. Not to be outdone and out of fear of missing out on what was described as a “Homerun” deal, Duncan Niederauer of Mountain Top Advisory Group made an identical offer that Smart couldn’t pass up.
When asked about whether there was any prior orchestration or quasi-scripting of the moment, TPG’s Founder, Pete Philo maintained that the whole thing was entirely organic, proudly noting that “The difference between us and Shark Tank, is that we do it live.” That said, as one would expect, neither panel went into the room completely cold about the company and were given a brief dossier about what each company does, etc. but the deals that happened in the room, literally happened in the room.
Physiclo wasn’t the only company to make a deal last night as the Berlin-based and sponsor of the event, leAD Sports Accelerator, was able to find a couple worthy candidates for their Fall Cohort. The upstart Accelerator founded by Adidas Founder, Adi Dassler’s grandsons is using their international reach and expertise to usher in the new era of sports innovation. Originally, the leAD team thought most of their cohort companies would be sourced largely from Europe but have been amazed to see the response and interest from US-based companies, to the point that they represent nearly a quarter of all applicants received to date. LeAD’s big splash came when they invited protective athletic headwear and former NFL “First and Future” finalists, 2nd Skull to be part of their inaugural cohort.
Although this was the third installment of the event, this was its inaugural year in New York, holding court mere blocks away from the heart of Silicon Alley at the FIT Katie Murphy Amphitheater. When asked why the Charlotte-based company opted to make the move to New York as opposed to other tech capitals such as San Francisco or Austin, Philo was direct in saying “New York is the sports capital of the world, I have a lot of relationships here. After speaking to a couple of people who I felt would want to participate, it was clear immediately that New York was the place to be.” Philo also confirmed that there will be a fourth iteration of Sports Tank and yes, it will be coming back to The Alley.
Naturally, no New York pitch event would be complete without a few local companies carrying the flag for our ever-growing tech hub. Among the companies that took the stage were used sporting goods marketplace, Sideline Swap and the 3D motion capture company, Notch.
Sideline Swap’s cofounder, Brendan Candon had this to offer about the Sports Tank experience:
“Pitching at Sports Tank was an awesome experience. It’s so rare to have the opportunity to pitch in a room where people not only are passionate about the space you’re in, they also have the resources to help you grow your business.”
“The advisory panel and investors seemed very excited about SidelineSwap and our growth. Three of them expressed interest in moving forward so we plan to have follow up meetings with each of them in the coming days.”
In the event capital of the world, it’s clear Sports Tank is quickly making its presence felt by finding a unique angle and helping vault great companies in New York and around the globe to the next level.