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NBA admits seven sports tech startups to Launchpad incubator

North American basketball league also invests in analytics firm Videocites.

2 March 2023 Steve McCaskill

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  • AI and fan engagement are focus of 2023 NBA Launchpad intake
  • Videocites raises US$10m in Series B funding round

The National Basketball Association (NBA) has announced the next seven sports technology startups to be admitted to its Launchpad accelerator, while also participating in a Series B funding round for analytics firm Videocites.

The first installment of Launchpad was held last year, with the NBA offering support, resources and access to investors for early stage companies it believes can help the league meet its strategic priorities on and off the court.

This year’s cohort includes SkillCorner, a Parisian computer vision and machine learning (ML) specialist, Springbok Analytics, which is developing artificial intelligence (AI) technology that transforms MRI data into a 3D digital twin, and Supersapiens, which analyses glucose data to inform athletes how nutrition impacts their wellbeing and performance.

Another three inductees are focused on fan engagement. Action Audio transforms spatial data into 3D sound experiences to help visually impaired fans follow sport in real time. Edge Sound Research turns standard audio into audible, haptic and tactile sensations that can be used to power immersive experiences. Tagboard, meanwhile, wants to help production teams create engaging content with a fraction of the resources required by traditional graphics systems.

The final firm is nVenue, one of SportsPro’s Ideas to Invest in class of 2023, which offers AI and predictive analytics capabilities to broadcasters and micro-betting firms.

Over the next six months, the seven firms will participate in a R&D project within the NBA ecosystem and will have the opportunity to present to executives, partners and investors later this year.

“NBA Launchpad is proud to support startups that are leveraging AI and machine learning to drive innovation in the sport of basketball,” said Tom Ryan, vice president of basketball strategy at the NBA.

“By partnering with these cutting-edge companies, we’re pushing the boundaries of what’s possible on the court and unlocking new insights that have the potential to transform the game.”

“The expansion of NBA Launchpad has opened the door to create and enhance ways for fans to experience our game,” added Jason Bieber, vice president of global strategy and innovation at the NBA.

“By partnering with these innovative companies, we hope to bring fans closer to the action and uncover insights about the future of fan engagement.”

Technology is hugely important to the NBA, which is widely recognised as one of the most digitally developed sports organisations in the world, with its relatively diverse, youthful and international audience giving it greater freedom to embrace new trends.

The NBA All-Star Game has become a showcase for its latest initiatives, with the most recent staging in Utah hosting a dedicated technology event and featuring several major announcements. The league has also started making direct investments in promising startups.

Last year, the NBA invested in smart fabric tech firm Nextiles and has now expanded its portfolio to cover Videocites. The US$10 million Series B round was led by Velocity Capital Management, with the NBA and Infront also among the participants.

Israeli-based Videocites has been working with the NBA to provide greater insights into the league’s global reach and brand exposure by analysing user-generated content (UGC) from fans.

“We’re excited to collaborate with Videocites to better understand how user-generated content resonates with our fans,” said David Lee, head of NBA Equity.

“This partnership and our investment in Videocites reflect our commitment to continue to grow and embrace our fans across the ever-evolving global social media landscape.”

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