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Sports Startups Aim to Improve Fantasy Sports, Ticketing and Athlete-Fan Interactions

Big data and analytics are critical to achieving innovation in the sports business.

If electrolyte-infused, colored beverages are the go-to fuel of professional athletes, then data and analytics are the new Gatorade of the professional sports industry.

A host of scrappy startups demoed their products at the On Deck Sports & Technology Conference in New York on Feb. 12, and many of them aim to disrupt in three key areas: fantasy sports, ticketing and athlete-fan interactions.

All three of these elements rely on high volumes of data to work. Fantasy sports requires a constant stream of game and player statistics to be accurate, ticketing relies on real-time inventory data to alert fans to open seats and athlete-fan interactions have to be scheduled and managed against the hundreds of variables that can throw these experiences off course.

But these startups are ready to take on the challenge.

Fantasy Sports, Real Value

Fantasy sports, in particular, is big business. According to recent estimates, fantasy sports rakes in more than $1 billion in revenue. One of the biggest challenges for fantasy sports businesses is having access to timely, reliable data from the games. SportsData is up to the task. It provides accurate, instant, play-by-play data to its feed, which is accessed by major customers like NBC Sports and Bloomberg Sports.

While fantasy sports are a hit with the masses, most of this action has taken place on the desktop web and not through mobile. San Francisco-based Pickmoto, hopes to take a crack at winning fantasy sports addicts to its iOS mobile apps.

Founders Ryan Gerard and Ben Peters are eager to bring a top-tier experience to sports fans, with all of the requisite trash talking included. They rolled out a football app, Football Pickem, for the NFL season and are racing to release an app for the upcoming NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship, which kicks off in March.

Monetizing Mobility and Experiences

Another startup taking on the mobile battleground is SpotTrot, which helps sports and entertainment brands stand up responsive, interactive mobile e-commerce stores.

The company, which was founded in part with Dave Matthews of the Dave Matthews Band, has made significant inroads in the music and entertainment industry, and it has dipped its toes into sports, powering the online stores for Jeff Gordon and Tiger Woods.

SpotTrot is poised to provide significant value for many sports brands as mobility at sporting events becomes ubiquitous. If brands can use SpotTrot’s mobile store fronts to encourage impulse buying, providing connectivity for mobile devices will become even more of a priority.

Social media in sports adds a whole new level of accessibility to athletes not possible in the past. Through tweets, fans can seek value and redemption in virtual acknowledgement, but it still doesn’t replace the real thing.

Former NFL running back Tiki Barber recognizes the desire for fans to connect with their favorite sports heroes, both retired and active, which is why he set up Thuzio, an online booking site where fans can purchase unique, one-on-one interactions with professional athletes.

These experiences can run the gamut, from having an athlete show up at your kid’s birthday party to booking lunch with Kroy Biermann of the Atlanta Falcons (and Real Housewives of Atlanta). Whatever the event, Thuzio is nothing short of a breakthrough for fans looking to connect with their idols and represents an additional revenue stream for athletes.

Have a Better Seat

Lastly, there’s ticketing. SeatGeek is taking on live event ticketing in the same way that Kayak has taken on airline ticketing. It scours all of the available ticket reseller listings and aggregates the data in a way that is easy to filter. SeatGeek also has created a good deal score, which helps users determine whether the deal is a bargain or a rip-off. The lower the score, the worse deal.

Pogoseat, on the other hand, helps venues maximize inventory by offering seat upgrades during the event. It’s accessible through a mobile device, which means fans can start the game in the nosebleeds and make their way down to the concourse after halftime. The company currently has deals in place with the Detroit Pistons and the Golden State Warriors to offer in-game seat upgrades to their fans.

Technology disrupts every industry, and while some might have feared that it would replace the core fan experience, these companies prove that technology is more likely to enhance what many of us already love about sports.

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Feb 15 2013 Spice IT

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