NBA, Intel Capital Launch Sports-Tech Accelerator Program

Intel Capital

Intel Capital and the National Basketball Association have announced plans for a multi-year accelerator program to “advance the cause of startups in the nexus between sports, technology and entertainment” (think: immersive media, smart arenas). The NBA + Intel Capital Emerging Technology Investment Initiative will serve as a launch pad for the companies selected, providing investment capital (largely funded by Intel Capital), IP, opportunities for commercial collaboration and global reach. The program will consider sports-tech companies from anywhere in the world, at all investment stages; though, it intends to focus on U.S. based businesses raising Seed and Series A rounds. The announcement comes less than a month after Intel announced it would be shuttering its consumer wearables business (think: fitness trackers).

Howie Long-Short: We’re witnessing a trend of sports league/teams launching accelerator/venture programs. In January, the Dodgers announced they would be expanding their investment arm, introducing a “venture studio” with R/GA; and then in February, Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment, Creative Artists Agency and the San Francisco 49ers announced the launch of Elevate Sports Ventures. Elevate CEO Al Guido told us there’s a simple explanation as to why teams/leagues are first now entering the venture capital space; historically speaking, “sports teams (and leagues) didn’t recognize the power of their brand and what it meant.” They sure do now.

The new initiative will be funded by Intel Corporation’s (INTC) global investment arm, Intel Capital; which has fund 1500+ companies, including VenueNext, Peloton Technologies and DocuSign (just went public, DOCU).

In late April, INTC reported Q1 ’18 earnings (+32% YoY to $.87/share) and revenue (+9% YoY to $16.07 billion) figures that beat analyst expectations; with the company’s data-centric businesses (AI, cloud, data centers and IoT, 2nd largest segment of business) reporting the largest (+24% YoY to $5.2 billion, all-time high 49% of company revenue) and most rapid growth (+20% from trailing quarter). As CFO Bob Swan explained, “our Q1 results demonstrated continued momentum in our transformation from a PC-centric company to a data-centric company.” The company also raised FY18 revenue guidance by $2.5 billion to $67.5 billion. It’s worth pointing out that shares up are up 17.7% YTD ($54.34).

Fan Marino: Intel and the NBA have some familiarity with one another, as INTC currently serves as the league’s “exclusive provider of virtual reality content” (Intel True VR technology) and provides 360-degree video (for unique in-arena game views) to NBA broadcast partners around the world. Last month, the company also became one of the first two “Official Partners” of the NBA 2K League, agreeing to serve as the “Official Technology Provider” of the upstart esports league.

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