Startup Competition Guide


Accelerators targeting sports tech companies

They include leAD Sports Accelerator, Global Sports Venture Studio and Hype Lab Accelerators

Innovation series by Steven Loeb
June 7, 2018
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For startups, there are numerous paths for getting their name out there. One way, which Vator has been covering recently, are startup competitions, but another popular method to get a foot in the door, as well as some funding and traction, are accelerators. These are programs that provide companies advice, guidance and various forms of support for startups in their early stages. They also often invest in the companies, for a certain equity stake.

Need a list of startup competitions, challenges, accelerators, etc. from around the world? Check out VatorX. You can find them, or list yours!

There are some very well-known accelerators out there, including Y Combinator and 500 Startups, which have made their names through various successful alumni. Those programs fairly general, accepting companies from a variety of different spaces. 

For some companies, it may help to join an accelerator that only focuses on their specific area. That's especially true for those in more specialized spaces, which will have their own unique challenges and regulations.

Here are some of the accelerators that are focused specifically on mentoring companies in the sports tech space:


leAD Sportsaccelerator: Logo

"For startups with outstanding ideas, the leAD team of entrepreneurs, experts and international top investors with a deep passion for and strong foothold in sports paves the way to the best playing fields in the business."

Investment amount: €25,000 for each one of the final Startups to cover your expenses. leAD receives 8% equity Of the final selected startups.

Program benefits: 

  • Pitch Trainings with Stage Trainer
  • Keynote Dinner with mentors / experts
  • Office Hours with leAD team
  • Social activities
  • On-site sports program

Mentor makeup: Jan Kegelberg, Thomas Schulte, Simon Heinz

Portfolio companies: 20/20 Armor, Evolve Sports, ForwardGame AR, Venuzle


"Play Labs is a startup incubator/accelerator program for startups on campus at MIT in the summer  using playful technologies in any industry. Playful technologies come in many forms, including Digital Currency/Blockchain, eSports, Video Games,  Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, 3d Modeling, Gamification, AI & Machine Learning, Media Visualization and Streaming."

Investment amount: Every team accepted into Play Labs will receive $20k at the start of the program in exchange in for 6% common equity as our standard participation method.  Startups that have raised more than $100k already or have more than $100k in annual revenues may be eligible for our alternative participation methods.

This money will help the team get through the summer, and each company that graduates will be eligible for a follow on investment of up to $80k as part of a follow-on seed round, which is typically done as a convertible note. Startups will need to meet certain criteria in their seed round for the follow-on investment.

Program benefits: Launching a startup can be a herculean task; making it successful can be even more challenging!  Many MIT alumni and members of the community have started, funded, grown and sold their companies. Play Labs is designed to help you get your company off the ground and on the right trajectory to success with advice, hands-on mentorship, financing and more.  Play Labs can also help your company get exposure within the VC and investment community; because of our affiliation with MIT we are watched closely by many investment professionals.

Portfolio companies: Esports One, Total Respawn


"We’re building a platform for industry leaders looking to embrace disruption, experiment with innovation, and engage with the global startup ecosystem in strategic and risk-controlled ways."

Investment amount: Not specified

Program benefits: 

  • Knowledge Capital

We go beyond just capturing qualitative and quantitative data to deliver actionable insights that provide a new perspective on your industry.

  • Curated Events

We put you in the rooms you need to be in, tapping into our network of investors and industry leaders to host panels, workshops, roundtables, and demo events on a global scale.

  • Access to Startups and Pilots

We help you validate your product, technology, and market; and connect you with Studio-affiliated startups for customized pilots and accelerator programs.

  • Networking

We connect organizations with the potential for collaboration, and facilitate introductions to other Studio partners.

Portfolio companies: Appetize, DoorStat, FieldLevel, LeagueApps, SidePrize


 The Sixers Innovation Lab

"At the Sixers Innovation Lab Crafted by Kimball we help you move as quickly as possible. We offer a flexible, individualized program with day-to-day operational support for each company in the Lab."

Investment amount: The Innovation Lab partners (Sixers and Kimball) will be taking an equity stake in for participation in the Innovation Lab. Each company will be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

Program benefits: - Free Housing - Free Office Space - Free Food - Free Marketing Strategy though Maven Creative - Free and Discounted Legal Services through Pepper Hamilton - PR Services - Access to Managing Director, Board of Governors, Advisors and Philadelphia 76ers executives

Portfolio companies: Monster Roster, Live Life Nice, U GIT GUD, Doc & Phoebe’s Cat Co.



"Black Lab Sports invests in, launches, and scales companies whose founders live their purpose and who focus on pushing the limits of Human Performance.  Unleashing Greatness is at the heart of everything we do."

Investment amount: Not specified

Program benefits: This spring has seen a total and exciting transformation of our space. From adding two rooms and a media lab to the warehouse and dividing our big conference room into two rooms, to building out the neuroscience lab and creating a coworking space, we are not what we once were! We're psyched about the people and possibilities that these changes will make room for as Black Lab Sports continues to grow. 

Mentor makeup: Adam Baker, Mac Freeman, Seth Levine, Nicole Glaros

Portfolio companies: isplack, ONX Sports, Nix, Dynepic



"Stadia Ventures is the global Sports Innovation Hub for entrepreneurs, industry partners and investors.

We create an ecosystem for sports innovation growth by leveraging our team’s core strengths: education, investment, network, and industry expertise."

Investment amount: A $100,000 equity investment

Program benefits: Stadia Accelerator helps established sports & eSports startups get to the next level through the combination of up to a $100,000 equity investment, intensive mentoring, and connections to the top sports & eSports business executives in the country. We leverage our network of industry executives that include senior leaders at teams, leagues, sponsors, game developers, publishers, manufacturers, marketers, investors, business services, etc. We finish the delivery by helping companies close their next deal, land their next investment round, or find their exit partner. Our success is determined by our cohort’s financial success!

Mentor makeup: Craig Cerrana, Mike Chaffin, Chris Chaney, Bob Kerch, Rob Reeg

Portfolio companies: Spalk, Rookies, GamerzArena


"We see sports innovation as driving force to answer societal challenges. Internationalisation and Cross-overs are our two pillars to accelerate sustainable sports companies. We offer our services to get the business moving. Our contribution is our ambition; improving performance"

Investment amount: As we don’t take equity, we ask a fee to participate in the program. Remember, if 1% equity in a startup represents a value of around € 20.000,-. Participating in Sport eXperience represents 0,025% equity.

Program benefits: 

  • Annual Sport Business Day SportTechie Netherlands meetups and more
  • Access to over 250 sports investors intermediate between innovator and finance
  • Network of over 5,000 individual sport stakeholders

Portfolio companies: Peakout, LevelUp, GoSpoort


"The OneTeam Collective is the first athlete-driven accelerator delivering value to up-and-coming companies by unlocking access to professional athletes, their intellectual property, as well as a world-class team of investors and strategic partners."

Investment amount: Every deal will be different based on which founding partners are participating. Equity – at varying mutually agreed upon levels – will be included in all deals.

Program benefits: 

  • Rights to sports-based intellectual property, though the NFLPA' s exclusive group licensing rights and access to more than 2,000 current NFL players.
  • Mentorship from world-class investors, universities, Fortune 500 companies, sports industry executives and athletes.
  • Get in front of world-class investors, pitching your company directly to decision makers at investment funds across all stages of company growth.

Portfolio companies: CampusLore, Statmuse, WHOOP


"The KICKUP Sports Accelerator is an international acceleration program that aims to scout, accelerate and invest in early stage sports business startups, focused on Sports Performance & Lifestyle Activity; Fan Engagement & Entertainment; Facility Management & Operations."

Investment amount: 10k Euro investment for an equity stake of 8%.

Program benefits: 

  • Workspace for your team in one of the leading Lisbon sports facility – the Sport Lisboa e Benfica stadium.
  • Training program supported by one of the leading business schools in Europe, Nova SBE.
  • Clubs, corporate and public contacts and networking to validate, test and leverage your project.
  • Access to accredited investors and industry corporate venture capital firms to take startups to the next level.
  • Full-access (according to rules and regulation) to the SLB facilities and possibility to use them for testing purposes.
  • Access to experienced mentors and industry experts to help your startup in every stage of its development.
  • Support team in-residence to mentor, connect and develop your project in everything you might need.
  • Co-development with the founding sponsors in order to enlarge capabilities and leverage R&D.
  • Access to a bundle of free perks, on-demand services and network partners.

Mentor makeup: Andreia Silva, Paulo Santos, Gil Belford, Telmo Silva

Portfolio companies: App On Screen,, Football Tracker, I Run Abroad


"Arsenal Football Club has thrived on a pioneering and innovative spirit since its formation in 1886. The Arsenal Innovation Lab is the latest step in our desire to be at the forefront of the game on and off the pitch. We have been working with smart-thinking businesses to help us identify ground-breaking ideas to take us forwards.

Investment amount: Not specified

Program benefits: 

  • Mentorship from Arsenal’s senior leadership team
  • Product validation from Arsenal stakeholders and supporters
  • Testing in a live fan environment
  • A network of external mentors with diverse market expertise
  • Opportunity to gain investment

Portfolio companies: Aireal, Botnation, Konnecto, WoraPay


"Each HYPE Lab runs an innovative sports accelerator program while providing its participating startups with direct access to over 26,000 stakeholders in the world of sports. In each location we offer a 16-week accelerator program twice a year."

Investment amount: In the first program, we have decided to waive any rights to equity that would normally flow from a program of this caliber. This will most likely change in subsequent programs. We also to not ask for any participation fees, so practically the first program is provided for free.

Program benefits: 

  • Pitch to leading sports investors and VCs
  • Be introduced to top global sports brands
  • Gain valuable insights from leading sports and academia mentors
  • Virtual Coffee with industry figures
  • Opportunity to participate in global Sports Innovation Competitions
  • Connection to state of the art research infrastructures

Mentor makeup: Mike Levy, Bernd Wahler, Sébastien Audoux, Uli Becker

Portfolio companies: None yet

(Image source:


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