A Pitch Of A Different Kind: The LA Dodger's Accelerator First Class

It was an unusual sight at Dodger's Stadium on Tuesday evening, at least for baseball fans, as a different Dodger's team took the field: the first class of the LA Dodgers Accelerator, an effort by the team to help incubate and accelerate startups in the sports and sport-related areas. The event transformed Dodger's Stadium into a place for not baseball pitches, but startup pitches, with ten different companies pitching their companies to a large audience of investors and others in the technology industry sitting in the stands.

The Los Angeles Dodgers Accelerator, which is being run in conjunction with agency R/GA, debuted its first class of startups out of its startup accelerator class, replacing the usual batter's box with a stage, and removing the cage, and featuring the startups' names on the scoreboard. The event was an interesting intersection of the business of sports and financial background of the Dodger's ownership group, with the energy and enthusiasm of the startup world.

One might ask: what do the LA Dodgers have to do with startups? For sports insiders, it was not about the LA Dodgers, per se: it was about the business of the LA Dodgers, and the interest of the owners of LA Dodgers—a significant number who are veterans of the finance, business, and startup world. It was about how, as Dodgers CEO Stan Kasten explained on stage, of how to “use (the Dodgers) brand to expand our brand”, how to help not just the Dodgers but “create vast new environments for the sports world” as a whole. It was also about helping out Los Angeles, and injecting more startups into the local ecosystem—with at least one startup, DoorStat, moving the company from Chicago to Los Angeles as a direct result of the accelerator program.

Four of the companies--Appetize, DoorStat, FieldLevel, and FocusMotion are all based in the Los Angeles area. Other companies include Juke (New York), LeagueApps (New York), Kinduct (Nova Scotia). ProDay (San Francisco), SidePrize (Atlanta), and Swish Analytics (San Francisco). Three of the companies—SidePrize, Swish Analytics and Juke—are focused on fantasy sports. Appetize (point of sale terminals and software) and DoorStat (visitors statistics and demographics using vision recognition) are aimed at operations. FieldLevel is focused on smoothing the college recruiting process; FocusMotion develops motion tracking software for wearables; Kinduct offers up stats related to player health and performance; ProDay offers personal training software for athletes; and LeagueApps offers up amateur sports league management software.

What was the biggest takeaway of the evening? Probably, the enormous reach and impact of established brands (in this case, the LA Dodgers) compared with that of the startups they have helped in their accelerator, and how those brands can help create huge opportunities for those startups which wouldn't be possible otherwise.