Startups & VCs

Maple Leaf Sports’ incubator picks startups for innovation drive

Six early-stage tech companies will have opportunity to pilot with Toronto franchises.

by Sam Carp

Maple Leaf Sports’ incubator picks startups for innovation drive

Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (MLSE) and Ryerson University have named the first six startups that will make up their collaborative Future of Sport Lab (FSL) incubator.

The selection process saw each group make a full-day pitch to the FSL advisory committee and mentor network, which comprises an array of sport and tech business executives from across Canada.

The chosen startups are Performance Phenomics, a science-based athlete performance optimisation company; Rival.ai, an esports firm that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to scout gamers; SkillShark, an integrated coaches platform for athlete evaluations; Spalk, a virtual sportscasting studio; Stakes, a platform that enables real-time sports wagering between friends; and The Gist, which provides sports news, experiences and community that is created by women, for women.

Each participating startup will receive immersive programming from the Ted Rogers School of Management, guidance from mentors in the FSL network and access to leading academies.

Those startups that impress will have opportunities to pilot with MLSE’s portfolio of major league franchises, which include the National Hockey League’s (NHL) Toronto Maple Leafs, the Toronto Raptors of the National Basketball Association (NBA) and Major League Soccer’s (MLS) Toronto FC.

The general aim of the FSL will be to drive innovation across the sports industry. The program is focused on innovations and research in analytics, athletic performance technologies, business management analysis, fan engagement, consumer experiences and social innovation.

"We are incredibly excited to work with the FSL’s six startups and offer them a platform with our teams, venues and business," said Humza Teherany, chief technology and digital officer at MLSE. “With unprecedented support of an incredible network of mentors, we are looking forward to have having new ideas and innovations that will ultimately help us with our overarching goal – to win championships and deliver exceptional fan experiences.”

Sports tech incubators have become an increasingly attractive way for sports teams and organisations to get ahead of future trends. Last year, Major League Baseball’s (MLB) Los Angeles Dodgers and R/GA Ventures announced the launch of Global Sports Venture Studios, an accelerator program that aims to connect sport industry leaders with emerging startups. Meanwhile, the NBA partnered with Intel Capital in May to invest in early-stage technology companies with the potential to enhance sport and entertainment.