A new wave of sports entrepreneurs and startups are turning Victoria’s love of sport into a major economic force thanks to leadership from the Australian Sports Technologies Network (ASTN).
Over the past five years, ASTN has engaged with around 500 sports technology companies in Australia. By offering trade initiatives, mentorship programs, events and entrepreneurship masterclasses, the network has helped connect local innovation with global opportunities.
A flagship story for the sector is Catapult Sport, a Melbourne-based company that designs wearable technology for elite athletes. Founded by two engineers during a project with the Australian Institute of Sport, Catapult now provides services to over 12,00 elite sporting clubs, has around 200 employees and an estimated market valuation of A$300 million.
“We certainly think that within our database and membership, there are many more companies like Catapult out there. They just need better help in connecting to their market or to investors or to global markets. That’s what our role is,” says Hill.
But Catapult is just one example of what can be achieved in Victoria’s sports technology sector, says outgoing ASTN Executive Director Craig Hill. Another home-grown success story in the sports technology space is Champion Data. A thriving Melbourne based outfit with more than 100 employees, Champion Data provides live and post-match stats for AFL, rugby, soccer, cricket and netball.
Established by former Carlton Football player Ted Hopkins in 1996, Champion Data is the official statistics provider for the AFL. As well as receiving a wealth of game statistics, the user can access enhanced commentary and content in Champion Data’s Story of the Game feature – the ‘who won and why’ of each and every match.
US Trade Mission
To achieve its goal of extending its reach into new markets, ASTN actively engages with international investors and markets. In March 2017 for instance, the ASTN led 15 sports technology companies on an inaugural trade mission to the United States.
As well as attending the MIT sports conference in Boston, the largest in the world, the group met with senior executives from the San Francisco 49ers, the Golden State Warriors, Red Bull’s High Performance Centre and the US Olympic Committee.
The trade initiative to the US was a great success and confirmed Victoria’s position as a thriving sports innovation centre, says Hill.
“We have an immediate credibility in the market so we were able to meet key decision makers in these elite sporting environments and also with investors,” he explains.
“Melbourne is one of the sporting capitals of the world,” adds incoming ASTN Executive Director, Rachel Piastri. “We have high recognition and credibility globally in regards to the hosting and managing world-class sports events. We have a number of universities delivering world-class education programs in sports science and sports management.
“We have access to incredible facilities that are often underestimated—as fans but also as participants in sport in our local communities. And we have a highly structured sports system which provides pathways for our kids.”
Launch Vic projects
As a recipient of the LaunchVic fund, ASTN is now looking to build on these gains to further capitalise on Victoria’s strengths in the sports technology sector.
The funding will be used to provide free advisory support to up to 20 Victorian sports tech startups, publish a comprehensive playbook on how sports entrepreneurs can maximise business opportunities, as well as hosting a sports analytics championship that will take place in November 2017.
These programs, says Hill, will benefit a huge range of companies in the sector––from those that develop sports performance technologies to those that are developing sports club or league management systems as well and fan engagement and media solutions.
Capitalising on growth potential
ASTN is also partnering with the Australian Sports Technology Conference on August 4 at Melbourne Park. Both organisations have a vested interest in boosting the competitiveness of Victoria’s competitive sports technology sector.
“It is important to recognise the role sport can play as an economic driver in Victoria,” says Piastri. “There are an emerging group of high value sports technology businesses being developed in Victoria, With the right strategic connections, advice and education some of their companies can be world-leaders in their segment.”