Will fans still attend sporting events? Probably not anytime in the near future, which is why tech companies are rethinking their products to suit the needs of aficionados who cannot be physically present at competitions. 

In our latest ConZoom event, we sat down (virtually) with two emerging leaders in SportsTech: Darius Grandberry, CEO and founder of fantasy sports app Leagueswype, and Matt Bailey, CEO and founder of sports prediction app GameOn. ConZoom is a weekly virtual event hosted by Diffuse that is part networking (you’ll meet at least a half dozen high calibre startup players) and part purposeful (you’ll ConZoom new ideas). 

 

Are people still going to sports events?

Darius has been closely watching trends in sports, since the pandemic broke. In a recent poll by Seton Hall, without a vaccine, 72 percent of sports fans do not feel comfortable going to live sports events. Darius predicts this will drive new SportsTech startups into the market to fill this obvious gap.

“There’s going to be a lot of movement around replicating the in-stadium experience at home. So you may see some of those past investments in VR and AR, and in enhanced reality start to pay off as they pivot to try to replicate that in-stadium experience,” Darius said.

This possible wave of SportsTech will not only allow fans to replicate the live experience from home, but also allow leagues and teams to advertise to compensate for lost ticket revenue.

Additionally, Darius expects athletes to continue to interact more intensively online with fans. “We may see them trying to find ways to benefit from their fan base and their personality. So I’ve seen them monetizing their images through avatars, games, and player-run eSports tournaments.” 

“Any startups in that industry will see heavy investment,” he predicted.

 

SportsTech trends that are taking off in 2020

Darius identified three major categories in in-demand tech for sports teams and athletes. “Wearables, activity, and performance are leading the way.” He said these three technologies are taking off as a result of the pandemic, with the health and safety of athletes in mind. 

“With fans and content close behind, you’re gonna have wearable tech that detects COVID and other injuries. You’re seeing some of the leagues invest in that technology now to detect COVID earlier as they prioritize health and safety of their players,” Darius added.

 

Is the country legalizing sports betting soon?

Making a wave in SportsTech is the legalization of sports betting, and Matt wonders if the pandemic might have something to do with it. “That’s a question, and there are two sides to whether the pandemic will induce faster legalization across the country.” 

As of now, 18 states have legalized sports betting and several other states are already progressing in this direction, with only three states not having a pending bill for it, according to Darius. Meanwhile, Matt quotes sources saying sports betting is a valuable source for a state’s financing.

And so given the current pandemic, state legislators might be urged to reconsider sports betting as a matter of survival. Matt anticipates that sports betting platforms might hit it big as we see this push to legalize the activity across the country. 

“It’ll be interesting to see how that plays out. I think sports betting is going to become more prominent across the U.S., as it slowly makes its way to each state,” Matt shared.

 

What sports bettors are doing right now

Due to COVID, sports and sports betting in general have come to a full stop. However, hardcore bettors are finding ways to get their fix through sports prediction apps. GameOn, for example, is helping people fill the void by branching into betting games outside of sports.

Matt explained: “We really tried to ride the wave of COVID instead of fighting against it, and we challenged ourselves to generate revenue even in a time of no sports. So we thought, where else can our prediction engine apply? We thought reality TV, news, elections, and anything – pretty much any other content or programming outside of sports. 

“So we started reaching out to some media entities on a white label push and we took our prediction engine and applied to other platforms for leading media companies like NBCUniversal,” Matt shared. 

Originally, Matt thought the idea was ludicrous. But later on, he was surprised to find that it was becoming more profitable than anything they had ever done.

“If you asked me three months ago if I’d be working on that, I would have laughed at you. But funnily enough, it’s generating more revenue than we’ve ever generated before, and it’s not cannibalizing our sports flagship product. So we’re really excited about it,” Matt shared.

 

Darius Granberry is the Managing Director of Gold Leaf Capital Partners, as well as the CEO and Founder of Leagueswype, a digital wallet created exclusively for the sports fantasy league market. Matt Bailey is the CEO and Founder of GameOn, a sports prediction mobile platform for fans of sports and TV, and also the Founder and Board Director of the Brooklyn Kings Rugby League. Both of them are avid sports fans. 

 

Want to get in touch with people who share the same passion for investing in emerging leaders in tech? Don’t hesitate to get in touch with our team at Diffuse.