Sports Entrepreneurship

NFL's 1st And Future Startup Competition Heats Things Up In Minneapolis

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On the eve of Super Bowl LII, the stars were not the football players, but the innovators and entrepreneurs with the ideas to change the game. Yesterday morning, nine early stage sports tech startups pitched their emerging technologies during the NFL’s 1st and Future Competition, the organization’s premier business pitch event, to a panel of judges and invite-only audience to win $50,000 and two tickets to Super Bowl LII.

The startups remaining in this annual competition participated in one of three categories: Advancements in Protective Equipment, New Therapies to Speed Recovery, and Technology to Improve Athletic Performance. One winner was selected in each category.

The Denver, Colorado based startup Impressio won the Advancements in Protective Equipment division. Impressio is led by a pair of engineering professors who have spent the last fifteen years “obsessed with finding new materials to improve human health.” This team aims to replace the current foam in helmets with a material containing “unprecedented energy absorbing ability,” called liquid crystal elastomers, to reduce concussion rates. These oval shaped molecules rotate when impacted to absorb more energy and dissipate absorption from impact over a broader range than current helmet foam material, increasing helmet safety. The technology requires no fundamental re-design of the helmet. Liquid crystal elastomers are documented by over forty years of research but are difficult to make, according to Impressio. The team has a patented procedure to manufacture the material in bulk.

Curv.ai, based in Toronto, Ontario, walked away as winners in the Technology to Improve Athletic Performance category. This startup is developing software that transforms the camera on any smart phone into a tool to test athletic abilities, track athletic progress, diagnose injury, and compare athletic advancements socially. The application can capture data such as throwing speed, vertical jump, knee kinematics, and reaction time to create a “revolution in athletic testing and athlete development.” The platform is free to use, with a paid premium model available to track data over time. The software is geared toward young athletes. A variety of wearables do exist to quantify these same types of data. However, these items are expensive, complicated, and cannot be integrated onto one platform, according to Curv.ai.

The Mountain View, California startup Recover X won the final division, New Therapies to Speed Recovery. This startup is “building the next generation of injury recovery devices to help speed recovery…and keep players accountable to their actual treatment.” The startup is developing a smart phone-controlled electric cold and hot therapy device that warms up or cools down to the optimal therapy temperatures in under thirty seconds. The device can also alternate between heat and cold for optimal recovery. The device is portable, runs on batteries, and requires the use of no ice. It even tracks data to ensure that players are performing their therapy as prescribed. The device is currently targeted to the knee, the cause of 28% of Injury Reserve issues in the NFL last year. However, the design is modular and can be adapted to target other portions of the body.

The NFL’s 1st and Future Competition was sponsored by Mayo Clinic, Sports Engine, and Comcast NBCUniversal. The event was hosted by Scott Hanson of the NFL Network. The expert panel of judges included Amy Banse, Managing Director and Head of Funds for Comcast Ventures; Jonathan Finnoff, Medical Director of Mayo Clinic Square with the Sports Medicine Center in Minneapolis; Courtney Hall, Managing Director of Hillcrest Venture Partners and former NFL athlete; Justin Kaufenberg, Co-Founder and CEO of Sports Engine; Laurie Locascio, Vice President for Research at the University of Maryland; Eric Sugarman, Director of Sports Medicine and Head Athletic Trainer with the Minnesota Vikings; and Jennifer Wethe, Neuropsychologist for Mayo Clinic Arizona Sports Neurology and Concussion Program.

Last year, Rochester’s own GoRout participated in the 1st and Future Competition the day before Super Bowl LI in Houston and won their division, Communication with the Athlete. GoRout is a hardware and software company that elevates “scout team execution with football’s most powerful on-field practice gear.”

This year, no Minnesota companies made it to the final round of the competition.

Press Release: All American Games and GoRout Announce an All-American Partnership

ROCKAWAY, NJ (April 20, 2017) – All American Games today announced a partnership with GoRout, the on-field wearable playmaking technology for football teams across the country.

GoRout is the only playmaking technology that combines intelligent software and on-field wearable products to enhance practice for high school, college, and professional football teams. U.S. Army All-Americans will use GoRout products to help players track their practice performance and perfect their game.

GoRout brings several different products to the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. One of the products to be included is Vue, football’s only on-field display technology worn by players. With Vue, coaches send digital play calls, coaching tips, and assignments to every player instantly. Players select their position, see the play, and execute perfectly.

At the NFL’s 1st and Future Competition at Super Bowl LI, GoRout was named the “Most Innovative Athlete Communication Technology” in football. In addition, GoRout was awarded “Product of the Year” by Football Scoop in both 2016 and 2017. GoRout is currently being used by some of the best high schools, FCS/FBS colleges, and professional football teams in America.

For 18 consecutive years, the U.S. Army All-American Bowl has been the nation’s premier high school sporting event and serves as the preeminent launching pad for America’s future college and NFL stars. Odell Beckham Jr., Andrew Luck, Patrick Peterson, Adrian Peterson, Ezekiel Elliott, and Christian McCaffrey made their national debuts as U.S. Army All- Americans. A total of 330 U.S. Army All-American Bowl alumni have been selected in NFL Drafts. The 2017 U.S. Army All-American Bowl drew a record crowd of 40,568 to the Alamodome and was watched by more than 5 million unique viewers on NBC.

For more information on GoRout, visit gorout.com and noscoutcards.gorout.com. Connect with all GoRout activity at fb.com/gorouttech, or at the official Twitter (@Go_Rout) and Instagram (@Go_Rout) accounts.

For more information on All American Games, the U.S. Army All-American Bowl and its related events, visit usarmyallamericanbowl.com, goarmy.com/events/aab, allamericangames.com, and footballuniversity.org.

Connect with all #ArmyBowl activity at fb.com/ArmyAllAmerican, or at the official Twitter (@ArmyAllAmerican) and Instagram (@armyallamericanbowl) accounts.

For more information contact:

Mike Ulatoski

All American  Games

[E] mulatoski@allamericangames.com

[O] 973 2981103 [C] 203 808 6601

GoRout Unveils Newest Product at Rochester's First Ever Sports Tech Launch Tomorrow Night

GoRout, a football hardware and software startup, is one of the best kept secrets in Rochester. This two-year-old company developed football’s only on-field wearable technology that allows coaches and players to interact and communicate more efficiently. GoRout launched their beta product to sixty-five football teams, from the high school to professional level. Tomorrow evening, they’ll unveil their newest product at a public launch party right here in Rochester during Global Entrepreneurship Week. And they’ve done it all from a small office space above Grand Rounds Brew Pub.

It takes a lot of pluck to be an entrepreneur, as GoRout’s Founder Mike Rolih well knows. Mike’s story is one of those that is so crazy, it just has to be true.

Mike first moved to Rochester from the Chicago area with his wife six years ago. At the time, he owned a consulting business, which he later sold. Mike had strong ties and connections in baseball; he actually played professional baseball and was a Division One Baseball coach and a professional baseball scout. After moving to Rochester, he started building up a baseball stats platform with a friend that would communicate information instantly to the players on the field. In the end, the platform took much too long to develop and was not really headed in the intended direction.

“But this whole idea of transferring real time information to people on the playing field was something that really kind of struck my eye and something that I really started diving into and I really had no idea how to build it,” Mike explained.

Mike had always been a tinkerer. When the baseball platform didn’t pan out, he started learning to write code to better understand how to create his vision. So he started coding and building small machines at home, which as you can imagine, was not so great for his wife.

“And at this point my wife had had enough. She wanted me out of the house. …And I had nothing to do. So I took a job driving limo, running people back and forth from Mayo to the Minneapolis airport.”

Ironically, limo driving might have been the best gig he ever landed. The entire time he was driving, Mike was also pitching ideas to anyone who would listen and ironing out the finer details in his head.

“You’d be surprised how many people you meet,” he said, which included famous people like Jay Leno. “They’re just normal people. You just strike up a conversation with them.”

One day, the former CEO of Motorola stepped into Mike’s limo and happened to love his idea. After a few trips to and from the airport, Mike asked he if could give this man a call at some point for mentorship. The former CEO agreed. Two months later, Mike tinkered around enough to develop a very rough prototype. He called the man on the phone and the former CEO flew on his personal jet to Rochester in five hours.

“And he wrote me a check for $300,000. That was our seed fund. And from there we kind of hit the ground running.” Mike took the money and bought a ticket to China, where he spent the next ninety days building the initial version of the first GoRout product.

GoRout fills a very specific niche in the sports world. And really no company, anywhere, is doing what they are doing.

 A large amount of time, effort, and strategy goes into preparing for a single football practice, at any level of play. Coaches have to actually sit down and draw out plays on cards, which can be upwards of 200-400 cards for the week. At the Division One College Level, this could take five to seven hours. Once on the field, these play cards are kept in a large binder and held up when a play is called. All the players on the field have to be able to see the card to know what play to run, which often involves running back and forth from the field to the sideline, taking away valuable practice time.

“So the attention span, the ability to see a card depending on where you're standing, the inefficiently of actually having to come in the huddle and listen to a coach point out ten other guy’s responsibilities before he even gets to yours, all of these elements add to a significant amount of time lost in between reps,” Mike explained.

GoRout developed products that increase communication between players and coaches during practice and allow more reps to be run. Using GoRout Steel software, coaches can more easily draw and instantly change plays. GoRout Vue is football’s only wearable display technology, allowing players to see plays on a device strapped onto the wrist and know exactly what route they need to run without ever going into the huddle or running to the sideline.

Without GoRout technology, teams may run about one play per minute during practice. But with GoRout, you “just hit a button and send the information out,” keeping all the players on the field, relaying information faster to every single player, and allowing cycling in of more players.

Instead of running maybe 10 reps in 10 minutes, with GoRout teams can run 35 to 50 reps in that same amount of time at a much higher quality.

“There are so many coaches that still try to teach 21st century players with late or early 20th century technology. …Kids today…they’re interactive. They’re individualized. And they’re very tech savvy. And if you’re not using products that can speak to their learning style, which is inevitably going to be visual to some degree, then you’re losing a major component of what you’re trying to achieve.”

Since GoRout’s start in 2014, they’ve had a lot of successes. But they’ve also had a lot of failures.

Call Taylor at (507) 424-3648

Call Taylor at (507) 424-3648

GoRout fits a very specific vertical in the sports tech field, which no one else was filling, and solves a problem that no one else quite knew how to solve. They really are the only ones operating in their defined space, which has allowed them to experiment, take some risks, and just try some things out. Some of these risks have led to failures, something that the GoRout team doesn’t fear, but actually embraces as a learning opportunity.

“We really believe in failing fast. Fail faster than anybody else. Let’s not be afraid to put something out there, have it not work, and figure out why,” Mike explained.

The initial version of the GoRout product actually never even got off the ground. Last year, they got their alpha version out to fifteen teams around the Midwest, which was largely a success. But they realized they had to make significant changes to their product. Instead of giving up, GoRout accepted it as a learning experience and an opportunity to completely re-engineering both their hardware and software, now with a better understanding of the customer.

GoRout failed fast, and learned fast, in part because every bit of their company was created here. “We design everything in house. Everything […] designed right here in this room. Our software, written and designed right here in Rochester. Right in this room.”

These rapid lessons helped them launch a successful beta product this year to fifty different football teams.

Now it’s time for the next step. GoRout will launch their latest product, live, tomorrow night during Global Entrepreneurship Week at Bleu Duck Kitchen. The event will be a first for Rochester.

“[People] should expect to see something they’ve never expected to see before. They should expect to see a product that people want in a lot of different industries, but it’s never been created. …They should expect to learn about a very small, nimble, innovative company that has their offices above a brew pub, that sells internationally, that none of them have ever heard of.”

If you are located in Rochester, don’t miss this event tomorrow night. Can’t make it? GoRout will be live streaming the product launch on their website.

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