Todd Deacon is the Managing Director of the Techstars SportsTech Melbourne Accelerator. Todd has a passion for the business of sport and in particular SportsTech, startups and venture capital. Prior to Techstars, Todd co-founded Unscriptd, a SportsTech business and has over a decade of experience consulting to the sports industry.
What are you looking for in startups for the Techstars SportsTech Melbourne Accelerator?
We are on a search for the most exciting early stage SportsTech companies with the greatest potential anywhere around the globe right now.
This is narrow in terms of industry but broad in terms of the tech that exists within. And I should say, ideally that tech will have some application to the business of Tennis Australia now or in the future – be that to do with major events, mass participation, or for the elite athlete.
You were born in Melbourne and have lived there your whole life. What’s great about starting an accelerator in Melbourne?
Over the last 10 years I’ve spent a lot of time away in the U.S., Europe, and parts of Asia. I’ve just returned from living in London for the last two years, but you are right, Melbourne is my home town.
Beyond being a great city to live (the Economist keeps ranking it first or second in the world for most livable cities, so it must be true!), Melbourne has a thriving startup scene, especially in sport. I think that’s because sport really does define our culture in Melbourne (we can’t get enough of it), we are a wealthy country so that tends to make money readily available for investment, our sporting system is progressive when it comes to technology adoption, and our government is totally focused on making the State of Victoria overall and Melbourne in particular world leaders for SportsTech startups.
Want to know more? Here is a link to a report our government partner LaunchVic recently released to prove it: https://launchvic.org/files/The-SportsTech-Report.pdf
What are some of the biggest learnings from your career and entrepreneurial journey that you bring to being a Techstars MD?
You know what, there are so many that there’s really not the space on this page to do them all justice, and I think that’s because we experienced such a rollercoaster ride over our journey up until our exit.
But to name a few that immediately spring to mind: the importance of alignment on strategy and vision among founders, great lawyers cost but they will save you money down the road, ensure you are ready for POCs and delay if you’re not, sweat the detail on product, be confident you can back up valuation and don’t get too hung up on it, be comfortable in not having all the answers, seek the right advice from the right people, make quick decisions and move with pace, more often than not things will take longer than you want, big companies move slowly, great recruitment will make a company, move on poor performers quickly, find your way to relax and prioritize downtime, don’t forget you have friends and family.
What do Techstars partners Tennis Australia, Victoria University, and LaunchVic bring to the accelerator?
I genuinely believe our partners present an enormous opportunity to accelerate these businesses and will provide a fantastic launchpad for global growth. That can manifest in many ways, such as scientific validation, nailing product market fit, market testing, commercial partnerships, access to talent, or warm introductions to global sports organizations, teams, and athletes.
If you could meet one professional athlete, who would it be and why?
As a kid, one moment that had a lifelong impact on me was Ben Johnson at the Seoul Olympics. Ever since, I have had this fascination with drugs in sport. I think it’s to do with trying to understand the psyche of why some athletes make that choice.
But the athlete I would most want to meet is Lance Armstrong—one on one—with a large glass of truth serum. I don’t think we really understand what was going on in his mind back then and even more interestingly today, but I would love to know.
Learn more about the Techstars SportsTech Melbourne Accelerator at an AMA with Todd on November 20, 2019. Register here, or watch the replay: http://tsta.rs/iHBY50xbYZD
Today, I’m excited to announce that I’m joining Techstars as Managing Director of our new Techstars SportsTech Melbourne Accelerator.
When this opportunity came my way, I was naturally charged as it’s the combination of the things I love (sport, the business of sport, and startup culture) with the power of Techstars and, in particular, their founder first mentality. And it’s all happening in my home city, one of the greatest launchpads for a sportstech startup – Melbourne.
Having started my career in sports consulting, working with all major sports federations across Australia and Asia, I developed that itch to start my own sportstech business. Together with two friends and ex-Nike execs we launched Unscriptd – a global athlete media company helping athletes access, publish and measure their social content. We existed for the athlete, but we were on a mission to change the way sports, teams and sponsors connected to the enormous and highly engaged audience of the athlete through social media.
With Andre Agassi and Stefanie Graf as our first investors, and early contracts with Cristiano Ronaldo, Gerard Pique as well as other huge names in professional sports using our platform such as Usain Bolt, Mo Farrah and Rafael Nadal, we grew quickly and were soon opening offices in London, Barcelona and NYC. After six years of the wildest ride I could imagine, we sold the company to Derek Jeter’s The Players Tribune, a leading platform for athlete storytelling, and I’ve been itching to get back in the startup world since.
With nearly 20 years of experience in the sports industry and a focus on tech innovation, product development and venture capital, I’m thrilled to be working alongside the best in the business during this 13-week program. We have an amazing team of partners including Tennis Australia (you might know them from the Australian Open), Victoria University (a world-leading sports science institution with amazing connections in global sport), and LaunchVic (the Victorian Government’s startup agency). With this lineup of corporate sponsors and mentors, we will propel the careers of 10 sports-focused startups starting in March 2020.
While the program has roots in tennis, we aren’t solely focused on solutions for the sport. More so, we are looking for companies that can influence technological innovation for all sports, and even impact society in a positive way. There are a few broad categories companies may fall into, but if your solution is applicable to sports in any way we want your application and hear your story! Some of the categories include:
- Developing athletic talent and keeping athletes healthy (both physically and mentally), will always be a critical aspect to the sports industry. Sports organizations are looking for cutting edge tech to to give them an advantage over the competition, creating a high-performance pathway to athletes’ and organizations’ successes.
- Media and events:
- Media and sports go hand-in-hand, and with so many changes to how we consume media, sports have never felt more under pressure to keep fans engaged and interacting. Some may not know that Tennis Australia is an events powerhouse. Even outside of the Australian Open, they run multiple other global events such as the Laver Cup and the newly formed ATP Cup. As such they are on the lookout for new breakthrough technologies that impact on media, marketing, stadium, ticketing, integrity and commercial partnerships.
- Media and events:
- I love how Nike says ‘if you have a body you’re an athlete’ and as non-professional athletes, today we can participate in sports in so many ways and technology is just starting to play a key role in disrupting this category. Whether it’s playing in traditional comps, going solo, attending virtually or even via the e-sports world, the sports industry is always looking for new ways to drive participation. So if you have tech that can impact this, then we are interested in you.
Don’t miss your chance to submit your application for the Techstars SportsTech Melbourne program. Together, we can propel your business to new levels of success and help shape the future of sport for generations. And this isn’t just a great opportunity to grow your sportstech business, it’s also an experience to grow and contribute to the startup ecosystem in Melbourne.
I invite all sports-focused startups, and startups with solutions that can be applicable to the sports industry, to apply to the first-ever Techstars SportsTech Melbourne Accelerator. Applications for our 2020 program are open now and we will be accepting applications through December 8th. Please visit the Techstars SportsTech Melbourne program page to learn more and apply.
Techstars, the worldwide network that helps entrepreneurs succeed, and the SportsTech founding partners Next Level Fund, Indiana Sports Corp, NCAA and Pacers Sports & Entertainment and supporting partners the Indianapolis Colts, Verizon IndyCar Series and Indianapolis Motor Speedway, are joining together to bring a new mentorship-driven accelerator program to Indianapolis: Techstars Sports Accelerator Powered by Indy.
The three-year accelerator program will launch at the 103rd Running of the Indianapolis 500 in May of 2019 and will support innovative startups across many sectors, stages and business models aiming to combat issues in sports technology.
The Techstars Indy team will source, select and accelerate 10 of the most-talented companies in the following potential areas: fan participation, player/driver safety, ticketing, merchandising, athlete performance management, athlete wellness, among others. The accelerator provides startup founders with mentorship from experienced entrepreneurs and industry experts, and the chance to pitch to angel investors and venture capitalists at the culmination of the 13 weeks.
The Techstars Sports Accelerator will have a key focus on innovation with goals to foster early identification of key trends for future technology in sport; meaningful engagement with early-stage sports tech companies; embrace technologies and business models that will impact the sports industry; and enhance a culture of internal innovation and the spirit of entrepreneurship.
Applications will open in December 2018 with the program kicking off in May 2019.Companies interested in applying are encouraged to fill out the General Interest Form.