What you need to know about the Sports and Tech Meetup in the Bay Area is right at top of its webpage. It says if you follow Darren Rovell on Twitter, know what FIP and WAR are, or think the MIT Sloan Sports Conference is pretty neat, “you’re perfect for this group.”
Started last fall by entrepreneur Michael Frank (@michaelwfrank), the Bay Area Sports and Tech Meetup is a group focused on the coming-together of sports business, media and technology, designed to get the creative minds of various sports startups in the Bay Area together to swap ideas and wisdom.
“I was working in the venture capital and consulting world and was interested in a bunch of sports media related ideas and companies, but it didn’t seem like there was any type of community for them,” said Frank on hosting his first Meetup back in September. “Starting a Meetup seemed like an interesting way to try to create this and to have conversations with a lot of people I wanted to meet anyway.”
Related reading: San Francisco is the sports startup capital of the world (map)
Each Meetup features a panel of industry figures. And while their names may be somewhat unknown to those outside of the industry, their titles will certainly turn a few heads. Among those who have spoken at the four Meetups thus far:
- Katie Baker, Grantland staff writer
- Pete Vlastelica, founder of Yardbarker and current Senior VP of Product Strategy at Fox Sports
- Carlos Silva, Managing Director at Park Lane, an Investment Bank focused on the sports industry and former Head of AOL Sports
- Chip Bowers, Chief Marketing Officer for the Golden State Warriors
- David Kaval, President of the San Jose Earthquakes
- Bill Crockett, the Director of Sports Architecture at AECOM, which has designed the likes of the Barclays Center (home of the Brooklyn Nets) and the 2008 Olympic Stadium in Beijing
This Tuesday, June 25th, Frank will host the fifth Sports TechMeetup at Kiip, Inc. in San Francisco, with the theme of “The Marriage Between Leagues, Brands, and Technology Companies.” As before, the names of panelists (Sandy Khaund, Shanan Delp, Neil Robinson and Ty Barnes) will turn few heads. But the titles will.
Khaund is the Senior Director of Advanced Software Technologies (digital media) at Turner Broadcasting. Delp is the VP of Product Management and Marketing at Bleacher Report. Robinson is the Creative Director for the digital advertising agency AKQA and has worked with clients such as Nike, Google, Target and Visa. Finally, Barnes is in charge of sports partnerships at YouTube.
“I think there is a ton of potential to take the strength in numbers the community is developing to do some interesting things and help many of the entrepreneurs,” Frank said. “Whether that is connecting them with investors or partners, helping them get distribution, or helping with a number of other business issues many of these companies face.”
Of course, one of the biggest issue any new company faces is simple brand awareness and recognition. The first Meetup had less than 200 people attend; the most recent had over 400. How did Frank get such an impressive increase in turnout?
“I make an effort to get really awesome interesting panelists who I think will draw a crowd,” Frank said. “Beyond that, the audience is generally made up of a really high quality group of people working in or around the sports tech space. I think those two factors, the panelists and the community, are responsible for the good turnouts.”
Frank study economics at Wesleyan University in Connecticut and worked in management consulting after graduation. After a stint in West Africa of all places, he moved to the Bay Area to get involved in tech startups and the venture capital world.
Currently, Frank is working on his startup Learned By Me, which helps sets up low-cost one-on-one tutoring via Skype. While that is his main business focus, Frank still keeps his love for sports business strong through his Meetups, which he has big aims for. In the future, he hopes to secure the likes of innovative sporting figures such as Warriors CEO Joe Lacob or Dallas Mavericks legendary/infamous (depending on your views) owner Mark Cuban.
“My first goal (of the Meetups) is that they are fun and interesting,” Frank said. “Beyond that, it would be great if there is some business value that comes out of them as well.”
And while Frank says he’s no expert in the VC world, but his two cents is worth listening to.
“Having traction that de-risks the venture somewhat is the no brainer answer,” Frank said when asked about tips for entrepreneurs trying to raise their first round of venture capital. “Otherwise, I think having a respected strong advocate (whether an initial investor, advisor, partner, or employee) and a potentially compelling story goes a long way.”
If you are working in sports media, have a sports startup idea or just have a passion for the convergence of sports and technology, we encourage you to attend next Tuesday’s meetup and join the community.