Is Cavs Owner Dan Gilbert The Next Sports Tech Visionary?

20 Jun

DG

Dan Gilbert is the entrepreneurship messiah for the Rust Belt. His latest endeavor through the start-up accelerator, Bizdom, could become a game-changer for the future of sports technology. Gilbert, majority owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers and lover of comic sans, launched Bizdom, a non-profit start-up accelerator for tech firms, in Detroit in 2007 and opened doors on a Cleveland office in 2011. His venture capital firm, Detroit Venture Partners, has investments in 50 companies. Capping it all off, he is also leading Detroit’s effort to attract the 2014 X-Games. Gilbert’s energies and investments aim to reinvigorate the city centers of both cities and transform each into high-tech hubs.

The Bizdom program requires applicants propose an idea for a technology-based start-up with the goal of a prototype or sales to a first customer within 90 days. Bizdom provides an initial investment of up to $25,000 in seed funding in exchange for an 8% equity stake in the venture. Since Bizdom is a non-profit, the returns on seed funding are used to fund future businesses in the cities of Detroit and Cleveland. As part of the Bizdom program, the start-up is provided with office space, mentors, and introductions to outside investors for further funding down the road.

Of course, Gilbert is as qualified as any for this venture. Before he bought the Cavaliers, he founded Quicken Loans. The accelerator has acquired a portfolio of 35 companies between the two offices, including 15 in Cleveland. One company, MascotSecret, who joined Bizdom in August 2012, blends Gilbert’s two passions–entrepreneurship and sports. The company is yet another player in the very competitive field of seat upgrade apps such as ExpApp and LetsMoveDown.

MSMascotSecret has partnerships with Gilbert’s Cleveland Cavaliers, Lake Erie Monsters (Colorado Avalanche’s AHL affiliate), and the Cleveland Gladiators of the Arena Football League. MascotSecret’s spokesman, Jake Goodman, talked about working through the Bizdom program: “At Bizdom, we have an open workspace where it is amazing to work with other entrepreneurs, share ideas, while all working towards the same goal.” The company has plans to rollout some new partnerships towards the end of the summer.

In addition to the great mentors at Bizdom, Gilbert himself frequently offers direct advice, feedback over social media, and consults the start-ups in the accelerator. Goodman says, “Dan Gilbert has been a really fantastic advocate and an amazing mentor for us, he knows how important it is for fans to have a good time in his arena and is very excited about the ability for fans to pick the best seats.  He is a great resource for us.  When fans give him suggestions via Twitter, he loves forwarding the feedback to us; we are very fortunate to have him.”

MascotSecret and their fan-facing experience platform is just the beginning for what we hope will be a full-scale effort to develop sports tech start-ups through the Bizdom accelerator. Athlete performance seems to exceed our expectations yearly at combines, on the field, and the new crop of phenoms that emerge each year. The way we experience live sporting events and cheer on the teams we love is ripe for disruption. Innovative ways to enhance fan engagement, new payment platforms, digital ticketing, improved customer service efforts, and data analytics are all making their way into the marketplace. The market is still emerging and visionaries like Dan Gilbert can help shape that future.

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