Start-up of the day: Virtual Breeding Ground for Sports Innovation

Arno Hermans, together with Victor Beerkens and others, devised an accelerator programme especially for sports start-ups, under the name Sport eXperience. That was at the end of 2015. Hermans said that “there are so many beautiful and clever things going on in the field of sports, that it is a shame not to apply this in everyday life”. The first version of the acceleration programme started in January 2016. Six more followed, including two in Denmark. The Sport eXperience team also gives advice to Start-ups. In 2015, Hermans dreamt of a “physical stadium as a breeding ground for sports innovation”, today Sport eXperience launches a virtual platform: Sport Tech Campus.

What is your main motivation?

“I want to inspire people and be involved in the growth of a company, that’s what I like best. Start-ups develop an application, as a solution for their own problem, but is there really a demand for it? With Sport eXperience we help them to explore the market and to link them to a requesting party. You can call us a matchmaker or connector.

With Sports Tech Campus we want to combine all the knowledge and experience of these sports Start-ups and our business network. See who is doing what, that they don’t have to reinvent the wheel and that they can complement each other. Each Start-up fills in a profile and therefore has its own page on the platform. It is also interesting for investors. “Via Sports Tech Campus, they can do a competition analysis and see who is already doing what, for example in hockey. With the information from this platform, we can organise events, help to explore markets and validate ideas, focusing on where the need lies.”

What’s your biggest obstacle?

“I often want to go too fast, see opportunities everywhere, meetings where we have to go or connections that can be made. What I have to ensure is that I get people with me.”

Has there been a moment when you wanted to stop?

“There have definitely been times when I wanted to stop. If some things just don’t work out or a proposal that doesn’t go through. When I put a lot of time into it. Then I think: why am I doing this, what am I doing it for? That kind of thought. But then I come home and there is still that nice e-mail or a nice conversation. Then I sleep over it and the next day I think: oh yes, actually it’s pretty cool.”

What are you most proud of?

“We have learned a lot in recent years. That experience has brought us where we are today. It’s a lot of sowing and slowly the more fun part breaks out, the harvesting. There have been many beautiful moments. Like in March when we went to a Danish sports fair with ten Start-ups. Then I can fully enjoy it, when we present ourselves there with twenty people. You have a little plan in advance, so it’s exciting whether people will sign up and actually be there. I really enjoy it when we sit together in our apartment in the evening and drink beer. That is very informal, if that succeeds, that’s what I think is really fantastic.”

What can we expect from next year?

“We are going to turn the virtual platform Sport Tech Campus into a European platform. First in the Netherlands and this summer in Denmark. If it works there, we will expand to include Germany, France and Italy, for example. Contacts with the United States are already in place.

We also continue to help sports and innovation companies with projects, in the Netherlands and abroad. For example, in Urban Sports, for which we have just applied for a subsidy together with a German company. And I’m involved in a company that has developed the most innovative skateboard, biodegradable, even firmer, even lighter.”

Where do you think you’ll be in five years?

“If we tackle the Sport Tech Campus properly, it will become a global platform in which all sports and innovation companies can find their place. We’ll fly all over the world. To tell about the Sport Tech Campus. Or as a member of the jury at a sports innovation event, for example, or just visiting companies and sparring with them. My ultimate personal ambition is to become an angel investor in the sports and innovation corner. Sport eXperience will continue to exist, we will continue to build bridges to other sectors such as healthcare and we will tackle new social challenges such as preventing obesity in children and combating loneliness of the elderly.”

For your information:

Founders: Victor Beerkens and Arno Hermans

Founded in: 2015

Financial information: Sport eXperience is self-financing and is paid per project, Start-ups that create a profile on Sports Tech Campus pay monthly € 12.50. Members exchange information via the platform, can be found and can participate in the events free of charge. Hermans hopes to expand the number of paying participants in Europe to about two thousand members.

The team consists of five people: Victor Beerkens (co-founder, internal organisation and international business developer), Aswin Steenhof (sales manager, “with a network in the sport”), Johan de Rooij (financial manager “is finance finance finance”), Bart Rovers (facility operations and “has a network in the fitness industry”) and Arno Hermans (founder, face out, comes up with new ideas). And many others with whom Sport eXperience has regular contact, such as in Denmark.

What is your ultimate goal?

“I want Sport eXperience and the Sport Tech Campus to become the sports and innovation platform of the world. To be that connecting link, worldwide. With a lot of people of course, I can’t do that alone.”

World Cup qualifier for sport startups in Eindhoven

On Thursday November 9th, the Philips Stadium is the stage for the World Cup qualification for sport startups. Eindhoven based Sport eXperience then organizes its annual Sport Business Day. On this day, the European Qualification of the Sports Tech World Cup takes place. 15 European sport startups get the opportunity to present themselves in the dressing room of PSV to jury and investors. The winner goes to Silicon Valley for the World Cup.

In addition to qualifying, 70 international sport startups present themselves to board members, distributors, investors, marketers, sports companies, athletes and students. From other European countries, Sport eXperience ambassadors invite startups to travel to Eindhoven. Sport eXperience works with country pavilions to allow visitors to experience a journey through sports innovation in Europe.

Sport eXperience expanding to Turkey

After collaborations with Ireland, Denmark, and Italy, the Eindhoven based Sport eXperience accelerator is reaching out to Turkey. Sporlab from Istanbul and Sport eXperience intent to set up Sport eXperience Turkey. In this, promising sports startups and sports entrepreneurs can be helped in their international growth ambition through business validation.

Tolga Şenel, founding partner Sporlab: “Turkey loves sport and technology. We believe that this is an excellent area for business and innovation. It is also vital to be competitive and successful on and off the field in global sports. With this perspective in mind, we have organized the first sports and innovation summit “Sportup” in Istanbul and received encouraging interest from sports, startup and technology communities. This encouraged us to expand our reach and Sport eXperience is an excellent partner to do this with their extensive international network and expertise”.

Arno Hermans, founder Sport eXperience: “Since our start, we have an international mindset to support the startup’s growth ambition. With Sporlab we have found a strategic partner to accommodate startups and their ambitions. For us, it’s an incredible opportunity to explore this tech-savvy country.”

After collaborations with Ireland, Denmark, and Italy, the Eindhoven based Sport eXperience accelerator is reaching out to Turkey. Sporlab from Istanbul and Sport eXperience intent to set up Sport eXperience Turkey. In this, promising sports startups and sports entrepreneurs can be helped in their international growth ambition through business validation.

Tolga Şenel, founding partner Sporlab: “Turkey loves sport and technology. We believe that this is an excellent area for business and innovation. It is also vital to be competitive and successful on and off the field in global sports. With this perspective in mind, we have organized the first sports and innovation summit “Sportup” in Istanbul and received encouraging interest from sports, startup and technology communities. This encouraged us to expand our reach and Sport eXperience is an excellent partner to do this with their extensive international network and expertise”.

Arno Hermans, founder Sport eXperience: “Since our start, we have an international mindset to support the startup’s growth ambition. With Sporlab we have found a strategic partner to accommodate startups and their ambitions. For us, it’s an incredible opportunity to explore this tech-savvy country.”

Sport eXperience is sharing experience

It was the fourth time they ran the program for start-ups, the men of Sport eXperience. The past five weeks, the five startups came together every Tuesday. They pored over their own plans, but especially also over those of the other participants. During the last meeting, the remaining startups told E52 about what they were learning and how they’re moving on.

“There were actually six signups”, says Arno Hermans, who started with an accelerator program specifically for sport startups one and a half year ago. But eventually five started. “The Irish startup, Think Biosolution, refrained from participation at the last moment. They just told us per e-mail they want to do a custom made program with us next month.”

Also after the second meeting there was a dropout: Reprosports from Aalten. Their idea for a shin guard that adapts to the football player, appeared to be no viable product, after critical questioning by the coaches of Sport eXperience and the other startups. “Cheap failure is what I call it”, says Hermans, “Ultimiately, such a decision saves a lot of money. It’s better to find out now rather than after many investments. A courageous decision.”

 

“It’s amazing how some things suddenly come at the right moment.”Menno Van Pelt – Deen, Swim Games

Of the remaining four, there are two that can “hopefully’ launch the upcoming months. “Hopefully because there has to be someone who’s willing to pay”, says Menno Van Pelt – Deen, founder of Swim Games. Their product is a LED screen that stands next to the swimming pool and a camera above the water that films the swimming children and directly puts it on screen.

 

His idea to increase the number of visitors at a swimming pool came during his promotion research five years ago. Together with students of the TU/e and Fontys, he was looking for a way to get young people to move. “Games are fun and swimming is injury free and a good match to get young people to exercise.”

 

For three years they explored all kinds of possibilities to make swimming more fun, says Van Pelt – Deen. “The most fun turned out to be a ‘cannonball’. And then we figured it would be very cool if you could see your own cannonball.” They developed a camera with which you can watch your own cannonball in slow motion under water. They put a game element into it: the young people could decide for themselves who had made the best cannonball. “Because of this, children would jump up to 10 – 15 times,  they were moving a lot without noticing it and they determined the game element themselves.”

 

Van Pelt – Deen thought that this would be the answer to the declining number of swimming pool visitors. “Due to the game element, children want to come back.” So he, Rob Tieben, with whom he did the promotion research, Mark van Kuik, game producer Lapp and Luuk Waarbroek, developer and designer of Napalmtree, decided to put it on the market. “But we needed hardware for that, a waterproof screen that could show the recordings. And those are hard to find. I remember saying on a Wednesday ‘this is not going to work’. One day later VDH called, saying they saw us two years ago at a symposium and that they had developed a waterproof screen. It’s amazing how some things suddenly come at the right moment.”

 

As an academic, Van Pelt – Deen was used to give presentations about his research, but his ‘vague designing terms’ weren’t in line with the target group. “Selling is clearly different from doing research. The last sessions I have learned to be concrete and clear about where our quality lies.” He also shifted from municipal pools to private resorts. “We need money and the municipal pools don’t have that, resorts do. And at the resorts the swimming pools are empty half of the time.” Van Pelt – Deen is going to sharpen his plans with the knowledge he has gained and then he wants to launch, “if there is an investor”.

 

Also the Lithuanian startup Forts Axis, is hoping to find a partner in the next few months with which they can put their Corden on the Dutch market. A product that’s already being sold in Lithuania, especially in the yoga world. It is a sort of massage tool for the vertebral column. “If you lie down on it with your body weight, you come closer to your muscles than with a regular massage”, says Andrey Popov, CIO. “Corden offers all sport players the possibility to prevent or alleviate back problems. A few minutes for about 10 times a month and your problems are gone.” Van Pelt – Deen, who broke his back at the age of 21, also tested the ingenuity and he confirms Popov’s assertion: “It was the best and most gruesome massage ever. It is just necessary that it is put on the market here.”

 

Popov participated in the program because they want to go into the West European market. Through Sport eXperience they came in touch with banks and entrepreneurs. Martin Stockman, coach at Sport eXperience: “Them finding a partner is a matter of time. They are very modest but they receive nothing but positive reactions. Shortly, they will be signing a contract in China.” Popov stayed in Eindhoven for a month and learned English. Something of which he thinks it needs improving: “I want to be able to tell the message in a story.”

 

The remaining two participants, SportAny and FreeSense Solutions are not ready to launch on short notice. Jophri Janssen from SportAny has developed a web application through which the sport players are offered the possibility to sport anywhere without a subscription. “I learned that I needed to sharpen my message: less is more. This program has also helped me with financial issues and it taught me to make decisions in an early stage, such as saying goodbye to a person or to an organisation. To me, the time of making plans is over, I must take action now. I’m ready for it.”

 

For Hermans himself, it was good to see that the startups were questioning and criticizing each other constructively. “Because they’re all in the sports market, they were really challenging each other. It is always exciting to see if it actually happens.” Hermans is also already looking ahead: “Early next year we are going to the headquarters of Under Armour in Baltimore with a number of startups. We just discussed that in a skype conversation.”

Sport eXperience nominated for Nyenrode Award

The Eindhoven based sports innovation program Sport eXperience has earned a nomination by the Marketing Alumni Society of Nyenrode University. Arno Hermans, CEO at Sport eXperience, is very pleased by the nomination. “It’s an honour in itself to be nominated. Now let’s try to get the award.”

Read moreSport eXperience nominated for Nyenrode Award

Sport eXperience closes the year in the PSV Stadium

“The Netherlands is fun, but as a sport-startup you have to go beyond the limits.” Arno Hermans and his team Sport eXperience committed to support the sport-startup this year. Many sport-startups. He is ending the year with an international Sport Business Day. It takes place on November 3rd, in the PSV Stadium, with a view on the field. “The location should also add value.”

Read moreSport eXperience closes the year in the PSV Stadium

Live stream at Sport eXperience Eindhoven in Copenhagen

Starting at 13:30 hrs (September 1), all pitches in the Sport eXperience event in Copenhagen will be streamed live through periscope. Dutch, Danish and Swedish sports startups will show what they have got. Sport eXperience is a startup accelerator based in Eindhoven. It’s the first international event of the organisation from Strijp-S.

Read moreLive stream at Sport eXperience Eindhoven in Copenhagen