Ticket Marketplace Vivid Seats Moves Into Fantasy Gaming With Betcha Sports Acquisition
Online ticket marketplace Vivid Seats has bought fantasy sports and prediction app Betcha Sports for $25 million worth of equity in Vivid Seats’ company. The deal also includes potential for Vivid to pay Betcha up to $40 million in additional cash and equity based on performance incentives.
Betcha, which had its soft launch in 2020, offers social gaming features to let friends place bets together and compete in challenges. The app also targets specific peer groups to form a dedicated base of bettors to wager together.
Vivid Seats, whose existing ticket partners include ESPN and the Los Angeles Clippers, went public on the Nasdaq earlier this year through a merger with a SPAC led by Los Angeles Dodgers co-owner Todd Boehly. Already alongside top ticket resellers such as Ticketmaster, StubHub and SeatGeek, Vivid now distinguishes itself as a fantasy sports operator in addition to its event tickets business.
Air Jordan and His Son Jeffrey Jordan Launch Crypto Fan Token Startup Heir
Michael Jordan and his son Jeffrey Jordan have secured $10 million in seed funding to launch a crypto fan token startup called Heir. The membership-based platform will let fans exchange their tokens for exclusive content and interactions with athletes through product drops, digital goods and member only videos.
The Heir NFT, set to launch in 2022, will be minted over the Solana blockchain. Thrive Capital led investment in the startup, with additional funding from New York Knicks EVP William Wesley, Solana Ventures, Alexis Ohanian and Chicago Bulls point guard Lonzo Ball, whose brother LaMelo plays for Michael Jordan’s Charlotte Hornets.
“With new frontiers in web3, the HEIR platform will deliver economic value to original culture creators and those who consume it early with new decentralized capabilities that drive ownership,” Heir writes on its website.
Jordan—whose nickname was “Air” as he rose to global stardom during the Chicago Bulls dynasty of the 1990s that corresponded directly with the rise of the World Wide Web—makes his latest move into Web 3.0 after also being an investor in Dapper Labs, the creator of NBA Top Shot. Heir’s concept is similar to Spencer Dinwiddie’s Calaxy, another crypto app focused on connecting fan token holders with their favorite athletes and celebrities.
Heir is the first product launched as part of Heir, Inc., a holding company founded by Jeffrey Jordan that “will build culturally-inspired consumer brands rooted in tech and entertainment,” according to a press release. Heir’s co-founders include Jeron Smith, a former Nike brand manager who also co-founded Steph Curry’s production company Unanimous Media.
Asensei Adds 3D Motion Capture to Coaching Products
Connected-coaching company Asensei is adding a computer vision product to provide 3D motion capture data for its AI-powered coaching engine. This optical collection method, called (App)erture, complements its existing smart apparel offering, (App)arel.
Asensei’s (App)erture, which was released on Wednesday to all its software development kit (SDK) customers, is compatible with a smartphone camera or the cameras commonly found in other connected fitness products. (App)erture takes the video images and converts human motion into skeleton data that will track form, count reps and provide coaching cues.
Asensei says its computer vision solution creates a data set that’s compatible with its “Asensei inside” smart (App)arel. The new software also provides body part orientation—such as whether a palm is facing up or down—that can be critical to coaching feedback, rather than just tracking motion.
Asensei announced a partnership with Reform RX Pilates machines earlier this month, as well as Virus International this fall on a line of smart fitness attire. The company’s existing offerings include coaching products for strength training with bodyweight, kettlebells, dumbbells and barbells, as well as for the disciplines of yoga, Pilates, rowing, TRX and boxing.
Youth Sports App GameChanger Boosts Streaming Quality With Mevo Cameras
GameChanger, a youth sports team management app owned by Dick’s Sporting Goods, is enhancing its live-streaming capabilities through a new partnership with Mevo, a camera brand owned by Logitech. The app will now sync with Mevo’s HD cameras to broadcast youth sports in higher quality.
More than 300,000 youth sporting events have streamed on GameChanger since the app added streaming ability in January. Now—rather than streaming through a smartphone camera—parents and coaches that attend events can buy a Mevo camera and sync it with GameChanger’s mobile app to bring the camera’s 1080p HD resolution video to youth sports streams.
GameChanger, whose app also acts as a digital scorekeeper, was acquired by Dick’s Sporting Goods in 2016 and is used by more than 550,000 youth sports teams. The app recently added functionality for seven new sports in September and has onboarded more than 15,000 new basketball team clients since October.
Mixhalo Makes Noise, Raises $24 Million for Its In-Venue App
Audio streaming startup Mixhalo has raised a $24 million Series B funding round led by Fortress Investment Group. The Sacramento Kings, Buffalo Sabres and LAFC already use Mixhalo’s app—which lets in-venue fans tune into a TV broadcast’s audio commentary via headphones while they watch games from their seats.
Mixhalo was co-founded by the husband-wife musician duo of Incubus guitarist Mike Einziger and violinist Ann Marie Simpson-Einziger. Mixhalo’s app can wirelessly stream audio directly from an instrument’s soundboard so fans in any seat—including the nose bleeds—can listen to audio via headphones at a concert or sporting event. Mixhalo believes its sound quality is better than what you’d hear from your seat the old-fashioned way.
“PA systems still have to send audio data over the air to your ear. Once audio leaves a speaker, it immediately starts to degrade. Mixhalo ensures that you see and hear every moment, the second that it happens, in perfect clarity,” the company wrote on its website.
The technology has already been used at Staples Center (about to be renamed Crypto.com Arena) in Los Angeles, Red Rocks Amphitheater in Colorado and at Sting concerts at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. Other partnered artists include Aerosmith, Metallica and Charlie Puth.
At a series of recent Sting shows at Caesars Palace, Mixhalo gave fans noise-isolation headphones that did not entirely mute the venue’s live atmosphere.
“They block out external noise while simultaneously delivering studio-quality audio direct to your ears. You’ll still feel the vibration of the bass and drums, plus we mix in just the right amount of crowd noise so the experience of being at a live show is not lost,” Mixhalo said.
Additional investors in Mixhalo’s Series B round include speaker manufacturer L-Acoustics, Sapphire Sport, Foundry Group and Defy Partners Management. Lead investor Fortress Investment Group was founded by Spotify’s former head of music Nick Holmstén. He also owns TSX Entertainment—which will use Mixhalo at its TSX Broadway entertainment building under construction in Times Square.
Nike Expands Metaverse Inventory With Acquisition of Virtual Sneaker Brand RTFKT
Nike announced the acquisition of RTFKT Studios, a brand known for its creation of virtual sneakers and other blockchain-backed collectibles.
RTFKT—pronounced “artifact”—combines esports game engines, NFTs, blockchain authentication and augmented reality to develop its products. A collaboration with teenage crypto artist FEWOCiOUS to sell real sneakers together with digital versions sold 600 items in under seven minutes back in February for a total of $3.1 million, the company said.
Founded in 2020, RTFKT announced an $8 million funding round in May that was led by Andreessen Horowitz and included VaynerFund. Nike plans to use the acquisition to increase its digital footprint and expand its presence in the metaverse, following the digital campus it launched on Roblox last month.
MLS Esports League Plans Return to Venues as Early as January 2022
Major League Soccer’s FIFA esports league eMLS plans to return to in-person events with fans for its 2022 season, beginning in January. The season will consist of three tournaments and end March 12 with the eMLS Cup at the SXSW conference in Austin, TX. Gameplay for the 2021 eMLS season was held remotely due to the pandemic.
Teams will compete for $75,000 in prizes, the highest single-season prize pool since eMLS launched in 2018. MLS expansion club Charlotte FC will have a new affiliate in eMLS to grow the league to 27 teams. For the first time, all eMLS season qualifying matches will be streamed on each team’s respective social channels.
FC Cincinnati’s TQL Stadium will host the season-opening series on Jan. 15, which will continue the next day at PromoWest Pavilion in Newport, Kentucky. The second series will be held in Chicago over two days at Soldier Field and House of Blues, before the ACL Live music venue in Austin hosts the eMLS Cup.
Dak Prescott-Backed At-Home Smart Gym OxeFit Debuts First Consumer Product
Smart fitness startup OxeFit has released its first consumer product, an AI-powered strength training machine called XS1. Investors in OxeFit include Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott and tight end Blake Jarwin, former players Dez Bryant and Jason Witten and sports medicine leader Dr. James Andrews.
OxeFit, which is based in Plano, Texas, raised $12.5 million in Series A funding in February. The XS1 includes a bench, barbell and cables for push and pull exercises. Similar to Tonal, the machine’s motors can generate up to 250 pounds of electromagnetic resistance without any physical weights, and it has a connected 32-inch touch screen to stream workouts and display performance data.
Built-in motion sensors and a force plate allow XSI’s artificial intelligence to track movements to identify muscle weaknesses that put users at risk for certain injuries. The machine’s price starts at $5,999, alongside a $40 monthly subscription to stream workout videos.
The XSI is the consumer version of OxeFit’s XPI elite-level system, which the company says is used by athletes such as Prescott, Los Angeles Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey and former MLB All-Star Matt Kemp.
NWSL Partners With Voyager, Players to Receive Crypto Payments
The National Women’s Soccer League has signed a multi-year sponsorship with cryptocurrency exchange Voyager Digital. The company has set up an NWSL players’ fund to create accounts on the Voyager app for each player.
Voyager, the first crypto brokerage firm to partner with the NWSL, will deposit an unspecified amount of cryptocurrency into each player’s individual account on its app. The company will also provide crypto educational resources to the players and select one person from all 12 NWSL teams to serve as a marketing ambassador.
Other partners for Voyager in sports include the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks, MLB’s Oakland A’s and NFL tight end Rob Gronkowski. Other crypto exchanges to have league sponsorships include MLB and FTX and the NBA and Coinbase.
Crypto Exchange FTX Has Tried Buying Sports Betting App PlayUp for $450 Million
FTX, the cryptocurrency exchange whose brand ambassadors include stars such as Tom Brady, Stephen Curry and Shohei Ohtani, has made an attempt to expand into sports betting.
FTX began negotiations in August to buy sports betting app PlayUp for $450 million, according to a lawsuit filed on Nov. 30 that was uncovered by Legal Sports Report. The lawsuit claims that negotiations collapsed when PlayUp’s U.S. CEO Laila Mintas, upset over her own contract situation, allegedly contacted FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried to share disparaging information about PlayUp’s operations.
Playup—founded in Australia and currently operating its U.S. mobile sportsbook in Colorado and New Jersey—is now suing Mintas for allegedly sabotaging its sale to FTX. In an email to SportTechie, Mintas denied all of PlayUp’s allegations.
“I am a major shareholder in PlayUp as of today and invested 7-figures of my own savings into the company,” Mintas wrote. “It makes no sense that I would have made any of those comments that are quoted in the filing or tried to destroy a deal to sell PlayUp as I would have benefitted from that as well as other shareholders…The company is in possession of an FTX email stating the facts why FTX rejected the deal which I will submit to the court which clearly outlines the reasons on the Australian side of the leadership team as the deal breaker.”
FTX’s attempt to acquire PlayUp is not its first crossover with sports betting, as FTX recently invested in BetDex, a blockchain-based sports betting startup co-founded by former FanDuel CEO Nigel Eccles.
Valued at $25 billion, FTX sponsors MLB and has stadium naming rights deals with the Miami Heat and University of California-Berkeley, as well as a $210 million sponsorship with esports organization Team SoloMid (TSM).