Innovation in sport has technology as an ally

Innovation in sport has technology as an ally - Johan Cruyff Institute

We analyze the latest trends in innovation in the sports industry and what a new project needs to succeed in the sector, with the help of Irsan Widarto, professor of innovation and entrepreneurship at the Johan Cruyff Institute

The consummate idea that ‘everything has been invented’ has its days numbered. Creativity has no limits and in the sports industry, innovation is constant, whether it is to improve the performance of athletes themselves or the fan experience. Industry-leading companies invest incessantly in their R&D to keep up in the race to innovate, and new projects emerge seeking to meet needs that remain to be covered. But if there is something they all have in common it is technology.

“Innovation is creativity multiplied by execution and the use of technology is clearly the new trend in the sports sector.” Irsan Widarto, professor of innovation and entrepreneurship at the Johan Cruyff Institute, helps us analyze the latest trends in innovation. It is a good time to do so following the celebration in Barcelona of the first international forum of sports industry startups, the iSport Forum, of which he was a member of the jury.

What should a startup have to be considered innovative in the sports industry today?

During my participation in a series of lectures at the SXSW Festival in Austin (Texas) I heard a very accurate definition of innovation: “Innovation is creativity multiplied by execution”. Which, in other words, means you have to offer something new and creative but at the same time have the ability to carry out a good business model. In the sports industry we are not lacking in new ideas, but we could improve the process of implementing them.

What does a startup need to succeed in the sports industry?

I stick by what I said before, completion is the key and for this you need a good team. Yossi Moldawsky, a successful investor who was on the jury at iSport Forum with me, said in his talk: “I prefer a great team with a business idea that needs polishing to a great business idea with a team that needs polishing.” I completely agree with that.

What are the challenges that an entrepreneur must face?

In general, people believe that success comes easily and in a short time. When, in fact, entrepreneurs are like marathon runners: they have to prepare for the long distance and not lose heart. It is hard work and you must be prepared to stay firm when things do not come easily and to take some steps backwards if necessary. At the same time, I can say from experience that it’s exciting and you learn a lot along the way.

Where are the newest developments in the sports world at the moment?

The sports industry is continuously moving; that’s why it’s an interesting business for entrepreneurs and innovators. I would definitely highlight one new trend in this sector, which is the use of technology in sport. Not only aimed at improving the performance of athletes (with ‘wearables’ and analytical programs, for example), but also the experience of fans (with apps or what are known as personalized ‘second screens’).

Another interesting trend is that brands like Nike, Adidas and Under Armour are investing heavily to digitize their product ranges and the sports drinks manufacturer Gatorade has developed a ‘smart bottle’ that accurately measures athletes’ consumption or loss of liquid during their training and competition.

Innovation in sport has technology as an ally - Johan Cruyff Institute

Vogo Sport was the winner of iSport Forum. Why was it chosen as the most interesting project among all those presented?

First of all, I would like to say that the five finalists can all be considered winners because they did a great job. It is always difficult to judge different ideas, developed for different markets and by businesses in different stages of creation or expansion. Having said that, Vogo Sport’s presentation was very convincing and its product offers real solutions for both fans and event organizers.

Innovation in sport has technology as an ally - Johan Cruyff Institute

Top five startups at the iSport Forum:

  • Vogo Sport: an application for mobile devices that offers an improved immersive viewing experience of a live sporting event.
  • First V1sion: t-shirts with integrated micro-cameras to offer new audiovisual content.
  • LSee: a device that allows you to analyze your metabolism in real time and adapt your physical effort and nutrition based on small blood samples.
  • SM Genomics: genetic biomarkers that allow athletes to analyze the type of injuries they are prone to, their level of severity and how to prevent them.
  • WeFitter: a wellness platform that promotes, encourages and rewards active and healthy lifestyles.

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