25 Jul

Harvard born company brings 24 hour measurable improvement into the sports wearable game

By Tanner Simkins @TannerSImkins 

“Whoop was a word we would throw around on the squash team while I was Harvard, ‘You go that whoop?’ for example, it was just action based expression we used. So when it was time to name the company it naturally came to mind” founder Will Ahmed told me during our recent interview. Now the word has a whole new meaning to athletes everywhere, WHOOP’s new consumer product is the first wearable to monitor active and resting biomedical statics 24 hours a day.  

The performance strap syncs WHOOP’s proprietary dashboard to all your devices.  Its persuasive design ensures athletes peak at the right time and avoid over/under training.  "Athletes started sleeping an additional 41 minutes each night and reduced reported injuries by 60%“ said Ahmed when asked what benchmark he was most proud of during the devices trial run with professional athletes.  Knowing that such a vast improvement was accomplished by already peak performing professional athletes is what excites the weekend warrior about this product.

In fact, the bottomline with most athlete facing wearables is to optimize peak performance.  But the distinguishing factor with WHOOP is its robust design. According to the company’s website, WHOOP systems are tough "enough to prepare a Navy SEAL but with the form factor that the average athlete would feel comfortable wearing 24 hours a day”.  Since the wearable is meant to never be taken off, WHOOP created a battery that lasts an impressive 36 hours. A supplementary charging dongle allows users to charge the device while still on the wrist.  For appearance purposes, users can choose between 5 bands for the device. The product is available for order on their website.

Prior to launching the strap consumer product, WHOOP tested its beta with over NFL, NBA, Premier League, and over 20 Olympic athletes, including swimming standout Ryan Lochte. “After seeing such success with elite athletes, we’re very proud to be able to share our performance optimization system with the public,” explained Ahmed. “For the first time, every athlete will be able to get actionable data, measure strain and recovery and optimize travel and sleep – all so that they can reduce injury and improve performance.”

WHOOP has raised approximately 23 million in venture capital, and most recently completely 13.5 million series B funding led by Sigma Ventures.  They look to continue engaging teams, leagues, and athlete ambassadors moving forward.

23 Jul

Twitter Goes To School, Makes A Big Sports Business Statement

by Tanner Simkins @TannerSimkins

The battle between the monster digital delivery platforms delivering content to the masses via live and taped streaming seems to escalate every day. For every Facebook Live announcement there are others from Twitter (NYSE: TWTR), with Amazon Prime, albeit a tiered service, also getting in the mix.

While all are forming partnerships with the biggest of sports brands, one of the greatest sources for content; steady, wide-ranging and engaging remains the college space, and in the past few weeks Twitter has seen the opportunity to potentially see if the platform will be king of streaming on campus. First there was a deal with the Pac 12 Conference, the first in the space, and that was followed by a wide ranging deal that includes live college football games along with over 300 other events and daily highlights with Chicago-based Campus Insiders. That deal, announced Friday, gives Twitter the opportunity to be first and most with leagues like the Mountain West, Patriot League and West Coast Conference action starting this fall, and will also give fans of the ACC a steady stream (no pun intended) of highlight packages, but not love games. It is probably the deepest partnership for Twitter in terms of any content this far, and puts them in the college football business for the first time, a great leg up in the race for eyeballs and potentially brands.

“Twitter is the fastest way to see what’s happening in sports,” said Anthony Noto, Twitter’s chief financial officer said in a statement Friday. “Our partnership with Campus Insiders will bring live streaming video of college sports directly to the people who are already talking about it on Twitter, all on a single screen.”

For a conference like the Mountain West, fighting its way up the football food chain, or for the Patriot League, a hoops mid-major but a solid player with deep alumni on the FCS side, there are great advantages in being first. It’s an attention draw, it shows innovation and it will give digital first broadcasts a boost as we move more towards TV everywhere. It also puts those football playing conferences in some rarefied air, as the only other gridiron property engaged with Twitter this far is the NFL.

“To be included in a landmark distribution deal such as this for college sports events, particularly Mountain West football, is very significant,” added  MW Commissioner Craig Thompson. “ We applaud Twitter for this visionary approach and alignment with the progressive thinking of the MW. We are thrilled to be the first FBS conference to be showcased on Twitter.”

So is there business value that can be realized, or is it just about the hype? Many people seem to think that the aggregation opportunities as well as the potential audience, especially for college sports, is worth the shot.

“The synergy between Twitter and college athletics is an organic and mutually beneficial one,” said Ray Katz, a longtime sports marketer now president of ROI Sports and a professor at Columba University.  “The demographic fits perfectly and the ability to deliver quality content driving engagement opportunities for brands with their core audience makes great sense. We saw the Pac 12 take the first step in this rapidly evolving space and now Campus Insiders has amplified that by including college football.  I believe there will be more to come not just for the biggest schools, but for schools like the Patriot League as well, and extending into Division 2 and Division 3, which are still underserved but significant en masse.”

As far as the latest deal goes, Campus Insiders, the digital first network dedicated entirely to college sports,  will stream the live college games on Twitter with an extensive line-up of football, basketball, lacrosse, soccer, baseball, volleyball, field hockey, water polo and swimming. In addition to live events, Campus Insiders and the ACC Digital Network will contribute timely video and on demand clips of game highlights, breaking news and “must see moments” from the top ranked schools and colleges across the country on Twitter.

“Streaming live games directly on Twitter is a natural evolution of the fan experience,” added Brooks Boyer, CEO of Silver Chalice, the parent company of Campus Insiders in a release Friday. “Unlike traditional broadcast and cable networks, Campus Insiders is set up perfectly to adapt to the evolving media landscape, and we are thrilled to be able to demonstrate this groundbreaking opportunity for our Conference partners, the student athletes we cover and the millions of fans with a passion for college sports.”

It is a great escalation of buzz for Campus Insiders and  Silver Chalice, which launched both the college platform and 120 Sports to much fanfare with partners like Major League Baseball and Time Inc., but in the past year or so have been relatively quiet as the businesses retool and react to the changing digital sports marketplace. At least for Campus Insiders, the Twitter partnership speaks loudly about the potential for what has been built going forward, and should get many more eyes on the quality work that is being done in the college digital space. The platform offers original news reporting and social media content and has strategic partnerships with the Big 12 Conference and the CIAA in addition to the leagues already mentioned, and is out covering news big and small across all of college sports.

While institutes of higher learning are supposed to be teaching the young, it seems like all in the sports business marketplace will be learning a lot about the future of media through deals like those announced recently, and for what is thought to be the most robust marketplace for growth in sports, college athletics, the potential for streaming with a new partner just got bigger.