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NBA on the Hunt for Innovative Tech Startups With Launchpad Season 2

After debuting in 2021, NBA Launchpad Season 2 is tipping off to find the next great technology companies to help the league level up in the years to come.

Last year, the NBA began a formal search process to identify startups and ascendant companies that are piloting the development and spearheading the implementation of emerging technologies that can benefit the league from a number of different areas both on and off the court.

Officially known as NBA Launchpad, the program debuted last season and culminated in a demo pitch day at Summer League in Las Vegas in July. Now, at the dawn of the 2022-23 NBA campaign, it’s back for a second season.

The submission process for companies hoping to participate is Oct. 27, 2022. During November and December, the NBA Launchpad team will whittle down the list to a handful of finalists before selecting the winners for each category. Those winners will get a six-month research and development pilot period from the league and a demo day at NBA Summer League, where senior league and team executives and key outside investors will get an exclusive look at what they have to offer.

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Last season, the NBA’s strategy team led by execs Evan Wasch and Tom Ryan identified the use of technology to improve and strengthen the game of basketball as a central point of emphasis. As part of Launchpad Season 1, the league invested in Nextiles, a materials science company that utilizes “smart” thread technology in its fabrics, including features like Bluetooth sensors, to provide a new level of performance data tracking for athletes. As their fabrics bend and stretch, an individual’s mechanics and biometrics can be measured and analyzed to enhance not just performance, but also mitigate the risk of injury.

“The caliber of the work was top-level and really interesting,” Matt Wolf, the NBA’s Head of Strategy and Innovation, told Boardroom. “Now, for Season 2, we want to build on that, but the opportunity to extend this to the business side and grow the sphere of people that are gonna get exposed to some of these early-stage companies that we’re going to be working with is just going to make it that much more exciting and successful.” 

For this new Launchpad initiative, the league will focus on companies innovating in one of six key areas:

  • Soft tissue injury prevention and recovery
  • Healthy playing habits in youth basketball
  • Disrupting the game
  • Game production and viewing experience
  • In-seat experience
  • Sports betting experience

“We are optimistic that we’ll find a similar caliber of companies where not only will we be able to do fun things with them during the six-month pilot period, but come out of this with plans to continue to work together in the longer term,” Wolf said.

A special emphasis will be placed on companies that can overlap between two of those six key categories — for instance, a company that can deliver an innovative betting experience from your seat at a live game in an NBA arena, for example.

“We are partnering really closely with our internal executives and the subject matter experts in each of these areas to ensure that we identify the right companies and the best companies,” Wolf said. “We’re then also committed to spending a lot of time hand in hand with them to build out their ideas throughout the second year of Launchpad.”

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