In downtown Los Angeles on Thursday the LA Dodgers Accelerator with R/GA held a night of networking and showcasing of their startups. The event marked the end of their second accelerator program in two years. All five startups, plus mentors that were provided by the Dodgers and R/GA throughout this year’s accelerator program, were in attendance.
The five startups that were selected for this year’s program were specifically engaged by R/GA and the Dodgers based on the unique and varied networks and skill sets of the two organizations. Last year’s accelerator program between the baseball organization and design agency worked with ten startups ranging from early to growth stage. This year’s five startups were all in growth stage and Stephen Plumlee, R/GA’s Global Chief Operating Officer, explained their approach for this year’s program and how it was geared towards growth stage startups:
“Most accelerators, or programs that use that term, are focused on early stage companies, by which I mean seed or pre-seed. What this implies is that they also are very curriculum specific with kind of a startup 101 curriculum and that’s because those early stage companies need that. This also implies that those companies need help raising money during or after the program and using the demo day as the forcing function. So as we’ve done more programs, we’ve started to move away from this formula in a number of ways.”
The Dodgers program has taken it to another level. For example, we chose five companies that are all growth stage companies. Meaning, they are Series A or Series B companies. This means they all have business models that have shown traction already and have raised money. So these companies don’t need an early stage curriculum. So this Dodgers program has essentially been a virtual program that is focused on business development and pilots and partnerships and creative capital, which is the injection of the R/GA staff into the program. For every program that we do we curate a team specifically for each company in each program. We sit down with them, we assess what we can do for them. Then we pull together a team across our 2,000 person global staff.”
At the Thursday event a new collaboration between three of the startups was announced. Keemotion’s autonomous video capture, ShotTracker’s real-time on court analytics, and WSC’s automated highlight creation tool will work together to create what seems like on paper a very thorough basketball data gathering solution. From content creation and distribution, to player data gathering and fan engagement, this is a very unique partnership.
This partnership is an example of how the accelerator’s leaders evolved the program from its first year to its second year. The Dodger’s CFO, Tucker Kain, discussed this evolution and what we might look for in years to come from the program:
“What we are continuously trying to do is iterate towards the most effective and highest impact that we can have with these companies. While we are very excited with last year’s program, our view is that we want to take the brand and the Dodgers platform and apply in such a way that truly does accelerate what these young companies are doing. We have a continued focus on our end to iterate and innovate with our approach, which is what we expect from each of the companies coming in.”
“We wanted to work with companies that had enough scale and traction so we could really dig in and make the right introductions and hope the companies can take the next step. So what you would see from year one to year two is that class one had those types of companies, but also some earlier stage companies – which we are still very excited about – but they have a longer growth pattern. This year we skewed later stage in order to find companies that are positioned to take advantage of some of our resources. But that’s not to say we outright precluded anything. We still had 700 plus companies this year and gave them all a real look.”
Time will tell how the group of five startups in this second accelerator program will fare but if the first year is any indication then this group of five “growth stage” companies will have plenty of opportunities. Out of the ten startups that participated in the first program last year, there has been more than $21 million in funding collectively raised and sixteen awards received for their products.
“The companies are already benefiting from our unique accelerator approach,” said StephenPlumlee, Global Chief Operating Officer, R/GAand Managing Partner of R/GA Ventures. “Watching meaningful progress spring from the strategic relationships and consultative approach has demonstrated the strength of our new partnership-driven format.”