Spurring Innovation Through Competition
On February 3, leading entrepreneurs and innovators will gather to compete at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis for 1st and Future, the NFL's annual Super Bowl start-up pitch competition.
The NFL teamed up with Comcast NBCUniversal and Mayo Clinic for this year's competition, designed to spur advancements in athlete safety and performance.
"We are thrilled to collaborate with Comcast NBCUniversal as well as Mayo Clinic to support innovators who are committed to advancing sports technology and athlete health and safety," said Jeff Miller, NFL Executive Vice President of Health and Safety Initiatives.
Nine companies will compete in three categories. One winner from each category will be selected by a panel of judges comprised of former NFL players, entrepreneurs and medical experts. The winning team from each category will receive a $50,000 check from the NFL and two tickets to Super Bowl LII.
Minneapolis-based SportsEngine Inc., a division of Comcast NBCUniversal's NBC Sports Group and the leading youth sports technology provider, will serve as a home base for the competing companies during the week prior to the 1st and Future competition. Together, NBC Sports Ventures, Comcast NBCUniversal LIFT Labs for entrepreneurs and SportsEngine will administer the competition.
Contestants will compete in the following three categories:
- Advancements in Protective Equipment: Developments in football helmet technology designed to better protect athletes.
- Technology to Improve Athletic Performance: New innovations that leverage the use of data or immersive technology designed to advance athlete health and performance.
- New Therapies to Speed Recovery: Innovative therapies to restore the athlete to their best. Game-changing sports medicine advances in regenerative medicine, medical devices, and digital therapies to heal the athlete and shorten the road to recovery.
*Background and objectives for each category at the end of the page.
The following companies have been named as finalists (with a summary of each start-up's product or service, as described by the company):
Advancements in Protective Equipment
Exero Labs—Chagrin Falls, OH (http://exerolabs.com)
Exero Labs has developed a patent-pending concept for a leaf spring device that attaches to the front of football helmets and deforms on impact to help absorb and diffuse impact forces.
Impressio, Inc.—Denver, CO (http://impressio.tech)
Impressio utilizes liquid-crystal elastomers (LCEs) to create novel dissipative liner materials for protective equipment designed to overcome the existing challenges of energy absorption in current helmet foams.
VyaTek Sports, Inc.—Cave Creek, AZ (http://www.vyatek.com)
VyaTek is developing a new system called ZORBZ™—a series of replaceable, highly-efficient, energy-absorbing modules fitted to the exterior of a helmet.
New Therapies to Speed Recovery
Cartilage Repair Systems LLC—New York, NY
CartiONE aims to advance the treatment of cartilage injuries using a patented process to create new cartilage from a patient's own cartilage and bone marrow cells in a single surgery with the goal to shorten recovery times.
EyeGuide, Inc.—Philadelphia, PA (https://eye.guide/)
EyeGuide Focus—a proprietary hardware & software eye-tracking platform—is designed to allow professionals to easily administer a simple, 10-second test to check for potential neurological impairment.
RecoverX—Mountain View, CA (http://www.recoverx.io)
Element is a connected device that can achieve the optimum cold or hot therapy temperatures without any ice or water, designed to allow users more freedom for their therapy.
Technology to Improve Athletic Performance
Aladdin Dreamer, Inc.—Paradise Valley, AZ (http://www.aladdindreamer.com)
Aladdin's patented wearable is designed to improve athlete recovery and performance through biometric tracking and sleep enhancement.
ai—Toronto, Ontario (http://curv.ai)
Curv is an athlete development platform that leverages patent-pending computer vision and augmented reality to transform the camera on any mobile device into a versatile tool that captures human motion, measures athletic abilities and evaluates injury risk.
Xensr, Inc.—Green Bay, WI (http://xensr.com/)
Xensr's Konect Sports technology is an end-to-end 3D-motion tracking, training and quantification system designed to provide real-time athlete performance data and train athletes to have faster reflexive responses.
1st and Future Judges
The companies will face off in front of a panel of judges and an exclusive audience—including NFL team owners and executives, and representatives from the Minneapolis Super Bowl Host Committee, Comcast NBCUniversal and Mayo Clinic.
The panel of judges will feature:
- Amy Banse, Managing Director and Head of Funds for Comcast Ventures
- Jonathan Finnoff, D.O., Medical Director of Mayo Clinic Square, Sports Medicine Center in Minneapolis
- Courtney Hall, Managing Director, Hillcrest Venture Partners, former NFL player
- Justin Kaufenberg, Co-Founder and CEO, SportsEngine
- Laurie Locascio, Ph.D., Vice President for Research, University of Maryland
- Eric Sugarman, MS, ATC, Director of Sports Medicine and Head Athletic Trainer, Minnesota Vikings
- Jennifer Wethe, Ph.D., Neuropsychologist for Mayo Clinic Arizona Sports Neurology and Concussion Program
2017 1st and Future Winners
The NFL partnered with the Texas Medical Center (TMC) for the 2017 1st and Future competition in Houston, Texas. More than 200 companies submitted applications.
Last year's winning pitches shared a common theme: demonstrating potential to translate research findings from the lab into meaningful outcomes for athletes.
"I think what captivated the judges and grabbed our interest are translational ideas," said Jeff Miller, NFL Executive Vice President of Health and Safety Initiatives. "If the league can help stimulate some of those changes, we're going to see the future faster."
Nine finalists had the opportunity to pitch their innovations: from optical sensors and monitors designed to give a continuous view of players' physiological state to skull caps meant to provide added protection against impact. 2017 winner included:
1. Communicating with the Athlete: GoRout (Rochester, Minnesota)
GoRout created on-field wearable technology designed to streamline the communication between football coaches and players by allowing players to receive digital play diagrams and data from coaches on the sideline.
2. Training the Athlete: Mobile Virtual Player (Lebanon, New Hampshire)
Mobile Virtual Player (MVP) is a self-righting, remote-controlled mobile training device designed to allow coaches to teach and train players effectively while reducing player-to-player contact.
3. Materials to Protect the Athlete: Windpact (Leesburg, Virginia)
Windpact developed the Crash Cloud padding system that uses air and foam designed to absorb and disperse impact energy to try to improve the performance of helmets and protective gear.
*Details on 2018 1st and Future categories:
1. Advancements in Protective Equipment: Developments in football helmet technology designed to better protect athletes.
Objective: To identify innovations in football helmet technology, including but not limited to:
- Quarterback-specific helmet innovations that consider relevant impact specifications
- New materials and innovations to better absorb or mitigate force
2. Technology to Improve Athletic Performance: New innovations that leverage the use of data or immersive technology designed to advance athlete health and performance.
Objective: To identify new technologies to try to advance athlete health and performance at any level—from youth to amateur to professional athletes, specifically:
- Products and applications which utilize Augmented Reality (AR) or Virtual Reality (VR) technology
- New technologies which will further enhance the ability to collect, analyze and distribute a wide range of biometric data
3. New Therapies to Speed Recovery: Innovative therapies to restore the athlete to be at their best. Game-changing sports medicine advances in regenerative medicine, medical devices, and digital therapies to heal the athlete and shorten the road to recovery.
- When injuries occur, athletes and care providers look to new therapies to decrease recovery times.
Objective: To identify new technologies to improve care and accelerate recovery including, but not limited to:
- Therapeutic cells and cell derived products that harness the power of the body's ability to heal itself, to repair damaged tissues, reduce pain and inflammation, and restore function after an injury
- The next generation of arthroscopic, fracture and ligament repair, and prosthetic devices that offer improved safety and efficacy compared to current standards of care
- Digital therapies, from digitized cognitive assessment tests to in-home physical therapies, that can serve as alternatives or augment traditional therapies to try to accelerate an athlete's recovery
For more information about 1st and Future, official rules and judging criteria, visit https://www.sportsengine.com/1st-and-future. The deadline to submit applications closed on January 11.