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NFL and Texas Medical Center Announce Finalists for 1st and Future Competition

Nine companies to present their ideas to prominent group of judges in live sports-technology startup showdown

Houston – February 2, 2017 – The National Football League (NFL) and the Texas Medical Center (TMC) today announced the finalists for the second annual 1st and Future event, a startup pitch competition aimed at driving innovations to advance sports technology and athlete safety. The live showdown will take place at the Texas Medical Center Accelerator (TMCx) in Houston on February 4, 2017, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. CT.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and GE CEO and Chairman Jeff Immelt will kick off 1st and Future with a discussion, moderated by TMC President and CEO Dr. Robert C. Robbins, around successful marketplace disruption through industry partnerships – such as the GE-NFL Head Health Initiative and open-innovation challenges like 1st and Future. TMC will livestream the full competition, including the conversation between Commissioner Goodell and Jeff Immelt, on the TMC website.

The competition is divided into three separate categories – Communicating with the Athlete, Training the Athlete and Materials to Protect the Athlete – and the finalists include the following startup companies (with a summary of each startup's product or service, as described by them):

Communicating with the Athlete

New technologies that will improve the secure and safe means of communication between a coach on the sideline or in the coaches' booth and a designated player on the field.

Elevety – Toronto, Ontario, Canada (

Elevety is a wearable technology company with a mission to bring voice communication to the worlds of adventure and spectator sports. The 2-way, closed system peer-to-peer communication devices allow teams to communicate in real-time voice anywhere, without the need for a mobile network.

GoRout – Rochester, Minnesota (

GoRout has created on-field wearable technology to help streamline the communication between football coaches and players by allowing players to receive digital play diagrams and data from coaches on the sideline.

Linkpro – Jersey City, Channel Island, United Kingdom (

The Linkpro® Explore1 is a technology-enabled sports helmet with fully integrated communications technology that allows users to connect to select groups with a simple one-touch system.

Training the Athlete

Educational and training innovations designed to reduce injury during practice or competition. Innovations may include training techniques or equipment.

The Iron Neck – Austin, Texas (

The Iron Neck is a breakthrough neck training tool that enables athletes across all sports to increase strength, flexibility and range of motion to better defend against concussive forces and rehabilitate previous injuries. By attaching to existing equipment, the Iron Neck leaves no gym footprint and combines horizontal and rotational resistance with 360 degrees of movement to build consistent and measurable training programs at every level.

LVL – Austin, Texas (

LVL is a next-generation, optical sensor-driven platform that gives a continuous view of players' physiological states including: hydration, muscle effort and exertion, heart rate, speed and concussion markers. Using patented machine learning techniques, LVL produces real-time recommendations for risk reduction, training optimization and rest and recovery needs.

Mobile Virtual Player – Lebanon, New Hampshire (

Mobile Virtual Player (MVP) is an innovative, patented training platform that allows coaches to teach and train players effectively while significantly reducing the risk of injury from player-to-player contact. MVP brings a highly-mobile, remote controlled, self-righting 'virtual player' onto the field to revolutionize football training.

Materials to Protect the Athlete

Novel or innovative solutions and materials that advance player health and safety while allowing for the highest-level of performance.

2ND Skull – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (

2ND SKULL is a protective headgear company with patented products that are scientifically engineered to reduce impact. The 2ND SKULL® CAP, is a thin, soft, flexible and breathable protective skull cap that fits under football helmets and provides added protection against linear and rotational impacts.

Prevent Biometrics – Minneapolis, Minnesota (

Prevent's head impact monitor can detect potential concussion-causing impacts in real-time on the field of play, taking today's observational, subjective and inaccurate method of identifying athletes for concussion assessment and turning it into an objective, accurate, data-driven process.

Windpact – Leesburg, Virginia (

Windpact is a safety technology company that has developed a patented padding system that uses air and foam to absorb and disperse impact energy to improve the performance of helmets and protective gear. Driven by a team of engineers, designers and developers and led by a Pro Bowl NFL veteran, Windpact has begun integrating its flagship Crash Cloud technology into partner helmets and aims to further advance player health and safety through its scientific approach to product development.

The companies will face off in front of an exclusive audience comprised of NFL team owners and executives and representatives from the Houston Super Bowl Host Committee and the Texas Medical Center. Scott Hanson of the NFL Network and host of NFL RedZone, will emcee the pitch competition, and the panel of judges will feature:

  • Ed Egan, Ph.D., Director of the McNair Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Rice University's Baker Institute
  • Rich Ellenbogen, M.D., Chairman of the Department of Neurological Surgery at the University of Washington Medical Center and Co-Chairman of the NFL Head, Neck and Spine Committee
  • Bernard Harris, M.D., M.B.A, CEO and Managing Partner of Vesalius Ventures
  • Mae Jemison, M.D., Principal, 100 Year Starship
  • Chad Pennington, former NFL quarterback, NFL Legend
  • Sue Siegel, CEO of GE Ventures and healthymagination
  • John Urschel, Baltimore Ravens guard and center

The winner of each category will leave with $50,000 from the NFL to further develop their innovation; acceptance into TMCx, TMC's world-renowned startup program; and two tickets to Super Bowl LI on February 5.

Media interested in attending and covering 1st and Future should contact one of the media representatives listed below.

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About TMC

What was sparked with the founding of a single hospital in Houston in 1925 has come to be the Texas Medical Center (TMC) today. Home to 57 member institutions, including 21 hospitals, 13 support organizations, nine academic and research institutions, six nursing programs, three public health organizations, three medical schools, two universities, two pharmacy schools and a dental school, TMC operates the world's largest medical city with eight million patients and family encounters with doctors, nurses and staff at TMC every year. TMC is dedicated to reinventing life sciences to improve the health and wellness of Houston, and the world. Learn more at

Media Contacts:

Jill Pike, NFL,

Alex Riethmiller, NFL,

Christen David, TMC,; (713) 791-8838