The Philadelphia 76ers, along with Indiana-based furniture manufacturer Kimball Office, just announced that they’re launching a startup incubator out of the Sixers’ Camden HQ.
The six-month “Innovation Lab” program is focused on sports-tech companies and ends with a demo day in August 2017.
The Sixers hope the Lab will attract talent to the area and “energize” the business community, according to a release. It’s also their way of joining the tech-scene momentum of the region, said VP of Business Development Katie O’Reilly. But we have to wonder if it’s a hard sell for area entrepreneurs.
The Sixers and Kimball take up to 4 percent equity but aren’t making any financial investment in the companies. Instead, they’ll offer a free Sixers sponsorship, meaning that participating startups will get to use the Sixers brand and marketing partners to promote their company. This makes it look like a good deal for a consumer-facing company that would profit from the team’s brand.
They’re also offering standard incubator fare: free office space, access to service providers, mentorship. Plus, access to Sixers execs, and partners like StubHub and DraftKings. O’Reilly also pointed out that Sixers execs and other local partners, like Dreamit and NextStage Capital, could choose to invest in Innovation Lab companies.
The Sixers weren’t worried about attracting startups to work in Camden, O’Reilly said. She pointed to the Sixers an example.
“We are running to Camden,” she said. “We want to be a part of the transformation of the city.” (The basketball team also got $82 million in grants from New Jersey to move there.)
The model reminds us of the Philadelphia Media Network’s Project Liberty incubator or Penn’s Education Design Studio, Inc., both incubators that offer services but not funding, except that neither of them require startups to give up equity.