Accelerators / Sports

The Sixers now have a fund to invest in startups, but will they come to Camden?

A new piece on the basketball team's “Innovation Lab” accelerator reveals that it may invest in the program's first cohort.

What the Sixers want to do to startups. (GIF via @76ers on Twitter)

Technically Baltimore alum Andrew Zaleski wrote a story for Backchannel on the Philadelphia 76ers’ play for the entrepreneurial realm: an accelerator program we told you about last April, one that’s based in Camden, where the Sixers’ new training complex is. (Spokeswoman Lara Toscani Weems tells us the team just moved in today.)

In the piece, Zaleski reveals there’s now a fund in the seven-figure realm for investing in the accelerator cohort in exchange for equity. This didn’t appear to be part of the original deal, at least according to the Sixers’ PR people we spoke to. Initially, the deal included office space, marketing opportunities and the use of the team’s brand. Also, it’s not a given that the Sixers will invest in companies in the accelerator.

“In exchange for extending an invitation to join the Innovation Lab, the Sixers organization takes an equity stake in each company,” Zaleski writes. “In some cases, it plans to invest, and it has a fund of several million dollars to play with (the exact amount, however, is not for public consumption.)”

Perhaps the sharpest insight in the piece is that Sixers — amid a horrid slump that landed them at the bottom of the league last year — are joining a bit of a trend among teams like the Minnesota Vikings, Los Angeles Dodgers and the Orlando Magic, all of which are now sporting some form of accelerator program.

“In other words, teams are not just clusters of athletes,” Zaleski writes of the team’s play for the entrepreneurship world. “They are now platforms. With an NBA championship ring proving elusive, the Sixers have decided it’s time to diversify their portfolio, and to bet on tech wizardry.”

Read the full story

Other news from the Innovation Lab: The accelerator is still accepting applications and has chosen a manager of operations in Rhyan Truett, who formerly managed business operations for the Sixers.

And yes, we are still wondering, despite the now-sweetened deal in the form of possible seed capital, can the Sixers attract startups to Camden? We bet these folks hope so.

Companies: Philadelphia 76ers

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