Apps / AR / Sports / Universities

This entrepreneur’s journey took him from Baltimore to Major League Soccer

Johns Hopkins alum Saul Garlick cofounded Fabric, a gamified mixed-reality platform that connects fans at sports events.

Fabric as rendered for NBA All-Star Weekend. (Courtesy Fabric)

Denver-born Saul Garlick’s work currently focuses on developing a mixed-reality experience for live sports and entertainment. It’s the latest step in a path that took him from student entrepreneurship at Johns Hopkins to his current venture that’s already worked with some of the country’s top professional sports leagues.

Garlick, who boasts nearly 20 years of entrepreneurial experience, now serves as the cofounder and CEO of  Fabric, a geospatial web platform tailored for sporting events. It uses augmented reality (AR) to enhance in-person experiences among attendees of matches and games. The Los Angeles-based company has already raised at least $4 million, including a $1.9 million seed round.

Both Garlick and his cofounder Sarah Kass believe that while technology has the potential to disconnect people, it can also serve as a tool to bring them together in real-life interactions.

“So we’re big on the idea of people participating,” said Garlick, who explained that in the development of the platform, he and his team talked a lot about fan participation. “It’s not just about showing up. It’s not just about seeing something like a big sign. It’s about engaging with that content.”

Garlick attributes his company’s recent success to its gamified approach to real-time connection, which earned the company a spot among five other startups in Major League Soccer’s (MLS) MLS Innovation Labs. The sports technology incubator program aims to cultivate the next generation of athletes and enhance the fan experience for MLS and its clubs.

Fabric on black phone held by hand in black jacket outside grey arena.

Fabric at the NHL Heritage Classic. (Courtesy Fabric)

Fabric has already offered its solution to non-soccer teams, leagues and event organizers like the NBA Summer League and the NHL Heritage Classic. It now looks forward to increasing fan engagement and creating incentives for live sports events.

“It could be putting in a poll, it could be scratching out a scratcher,  it could be doing trivia, it could be actively pressing a three-dimensional mystery box drop,” said Garlick on what fans might encounter in augmenting their venue experiences. “There are all kinds of different interactions that the fan will do using their device in mixed reality.”

Fabric is one of six companies in the inaugural MLS Innovation Lab cohort. The other participants come from around the world and work on tech ranging from a GPS-based tracker of players’ performance to an AI platform that automatically translates sports content into any language.

Before Fabric, similar to Pava LaPere, Garlick’s entrepreneurial journey began during his studies at Baltimore’s Johns Hopkins University.

There, Garlick founded a newspaper representing Democratic views on campus in response to a conservative publication’s work, as well as Student Movement for Real Change (SMRC). SMRC was initially a student club that transitioned into a nonprofit organization. Later, it further evolved and expanded into ThinkImpact, a for-profit global social enterprise.

“I didn’t call myself an entrepreneur at the time,” said Garlick. “I didn’t really think of it that way.”

As a child of immigrant parents who grew up on what he described as the “white side of the coin” in apartheid South Africa, Garlick said that he studied international relations and American foreign policy (in the university’s undergrad and master’s programs) as part of his broader goal of creating equal access to opportunities of various kinds.

“[I] sort of honed my focus on how to create equal access to opportunity,” said Garlick. “So that’s been a throughline for my whole career.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story did not name the correct Fabric cofounder, Sarah Kass.

Companies: Johns Hopkins University / NBA / NHL

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