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At the Sixers’ Innovation Lab, these startups are, yes, trusting the process

The 8,000-square-foot Camden accelerator is launching with four startups. Team and government officials hope it can boost the New Jersey's city's fledgling tech scene.

Snip, snip. Now get to work. (GIF by Roberto Torres)

The 76ers Innovation Lab crafted by Kimball opened its doors Tuesday after a ribbon-cutting ceremony across the bridge in Camden, where the team’s new complex is housed.

Four startups make up the inaugural set of companies, all of which get access to office space, advice and services as part of the deal. And as this Backchannel article reveals, the Sixers also have some cash in a fund with a couple millions on tap in case investments are needed.

It’s a team effort to say the least: the 8,000-square-foot, startupy-lookin’, open-floor-plan space was furnished by Indiana-based Kimball Office; legal counsel for the companies is provided by Pepper Hamilton through its Pepper SEED program; and creative and communications consulting is done by a Florida branding firm called Maven Agency.

More flashy perks include food and drinks, along the cool factor of being right next to the team’s training complex.

“I stand amazed,” said Camden Mayor Dana Redd before the room full of people after thanking the Sixers for setting up shop in the beleaguered New Jersey city ($82 million in state tax breaks certainly played a role). “This is an incredible resource for the region,”Redd said. “New ideas could come out of this that could impact not just Camden but the entire region.”

Of note: Redd is at the final year of her second term and will not be seeking a third one come November. She has endorsed City Council president Francisco “Frank” Moran as her successor, in what the Inquirer calls a race with “little suspense.”


There’s no such thing as “cohorts” at the Innovators Lab. Operations manager Rhyan Truett, who emceed the opening ceremony, tells us it’s a rolling application process (available here).

Here’s the lineup of the first four companies:

  • Monster Roster: Founded in 2015 by San Francisco-based entrepreneur Dylan Elder, the company offers fantasy sports players lineup recommendations by leveraging an in-house algorithm.
  • U GIT GUD: This startup bills itself as the first esports coaching platform, using data analytics to help players get better at online games like League of Legends.
  • Doc and Phoebe’s Cat.Co: A company exclusively aiming for the cat owner market. Founded by Elizabeth Bales, a veterinarian with 17 years of experience, the company makes a line of indoor hunting feeders that promise to reduce bad behavior.
  • LiveLifeNice: Sixers’ host and media personality Christian Crosby started this digital media agency in a bid to help companies inspire social good through the almighty content.

Per spokeswoman Lara Toscani, the terms of the deals are confidential. They’re also individual, which means each startup may be yielding a different piece of its pie in exchange for access to a spot at the Lab. She alluded to a group of internal “Shark Tank guys” as the decision-makers.

Thanks to the Innovation lab, the resources are there for companies to succeed from Camden, said AND1 founder Seth Berger, the Lab’s Managing Director.

“Our goal is to remove the ‘noise’ that drowns so many startups, and give them the resources to focus on what they do best, innovating and thinking consumer-first,” said Berger.

For Shinggo Lu, cofounder of U GIT GUD the platform’s main appeal goes beyond money. It’s all about the Sixers’ network. “If we were still working out of our basement, we wouldn’t be talking to you,” Lu told this reporter. Access to Berger, adds cofounder Alan Liang, is another perk of the program. “We’re supposed to have access to him for an hour a day, but in reality, we can check in with him anytime we want,” Liang said.

Among the crowd were Waterfront Ventures‘ Khai Tran and Melissa Le. “Our goal is the same,” said Le of the accelerator opening up shop. The duo is part of an ongoing push to revitalize Camden’s tech entrepreneurship corridor, an effort that has recruited Philly founders like Bob Moore and Bob Moul.


What comes next? The startups gotta get to work. LiveLifeNice founder Christian Crosby in particular was hyped to get things started. He said he had a national deal in the works that may be a catalyst for his thus-far stealthy startup.

As the space itself falls into place in the current startup push from Camden, all that’s left now is, as they say, trust the process.

Companies: Philadelphia 76ers

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