Web3 Basketball Gaming Startup Fast Break Labs Raises $6 Million, Two NBA Team Owners Invest
Fast Break Labs, developer of a basketball simulation game, has raised a $6 million seed funding round co-led by venture firm Patron and blockchain-focused fund Pantera Capital. Owners of two NBA teams—Brooklyn Nets owner Joe Tsai and Sacramento Kings co-owner Aneel Ranadive—also invested in the round.
The startup’s first product is the Virtual Basketball Association, which lets users draft and trade digital collectibles of fictional basketball players to build a team roster that competes in simulated games. The VBA plans to let users craft storylines around their fictional players; its first season is set to begin in May.
Former Facebook engineers Charles Du and John Wu are co-founders of Fast Break Labs. Their seed funding round also included investments from Solana Ventures, Sorare COO Ryan Spoon and 100 Thieves president John Robinson. Tsai’s investment was made through his family office Blue Pool Capital.
“The intersection of crypto, games, and sports presents an incredible amount of potential,” Patron co-founder Brian Cho said in a statement. “We are confident that this amazing team, with its deep passion for web3 and basketball, will build a compelling experience that will delight all players and fans of the space.”
Trainers for Patrick Mahomes, Damian Lillard and Shaun White Join Proteus Motion
Proteus Motion, makers of a 3D resistance training device, has named a six-member panel of elite trainers to its team. One of them, Bobby Stroupe, who has worked with Kansas City Chiefs superstar quarterback Patrick Mahomes for years, is now an official company advisor.
Also joining Proteus Motion as ambassadors are Eric Cressey, the New York Yankees’ director of player health and performance; Cem Eren, who trains NBA All-Star Damian Lillard; Spencer Tatum and Jarrett Phillips, who both work with PGA Tour players; and Jason Walsh, who has coached Shaun White and celebrity actors.
The fitness technology developed by Proteus founder Sam Miller uses consistent, magnetic resistance to guide users through a wide range of movements. The platform’s software can measure strength and power to diagnose inefficiencies and offer personalized recommendations.
Among its investors are Baseball Hall of Famer Dave Winfield, U.S. Open golf champion Bryson DeChambeau, HBSE Ventures, the Hospital for Special Surgery and the late former NBA commissioner David Stern. MLB stars Miguel Cabrera, Giancarlo Stanton, Justin Verlander and Noah Syndergaard are all Proteus users at Cressey’s private training facility.
Giannis Antetokounmpo Invests in Wave Sports + Entertainment’s $27 Million Series B Funding Round
Sports media startup Wave Sports + Entertainment has raised a $27 million Series B funding that included investment from reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. TZP Group led the round alongside participation from Crossbeam Venture Partners, GPS Investment Partners, Verance Capital and Nimble Ventures.
Wave’s previous investors include NFL quarterback Baker Mayfield and ESPN analyst Jay Williams, as the startup raised $32 million in July 2020. The company has signed deals the Professional Fighters League, EuroLeague Basketball and the ATP Tour to share highlights and video content across Wave’s social media brands. WSE will use its new funding to launch original shows, premium programming, sports betting content and help build its predictive content management and analytics platform.
Former Time Inc. CEO Rich Battista has joined Wave as executive director of its board of directors. Antetokounmpo joined the Series B as a strategic partner. His investment follows his recent new role as global spokesperson for WhatsApp.
Cleveland Cavaliers Partner With Caesars, Will Build In-Arena Sportsbook
The Cleveland Cavaliers have named Caesars Sportsbook the organization’s official sports betting and casino partner in anticipation of Ohio’s legalization of sports wagering beginning next year. Ohio governor Mike DeWine signed House Bill 29 in December of last year, which will take effect Jan. 1, 2023.
Caesars will open an in-venue sportsbook at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, the Cavs’ home arena. The approximately 10,355 square-foot venue will stand at street level in the northwest atrium of the arena. Construction of the sportsbook will begin soon, and, when completed, it will be open year-round to both ticketed and non-ticketed fans. Last year, the Cavs signed a multi-year deal with Fubo Gaming in preparation for legal sports betting in Ohio.
Washington’s Capital One Arena, home to the Wizards, Capitals and Mystics added a Caesars sportsbook in May of last year, while MLB’s Arizona Diamondbacks also opened a Caesars sportsbook at its ballpark. The Phoenix Suns opened the NBA’s first in-arena sportsbook in September with FanDuel.
MLS, MLSPA Step Into Metaverse With GreenPark Sports
Virtual fan world platform GreenPark Sports has reached a new multi-year deal with MLS and the MLS Players Association. MLS now joins the NBA, La Liga and League of Legends as sports and esports entities to have partnerships with GreenPark Sports, whose early access app is currently available on the App Store and Google Play Store.
Fans can create custom avatars in GreenPark that can be outfitted with digital gear representing MLS teams and players starting this season. The app lets users compete in head-to-head games that will augment real-time data from live MLS matches. The app will also host live watch parties for fans and have a rewards system for users to win gear and other prizes.
In October, Green Park announced it had raised $31 million in Series B funding, along with the planned launch of its first set of NFTs. The company’s co-founders include Chad Hurley, who previously co-founded YouTube. OneTeam Partners facilitated Green Park’s latest deal on behalf of the MLSPA. The licensing company previously negotiated a deal to get MLS players on Sorare, an app for fans to buy and sell NFT trading cards of athletes and compete in fantasy soccer contests.
“With our new partnerships with MLS and the MLSPA, soccer fans can play and compete in a variety of social experiences augmented by live data,’’ GreenPark Sports chief strategy officer Tony Grillo said in a statement. “We are committed to building a one-stop rewarded fan experience and a multi-sport virtual community, and having MLS and its players join our roster accelerates this mission.’’
Clemson University Fits Quarterbacks With Customized Big Game Footballs
Clemson University’s football team is working with Big Game Football, a Dallas-based maker of hand-crafted footballs, to provide game balls that specifically fit the preferences of quarterbacks on the team. The company offers various shape and positioning configurations of a ball’s laces, as well as alterations to the ball’s stitching, stripe and type of leather to fit a player’s hand size and comfort.
Big Game has partnered with Nike, the apparel partner of Clemson, to make the custom fit Nike-branded balls that the school will use during football games. Big Game also has deals with Adidas and Under Armour, and it provides customized game balls for about 85% of NCAA FBS programs, according to Dallas Magazine.
Dan Kolcun, senior development manager at Big Game, visited Clemson’s football facility and shared multiple different footballs with the school’s quarterbacks for them to each pick which fits their grip the best. Big Game’s footballs were reportedly first used during the 2008 college football season; its other current clients include Texas, Alabama and LSU.
“There’s many differences in laces, stripes, sizes, colors, different types of leather, and [Dan] is gonna explain to us the difference,” Clemson director of football equipment Nick Yarid said in a video posted to Twitter on Sunday. “He’s gonna sit down with our quarterbacks and really pick out what they want and what fits their needs.”
Danish Soccer’s FC Midtjylland Uses TrackMan Radar to Analyze Ball Flight on Free Kicks, Penalties
TrackMan, a leader in ball flight tracking technology, has begun work with Danish Superliga club FC Midtjylland for additional insights on free kicks and penalties.
The Danish-headquartered company best known for its work in baseball and golf, TrackMan developed a soccer product that uses an optically-enhanced radar to track a soccer ball’s flight time, ball speed, spin rate, distance and other metrics. It can also track the opponents’ wall height on free kicks and the margin by which the ball eludes the goalkeeper and avoids the post on penalties. TrackMan can work in tandem with cameras for auto-synchronization and video tied to data.
FC Midtjylland, which has won three of the last seven Superliga championships, is known for its hearty embrace of data and analytics. The German national team is reportedly another user of TrackMan’s soccer tool, as are a growing number of other national teams and elite clubs including some in the English Premier League. The product is overseen by Jordan Garbutt, who previously led strategic analysis at Hull City and was general manager at Prozone.
Tagboard Raises $8 Million to Further Interactive Sports Broadcasts
Tagboard, a software used by sports broadcasters to integrate interactive graphics and polls on-air, has raised $8 million in Series A funding. Grayhawk Capital and Next Frontier Capital co-led the round alongside investments from Sinclair Broadcast Group and the Minnesota Vikings owners’ WISE Ventures.
More than 600 sports and media brands use Tagboard, including MLB Network, NFL Network, NBC Sports, Turner Sports, Fox Sports and Riot Games. Last year, the UFC partnered with Tagboard to use its live social media browsing feature to show TikTok videos on-screen during UFC broadcasts. Earlier this month, NBC Sports used Tagboard’s software to add social media content and other interactive features into its live coverage of Super Bowl LVI and the Beijing Olympics.
The Vikings are one of 21 NFL teams to use Tagboard, which also helps produce content for in-stadium video boards. Tagboard also lets networks integrate trackable QR codes into their broadcast, such as MLB’s 2020 ALCS on TBS where viewers scanned a code with their phones to vote in Twitter polls. Tagboard anticipates its QR codes will be used by broadcasters to drive viewers to second-screen experiences such as a sports betting app or merchandise store.
“Tagboard’s cloud workflow empowers producers to create interactive graphics, polls and incorporate live social content into their linear or digital broadcasts, saving time and money,” Tagboard chief strategy officer Linka Baumgardt said in a statement.
The NHL and NHLPA have agreed to a new content partnership with TikTok to bring on-ice branding and TikTok-themed performances to outdoor hockey games this year. The TikTok Tailgate Stage will host concerts at the NHL Stadium Series on Feb. 26 between the Nashville Predators and Tampa Bay Lightning and at the NHL Heritage Classic between the Buffalo Sabres and Toronto Maple Leafs on March 13 in Hamilton, Ontario.
The stage will host performances by popular TikTok artists at both events, including country music singer Walker Hayes at the NHL Stadium Series at Nissan Stadium. The NHL’s TikTok profile has 1.7 million followers and the app’s hockey hashtag has 12.2 billion global views.
“While highlights are among our most engaging content, through this partnership, we hope to reach the broader TikTok community with exclusive content that captures the amazing fan experience at NHL games and tentpole events, player lifestyle videos, and concerts and global livestreams,” NHL senior EVP & CMO Heidi Browning said in a statement.
TikTok will also work with the league to produce branded content, including player personality interviews focused on fashion and style. TikTok’s sponsorships within sports also include deals with MLB and UFC.
Quarter4 Adds AI Sports Betting Predictions to Canada’s Parleh Media Group
Quarter4, a prediction tool for sports bettors, has signed a one-year deal with Canadian sports media startup Parleh Media Group. Parleh launched a sports betting-focused weekly newsletter last year, and its Parleh TV streaming network will now include on-screen AI-backed betting insights from Quarter4.
Quarter4’s AI engine analyzes historical player performance data and real-time game scenarios to predict statistical outcomes for individual players, as well as win/loss probability for teams. The company raised $1.6 million last year in seed funding led by Toronto-based Shore Capital Sports & Entertainment.
“[Quarter4’s data] is especially valuable in a market like Ontario, where advertising regulations prevent matching offers, the traditional method used to attract bettors,” Quarter4 co-founder and CEO Kelly Brooks said in a statement.
MLB’s Twins to Sponsor an Esports League for High School Students Beginning in March
While the ongoing MLB lockout is threatening the scheduled start of Opening Day, the Minnesota Twins have secured their first esports partnership. The Twins will sponsor the Minnesota Varsity League (MNVL), a state-wide esports league for high school students that begins March 21 and wraps with state finals in June.
The league is organized by Wisdom Gaming, which has previously had 32 regular season livestreams, three All-Star streams and six final streams sponsored by the Twins. The Twins’ logo will appear on the MNVL’s website. Competitions will span games such as Chess.com, Call of Duty, Super Smash Brothers, Minecraft, Halo Infinite, Valiant and Rocket League.
The MNVL is free for Minnesota high school students and projects to have almost a thousand players from more than 50 schools for its upcoming fourth season. Call of Duty League professional team Minnesota ROKKR—owned by the same Wilf family that owns the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings—is an existing sponsor of the MNVL.