Starting up a business in general, and in sports tech in particular is hot. More and more people are developing apps, software platforms, internet-of-things applications, games, virtual reality tools, etc. Market studies also suggest the sport business is drastically increasing. One reason for this might be the many crossroads that exist between sport and other sectors as ICT and multimedia (e.g. apps and 3D printing), sensor and nanotech (e.g. wearables), nutrition (e.g. supplements), textiles (e.g. smart textiles and personalized clothing), medical sciences (e.g. biomarkers and imaging), mobility (e.g. around a stadium), economy (e.g. marketing of sport clubs), security (in and around a venue), sustainable energy (e.g. solar panels or special floors), materials (e.g. composites in bikes, boats, etc.), thereby facilitating innovation.
What about Belgian entrepreneurs in sport in relation to other players abroad? Some are already more mature than others. Examples are SpartaNova, Soccerlab, Pro Soccer Data, Energy Lab, Biorics, Topsportslab, Double Pass, RS Scan, Bioracer, etc. which are already active on an international level. These kind of companies are no start-ups but scale ups. But what about the new generation?
In my daily activities as a sports technology and business developer, I notice a dozen of entrepreneurs in sport, often with great ideas and ambitions. These people are looking for professional support to bring their idea into a commercial opportunity, which could make a change in the field. Where are they going? General support they find at various local advisors and supporting programs such as Innovatiecentrum, Start it @KBC, The Birdhouse, VOKA Bryo, imec iStart, etc. But where can they go for specific support? And how and when do these starting entrepreneurs connect, co-create, find testing subjects and environments, first clients, investors, etc.
An initiative as a sport start-up accelerator or incubator is currently lacking in our country, despite start-up specialists as Omar Mohout clearly state that topic specific coaching, mentoring, training, etc. is highly relevant. Good practice examples of qualitative supporting programs are already established in countries as France, The Netherlands, Italy, Spain, USA, Canada, Australia, etc. So why not here? Well. We don´t know exactly. Everything already seems in place.
So therefore, we are currently taking action in Ghent to set up the first Belgian sport start-up accelerator program. We invite all people interested in our initiative to connect, share ideas, and create plans for the future. Only by setting up new collaborations we will succeed in providing the necessary support that people with creative ideas, an entrepreneurial spirit and the mindset to make a change really deserve.
This article was published in Dutch on October 27 in Knack Sport – Voetbalmagazine.