Halftime at Belgian series of SportTechie Meetups

Ghent, a small but beautiful city in Belgium, is hosting a series of 4 SportTechie Meetups spread over a period of 1 month. The events are organized by Kristof De Mey (Victoris sports technology & business developer) and Jelle Verdoodt. Jelle is a Ghent University alumni and an entrepreneur who already organized a dozen of Sportcareers Meetups in the previous years around the country. Kristof and Jelle bring together about 20 speakers on 4 different topics. They are now at halftime.

The first event took place on May 11th 2017 with speakers active in the domain of technology for sports performance & training. MeetDistrict, the business center in the Ghelamco football Arena in Ghent, hosted the event for free. First, Taylor Bloom presented SportTechie through a Skype conversation, followed by a session of Javier Bosch Fonte, who flew in from Valencia, Spain. He presented his startup called NBN23, delivering stats to basketball leagues and clubs, both in Europe as in the US. Main point? “Techie guys could offer teams the moon, but they often don´t need the moon.”

Next up was Jan Van Haaren. After his PhD in sports analytics, he started working at SciSports, a Dutch startup that is now scaling up thanks to their latest investment round. The company is using machine learning and artificial intelligence to predict football championships, help clubs with buying the right player and delivering stats to different stakeholders as analysts and trainers. 

Then, Koen Beyen talked about SoccerLab, a platform for data and video management in professional football. The technology, that combines data from different sources that is maximally tailor-made based on the needs of each club, is used by major teams as Bayern München, PSV Eindhoven, LA Galaxy, etc. The holy grail for Koen is to get everything connected, analyzed, visualized and implemented in the most accurate and convenient way. The question for him remains however: does the team management has the vision to take data analytics serious and invest accordingly? 

Were there any other startups present? Yes. KickandRushLab is a recently founded company in Ghent by Maarten De Schryver and Stijn Vlaeminck. They focus on performance analysis, football tactics and supporter relationship management and communication. During the meetup, they showed the enormous potential for the use of statistical and psychological methods in sports, with the latter area still being very underexploited.

This first meetup ended with a talk by Kristof De Mey who defined needs and challenges for the further development and adoption of sports performance tech. Some of those include a global standard for e.g. tracking technologies, better academic-industry collaborations, the creation of sports tech open innovation ecosystems, and … more time to meet up with people!

What about the second meetup on May 17? This one was more focused on the use of wearables, apps, etc. for the consumer. Four speakers took the floor from both the academic, teaching as industry side. A short recap of the lessons learned:

1) Human-to-human contact stays important. Health coaches should use this to differentiate themselves from e- and m-coaches.

2) Sports technology (e.g. apps) often needs a social component in order to be effective.

3) When you want to create a fit work environment in your company, you need to build a community, then add some gamification and use storytelling in your communication.

4) We call phones, wearables, sensors, apps, etc. SMART devices and SMART tools, but the fact is, they are still dumb as hell. On this moment, they are just tracking, not adapting, predicting, acting, etc. One of the speakers illustrated this very nicely as follows: “My wearable is still vibrating when I am stuck in traffic, while that data is available somewhere in the cloud. You can´t call that very smart.”

What´s next? Two more meetups are coming up! One will deal with technologies for fan engagement and digital marketing and the last one in this series is on the implementation of sports tech in local settings. In a short period of time, the Belgian SportTechie meetup group has grown over 280 people (and counting). The events are free to attend, so anyone around Ghent on the 1st and/or 8th of June is welcome to join the local community of sport tech savvy enthusiasts.

Want to learn more about the Meetups or got an idea for future events? Let us know!

Meetup, sports tech, SportTechie

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