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Atlanta Sports Startups Dream about Going for the Gold

“For athletes, the Olympics are the ultimate test of their worth.” – Mary Lou Retton, American Gymnast, 1984 Summer Olympics

Competitive sports is all about discipline, hard work, overcoming obstacles and making the most of an opportunity. Entrepreneurs share many of the same qualities and many of the same challenges faced by athletes competing in the Olympics. One could even go so far as to say that starting and growing a startup is an undertaking of Olympic proportions. As a tribute to the fierce persistence of competitive athletes and startups everywhere, we feature four sports-related Atlanta startups that are going for the proverbial gold, each with their nugget of advice that all startups can use.

PlayON! Sports

Realizing American sports fans have an insatiable appetite for sports, PlayON! Sports is setting out to fill a void that has existed for years: the high school sporting events broadcasting network.

Being the largest rights holder, producer, and aggregator of high school sports events distributed across television, the Internet, and mobile devices is a big undertaking, but in the age of smartphones, PlayON! Sports is letting fans view this content when they want, wherever they want.

At the helm of this gargantuan undertaking is PlayON Sports’ CEO David Rudolph who says that he has to think and prepare like an Olympian.

“What everyone focuses on are the medal winners and the top eight finishers, but you also need to look at the lead up,” states Rudolph. “Work hard, train hard, but there is a little luck involved as well.”

Like the high school athletes PlayON! Sports covers, the company has been working long and hard at bringing the action to the fans that want it. A new partnership with ABC affiliate WSB-TV will bring live high school football games to potentially millions of fans as early as this fall.

Nugget: Sometimes, startup success comes with an equal measure of hard work and luck.

Team Fenom

Success in team sports is all about “buying in” to the organization’s and team’s philosophy. That is what sisters Antonia and Charlotte Newman are striving for with their online media company Team Fenom. Founding a user-generated site about women’s sports was a natural fit for the Newman sisters. For Antonia, a former professional athlete, Team Fenom is the culmination of a dream that began in high school.

“Sports provided me with varied opportunities that contributed to my growth and development, from childhood to adulthood. Launching Team Fenom to cover women sports is a dream and a lifelong passion realized,” said Antonia.

The celebration of the 40th anniversary of Title IX this last June may just be a memory, but the impact it has had on female athletics is stronger than ever. Participation in women’s sports is on the rise yet media coverage is not. Team Fenom will not only tackle reporting on current events and trends in women’s sports, the site also aims to become a destination for those wanting to express their own opinions on women’s sports issues.

“We want people to feel like they are a part of something that’s bigger than themselves,” added Charlotte. “Part of our brand is definitely about promoting community and getting fans engaged online and offline.”

Nugget: The path to success may lie in engaging your community.

Wahoo Fitness

There may not be a more enthusiastic company in metro Atlanta when it comes to consumer participation in sports and fitness than Wahoo Fitness. Founded in 2010 with a goal of finding ways to connect smartphone users to their fitness activities, Wahoo Fitness recently closed a $950,000 Series A round of funding, according to SEC filings. The company plans to use the funds to accelerate the already hectic pace of growth.

Wahoo Fitness makes a line of hardware and fitness apps that complement iOS and Android smartphones. From heart rate straps to cycling and shoe sensors, Wahoo Fitness is all about increasing an athlete’s performance through technology.

Since the smartphone is the one device that most people always have on hand, they’ve become “the” device of choice for developers when it comes to fitness apps and accessories and Wahoo Fitness has embraced that.

“The smartphone is an all-in-one device when it comes to exercise,” says Wahoo Fitness’ vice president of marketing and sales Mike Stashak. “Users have the ability to upload to the cloud instantly, while still listening to music and checking emails.”

Nugget: When tapping into a trend in a red hot market. Never be satisfied. Never stop innovating.

Pickoff Sports

Since all sports fans think they know everything about their favorite teams and players, Pickoff Sports is developing web and mobile applications for sports fans to compete, interact and earn bragging rights over their family and friends.

Competitiveness is a common trait among avid sports fans and co-founder David Eckoff says Pickoff Sports is feeding off this, but with a different approach.

“We are all about learning about what our customers want and we will give them a lot of that,” said Eckoff. “Over the next two months, we want to talk with customers each week and find out what they need and make some sense out of that.”

Pickoff Sports is part of the Flashpoint startup accelerator program at Georgia Tech and Eckoff says that makes him feel like an Olympic athlete.

“An Olympic athlete starts with an idea and a dream, but that’s not enough,” points out Eckoff. “The athlete needs to train and have a good coach (Flashpoint) to accelerate the process, just like a startup.”

Nugget: Never underestimate the impact of a great coach.

The Olympics are about dreams and there isn’t an entrepreneur on this planet that doesn’t have a dream. These Atlanta startups are living and realizing their dreams on the field of play and in startup offices across Atlanta. When athletes win, they get a medal placed around their neck on a podium. When startups succeed, the entire community wins with more jobs, economic stability and the ability to lure more and more employers and development to the region.

July 2012 Newsletter

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