innovation & technology

leAD: A snapshot of the sports accelerator programme

Nov 23, 2018

“Founded in 2016, leAD Sports Accelerator is a global powerhouse for sports tech entrepreneurship and investments inspired by one of the most successful sports entrepreneurs in history – Adi Dassler.”
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Founded in 2016, leAD Sports Accelerator is a global powerhouse for sports tech entrepreneurship and investments inspired by one of the most successful sports entrepreneurs in history – Adi Dassler. Building on his legacy of constant sports innovation, Adi Dassler’s oldest daughter, Inge, and her three sons, initiated a commitment to build on his legacy to create a new platform for sports technology entrepreneurship and innovation, called leAD (legacy of Adi Dassler).

Adi’s spirit and passion to keep innovating inspired them to support the next generation of disrupters like Adi, with creative ideas to revolutionise the way we watch and play sports.

The choice of setting up a Sports Accelerator Programme

The choice of a dedicated Sports Startup Accelerator Program came from the passion for sports that brought the founders together but there were several points of differentiation also in the mix.

First, there were hardly any sports-focused accelerators out there. leAD is still one of the only ones in Europe, and one of the few in the world. The entire network behind leAD is rooted in or closely linked to the startup, technology and the sports industry.

Second, leAD is an open platform. It is neither driven by a corporate program nor venture capital investors. Alongside the family of Adi Dassler, leAD is backed by a group of private investors and family offices, many of them with a strong background in sports. This gives leAD the freedom to invite all kinds of sports- related businesses to join in.

A 6-month competitive selection process with an acceptance rate of 2.23% that rivals some of the top educational courses around the world

A snapshot of the Accelerator Programme

In 2018, the call for applications started in February and the application phase ran for four months until the end of May. For the first cohort in 2017, leAD received 467 applications across 63 countries. For the second cohort in 2018, leAD received 402 applications from 68 countries.

During the summer, the scouting team selects the top startups
(40 startups in 2017 – 25 startups in 2018) to have a face-to-face meeting in July in Berlin. Over two days of pitches and discussions alongside their shareholders and mentors, leAD chooses the best startups to enter the leAD program in Berlin (15 startups in 2017 and 9 in 2018).

A 3-month Accelerator Programme based on three pillars

Coaching :

leAD organises more than 30 workshops, training and weekly 1on1 sessions supporting the startups in shaping their business and investment strategy but also in developing their pitching skills.

Networking events :

leAD also facilitates events to help startups grow their local network including the Mentoring Days where startups are matched with a select group of experts who could help them accelerate their business ideas, meetings with the Laureus Sports for Good Foundation, and the Sports Tech Germany Meetup.

Investment/Financial Support :

leAD financially supports startups with up to 25,000 Euros in return for 8% equity. In addition, a special event called the VC days is organised once a year during which venture capitalists are invited to interact with startups and, if interested, invest in the selected startups.

Beyond the Accelerator Programme

At the end of the three-month Accelerator Programme, a Demo Day is organised during which startups present their refined business plans to a group of investors and mentors.

But the programme does not stop there. leAD continues to support its graduates by helping them monitor investments and other aspects of their activity in order to ensure they have the best possible chance of success.
On the 2017 accelerator cohort, 12 of 15 companies secured seed financing, with over $5M invested.

Strong strategic alliances: the key to the success of the leAD Accelerator Programme

Launched in 2016, an important element of the success of the leAD Accelerator Programme was to bring together a group of mentors from the sports industry across the world that could help the selected startups succeed.

As such, leAD identified three technology sub-sectors that are primed for continued high growth: 1) the next generation fan engagement and experience, 2) connected sports technologies that increase athlete performance and 3) the completely new business models emerging in the derivative sports market.

The choice of mentors and partners for the program is based around these three verticals. Among the 100+ mentors, we can mention in particular: sports industry experts, venture capitals, angel investors, marketing and media experts, Thomas Riedel, Founder & CEO of Riedel Communications, Moritz Kreppel, Co-Founder & CEO at Urban Sports Club, Stefan Zant, Managing Director at ProSiebenSat.1 Sports GmbH, and Jens Hilgers, Founding Partner at BITKRAFT Esports Ventures and Co-Founder and CEO of DOJO Madness.

In addition, leAD works closely with Berlin Partners, a unique public-private partnership that collaborates with the Berlin State Senate and over 280 companies dedicated to promoting their city. Berlin Partners’ support includes VISA management – as the Accelerator Programme attracts international sports tech players – as well as documentation/legal for startups to settle in Berlin.

To learn more


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