Drive Hockey Analytics COO Adam Nathwani said his company is focusing on underserved markets, such as amateur and youth hockey, which lack NHL budgets | Rob Kruyt
Just as the Vancouver Canucks began navigating the start of NHL free agency last week, another West Coast enterprise focused on hockey was stick handling its own business affairs in anticipation of a commercial launch this fall season.
“When you think about sports tech, particularly in Canada, it’s not really that big, considering some of the other markets … particularly the U.S.,” said Adam Nathwani, chief operating officer of Coquitlam-based Drive Hockey Analytics Inc.
The B.C. startup is looking to break into the big leagues of business with its AI-powered puck- and player-tracking technology. And this past June it began tapping expertise from the Future of Sports Lab (FSL), an incubator program based at Toronto Metropolitan University (formerly Ryerson University). The virtual program is aimed at connecting early stage companies with mentors and industry contacts as well as offering insights on business practices.
“Our market is … 10 times smaller than south of us, and so for success metrics and growth, all our companies eventually have a touch point in the states,” said Cheri Bradish, FSL’s founder and managing director.
Drive Hockey is now among the increasing number of West Coast tech firms capitalizing on new forms of revenue coming from the global sports economy.
Form Athletica Inc. raised $12 million from investors at the outset of the pandemic. Best known for developing high-tech swim goggles that display swimmers’ real-time metrics, such as stroke rate, the company has been using that capital to expand into new global markets.
“When you’re just selling hardware as a company, you’re focused on generating more revenue. And in order to generate more revenue, you have to get new customers,” CEO Dan Eisenhardt told BIV last October.
The company, which manufacturers its goggles in Taiwan, has been changing its business model and moving into software-as-a-service offerings that give goggle-wearers access to a library of swimming exercises.
“It’s a more honest relationship between you and the customer because you’re getting recurring revenues from that customer,” Eisenhardt said. “They’re paying for the service that they’re consuming, so you’re reinvesting in that service.”
West Coast tech companies have also been tapping revenue potential on the entertainment side of the business.
Dapper Labs Inc. reached a reported US$7.6 billion valuation last September after announcing it had raised US$250 million from investors looking to capitalize on its non-fungible token (NFT) offerings.
Backed by blockchain, NFTs offer certification of ownership for digital assets. Dapper Labs has been facilitating millions of NFT transactions through its NBA Top Shot marketplace that sells the digital ownership of NBA video clips featuring players showcasing their athletic wizardry on the court.
And if an American were to place a bet on any of those NBA games, it’s likely another Vancouver company is helping make that happen.
Prior to a 2018 U.S. court ruling, GeoComply Solutions Inc. was best known for cybersecurity services that detect if online users are trying to mask their locations using virtual private networks. Streaming TV services, for example, would use such technology to ensure that licensing agreements were upheld within any given country.
But after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, GeoComply emerged as a billion-dollar unicorn last year as it began providing its services to American states after the door opened to legalized sports betting. Demand for its geolocation filters spiked as states had to ensure users weren’t placing bets across state lines.
And media companies such as Victoria’s STN Video Inc. – best known for delivering video sports highlights to the websites of news publications – and Vancouver’s Akshon Media Inc. have also been driving revenue primarily from American partners.
“It’s definitely a growing scene [in Vancouver],” said Akshon CEO Roger Chan, whose company provides the post-game match highlights and video content for e-sports leagues such as the Overwatch League. Last month it re-signed its deal with gaming giant Activision Blizzard Inc. and is now providing its services for the Call of Duty League.
Akshon got its start in 2016 when Chan noticed a sizable gap in the market for e-sports news and began developing more video content aimed at fans who love watching gamers compete against each other for money.
Since then, the Aquilini Group expanded its ownership beyond the Canucks and into e-sports with the launch of the Vancouver Titans in 2019 – a team of gamers in the Overwatch League.
Meanwhile, Drive Hockey looks to be using a similar playbook as Akshon’s by working to fill gaps in the marketplace.
The startup specializes in player-tracking technology using sensors, wearables and artificial intelligence to provide teams with data on players’ on-ice performances. More than 3,000 data points of information per second are collected through wearables as well as sensors installed at the facilities teams play in. The company is also working on stick sensors and hockey pucks embedded with sensors.
Players’ speed, acceleration and stopping power are among the data tracked, as well as the basics like shots on goal and turnovers.
It’s the same kind of tech deployed by professional teams, but Drive Hockey is focusing on amateur and youth hockey to fill “a pretty big gap in the marketplace” for those lacking NHL budgets, according to COO Nathwani.
“Ultimately what we’re trying to do is bring new capabilities, more tools, more resources, and put them in the hands of those who frankly didn’t have access to them before.”
Nathwani added that costs are reduced by tracking data less frequently than what’s needed at pro levels and by developing all the tech in-house.
Bradish, FSL’s managing director, said one of the reasons her incubator is eager to work with Drive Hockey is because of the latter’s focus on that underserved market.
“It creates opportunities for us to consider how we can help them grow, not only in that identified marketplace, but really sit back and think, ‘Are there other opportunities for growth?’” she said. “Ultimately, if you’re going to grow, [startups will need to] go south of the border and take advantage of the North American sport marketplace.”
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4 experts explain how to prepare for a new economic reality and protect the most vulnerable – World Economic Forum
- Chief Economists are mostly in agreement that the outlook for the economy is bleak and that recession is likely.
- This new reality will take its toll on inequality and widening societal gaps.
- Four experts explain how policies might address the immediate crisis with an eye to beefing up resilience in the long term.
The latest World Economic Forum Chief Economists Outlook suggests a global recession is “somewhat likely” and the fallout will take its toll on inequality. Just this week, the OECD put out a similar message in its interim report, warning that recent indicators have “taken a turn for the worse”.
Chief Economists have been nearly unanimous in predicting wages to fail to keep pace with surging prices, with nine in ten expecting real wages to decline in low-income economies in 2022 and 2023, alongside 80% in high-income economies.
This will see a continuing deterioration of household purchasing power compounded by aggregate pressures on basic necessities such as food and energy.
Saadia Zahidi, Managing Director at the World Economic Forum highlights “Growing inequality between and within countries” as the “ongoing legacy of COVID-19, war and uncoordinated policy action.” She says, “With inflation soaring and real wages falling, the global cost-of-living crisis is hitting the most vulnerable hardest. As policy-makers aim to control inflation while minimizing the impact on growth, they will need to ensure specific support to those who need it most.”
We asked four chief economists who took part in the survey which policies they think will protect the most vulnerable and how this new economic reality might be steered to better prepare for the future.
‘Pricing carbon (globally) must play a central role’
Christian Keller, Head, Economics Research, Barclays
The one change I would make to the global economy to better prepare us for the future would be to implement a global carbon pricing mechanism. The earth’s climate is the ultimate ‘tragedy of the global commons’: individual and collective incentives are misaligned, because the price of harmful economic activities does not accurately reflect the true social cost. It results in the over-production of carbon-intensive assets to the ultimate detriment of global welfare.
Pricing carbon emissions – or the internalization of their negative externality – is the first step to solve this ‘market failure’. Increasing their price, dis-incentivizes carbon emissions, while also generating public revenues to compensate groups negatively affected by the transition and/or fund public goods such as low-carbon energy infrastructure.
Such a carbon pricing mechanism would ideally be global in nature, to avoid regulatory arbitrage and cross-border carbon leakage.The principles of such a mechanism are textbook economics, but many more questions arise in practice, including how to determine the true ‘marginal external costs’. Naturally, it would be a discovery process and there would be glitches. However, if one does believe climate change is a threat and that it is caused by carbon emissions, pricing carbon (globally) must play a central role.
‘Build a resilient and sustainable pricing strategy’
Gregory Daco, Chief Economist, EY-Parthenon, USA
The various drivers of economic activity that were previously taken as a given will now warrant much more attention from businesses, investors and consumers. There will be five central tenets to this new paradigm: inflation, labour, supply chain, the cost of capital, and environmental, social and governance (ESG) and sustainability issues.
While the current focus is that inflation is hovering at multi-decade highs in many places around the world, there doesn’t appear to be a broad realization that inflation persistence and volatility are likely to be a key feature of the outlook over the next few years. As such, businesses will need to consider building a resilient and sustainable pricing strategy that is nimble enough to navigate a world where demand will ebb and flow more significantly than in the past few decades. Cost management and productivity gains will likely also have to be central to companies’ holistic inflation strategy.
In an environment, where talent is not just more expensive but is also perceived as more valuable and where pricing power will be limited by softening final demand, business executives will increasingly have to focus on productivity and efficiency gains to offset higher labor costs. This won’t be easy, but it will be central to their success.
Supply chain issues have been a central part of the inflation story of the last few years, and it would be misguided to believe that these issues will dissipate overnight. Businesses will need to build supply chain resilience while being aware of economic, geopolitical and political undercurrents.
The rise in the cost of debt has led business executives to put some investment plans on hold, while the large fluctuations in equity valuations have created a wedge between buyers’ and sellers’ perception of the true value of an asset. In addition, the significant US dollar appreciation against most other currencies has created a new set of considerations for multinationals having to hedge their international exposure and incorporate a new consideration into their organizational and portfolio decisions.
Over the last few years, businesses have increasingly focused on ESG and sustainability issues to create long-term value, develop a sense of purpose, and provide trust and confidence to the market. The last few months have brought about a sense of urgency to these developments.
‘Address structural factors to reduce future vulnerabilities ’
Eric Parrado, Chief Economist; General Manager, Research Department, Inter-American Development Bank
The global inflationary crisis is having profound consequences on the well-being of populations around the world, especially in emerging and developing economies. Estimates for Latin America and the Caribbean suggest that food inflation could increase poverty rates by 1.6 percentage points and extreme poverty by 1.8 percentage points.
Policies should have a short term and long-term focus. In the short-term governments should provide transfers for the poorest populations to compensate increases in food prices. This helps to keep people from sliding into poverty and extreme poverty. Subsidies should be designed and funded carefully to avoid larger fiscal imbalances that could contribute to higher inflation rates.
Long-term policies address structural factors to reduce future vulnerabilities. Investing in agricultural innovation, research and climate change adaptation are key to improving productivity in agro-industries, food system resilience and strengthening food security in the long run.
A greater focus should be placed in climate change mitigating policies to ensure agricultural frontiers are not displaced further, and food supply is not restricted. At the same time, countries can avoid directing scarce fiscal resources to cover the costs of dealing with costly man produced natural disasters.
‘Drive employment opportunity and protection’
Svenja Gudell, Chief Economist, Indeed
Access to good jobs is an integral part of both obtaining and sustaining quality of life and well-being. From a labour market perspective, policies which could dramatically benefit vulnerable populations include: skills-based hiring, pay and wage transparency, second chance hiring, accessibility tools and accommodations, and inclusive and unbiased hiring – to name a few. While some leaders look to a one-size-fits-all policy to address cost of living issues, the truth is this rarely results in the desired outcome. Instead, policymakers must consider both the broader, long-term picture, as well as the unique situation within industries, locations, and individual needs to help close these gaps.
As we face hardships ranging from increased cost of living, global warming, geopolitical tensions, etc., employment opportunity and protection for all is key to future prosperity. The micro and macro benefits of adequate, gainful employment enable an increased quality of life and well-being, opportunity for economic mobility, and benefits to both physical and mental health. Ultimately, on a global scale, we must identify and build on technology that is being used effectively to support workers and ensure that job mobility, continuous learning and access to information are widely available to drive employment opportunities and protection for workers.
What next for the global economy? 3 experts have their say – World Economic Forum
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The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.
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