How this German sports accelerator helps sports startups take the leAD in business, and why you should be a part of it


This story is sponsored by leAD Sports Accelerator.

Adi Dassler, a man who famously acknowledged one of the fundamental truths about entrepreneurship—that business is never easy, even when working with family— was familiar with the pain every startup founder goes through.

The founder of iconic sportswear brand Adidas, his life’s work involved making great sports ideas even greater by putting them into action. Now Adi Dassler’s legacy of bringing innovation into sports is set to take on a new form.

Legacy of Adi Dassler—leAD—was co-founded by his family in February 2017, and marks their return to the world of sports. The leAD Sports Accelerator is a Berlin-based programme focused on funding and supporting innovative early-stage sports startups. Through this one-of-a-kind accelerator, leAD will leverage its legacy and extensive network in the global sports industry to bring together some of the most sought-after experts in the field to fund and nurture innovative startups.

Adi Dassler with his grandchildren
The need for a special sports accelerator

While the sports market is huge and growing ($700 billion in 2015, according to a report by A.T. Kearney), smaller playxers in the space find opportunities to be understood and prove their relevance hard to come by.

As Germany’s first sports accelerator and one of the first in the world, leAD believes there is an important and underutilised connection between sports and the startup world. A combined initiative by siblings Klaus, Horst, and Stefan Bente along with a team of investors and startup and sports industry experts, the accelerator aims to mentor and support participating founders and give them access to their networks.

“My grandfather was always driven by supporting sportsmen and women to improve their performance and to make good ideas great. And that’s precisely why the support of innovative founders is the next logical step of what our grandfather passed down to us,” says Horst Bente, Adi Dassler’s grandson.

leAD Directors Horst Bente and Klaus Bente
Who are they looking for?

“Our search field is relatively wide; the startups don’t necessarily have to be aimed at the sports market, as long as their product is fitting,” says Horst. Startups from the following categories are eligible to apply:

  • Active Lifestyle
  • Performance
  • E-Sports
  • New Sports
  • Teams
  • Entertainment
  • Venues
  • The Fan

So if you have a great idea that’s waiting to see the light of day, if you have an early-stage startup, or are the founder of an existing startup looking to up its game, the leAD Sports Accelerator is for you.

Other key qualities they are looking for are those common to sportspersons and entrepreneurs—passion, grit, and determination. The entrepreneurs must also really believe in their idea/product. “We are looking at future leaders who shape not only products/team/themselves but also the future of sports,” say the programme’s founders.

If you are a sports entrepreneur working in any of these fields and want to take your startup to the next level of growth, apply here.

How it will work

Over three months, a strong group of industry partners, agencies, universities, venture capital providers, coaches, and mentors will be on hand to give the startups the best opportunity to develop and significantly drive their business plan, prototypes, and RTM and pitch forward into the future.

If selected for the accelerator, startups can expect high-intensity training including stress-testing of their business case; assistance with their legal setup; leadership and pitching skills; networking with top-notch industry experts and sports business veterans; a chance to test, improve, and scale their product with leAD’s industry partners; direct access to investors; and exclusive deals from leAD’s service partners. The 10 finalists will also get €25,000 each and visibility in the global media and the international sports industry. Eight percent equity from the 10 finalists will go to leAD.

The application phase is open till May 31, 2017. All the applicants will go through a rigorous screening process. Out of all the applicants, 30 startups will be selected for the quarterfinals to be held on July 6–7, 2017. An expert jury will pick 15 high-potential startups that qualify for the first edition of the accelerator programme to commence on September 12. Semifinals will be held on October 10, following which 10 startups will reach the finals to be held on December 8. All the finalists will present their business plan to potential investors, and one winner will be chosen.

The leADing players

The team behind this venture consists of VCs, entrepreneurs, and experts with a strong foothold in the sports community, who felt there was a great need and potential to create a programme dedicated exclusively to the universe of sports.

“Not only do we bring together some of the most sought-after experts from the sports industry, we also follow an interdisciplinary approach to make our founders better founders, leaders, and team players,” says Nathalie Sonne, Head of Program at leAD Sports Accelerator.

Why you absolutely must apply
  • This is one of the few sports-related accelerators worldwide
  • You get access to a unique and broad network of high-level mentors including sports business veterans, successful founders, CEOs, VCs, and tech experts,
  • The programme is based in Berlin (one of the most important cities for startups)
  • You get the chance to interact with and learn from the serial entrepreneurs in the leAD team
  • You get an opportunity to network with business partners and corporates in the sports world and tap into their customer base
  • You gain exposure to their powerful network of investors who are excited to offer follow up investments to startups who succeed in their program

So what are you waiting for? This is your chance to aim high, score big, and take your innovation across the globe. The applicants are already being shortlisted. Don’t miss your opportunity. Apply today.

The last date for receiving applications is May 31.


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