Berlin-based leAD sports accelerator invites applications for its 2018 batch


After a successful first batch in 2017, leAD, the sports accelerator from the family of Adidas founder Adi Dassler, is looking to nurture more innovative early-stage sports startups from across the world 

From GPS sensors to map the exact positioning of a player on a field, to devices that can help referees and umpires with tiny granular details to help them make more accurate decisions, technology has become an intrinsic part of any sport across the world. And this marriage of technology with sports is emerging as a game-changer.

For instance, consider these. A unique and compact solution that can convert any tennis court into a smart court which can give players valuable insights into their game; the world’s first social betting platform that enables friends and family members to compete against each other; the world’s first digital platform for skill-based training of sportspersons.

If you notice, there are a number of ‘firsts’ here. These solutions from global sports startups, which were part of the first cohort of the leAD sports accelerator, are reflective of the pioneering spirit of Adi Dassler, the man whose legacy the programme intends to carry forward.

Dassler, also known as the father of the modern sports industry, founded an iconic sports startup in the mid-20th century that is today known as Adidas. Years later, his grandsons wanted to honour their grandfather’s entrepreneurial spirit, and they brought together experienced professionals and entrepreneurs to set up a platform to help young sports startups become innovative and sustainable businesses. This was how leAD (legacy of Adi Dassler) began its journey in February 2017: as an accelerator programme for early-stage startups with innovative products or services in sports.

After a successful first cohort, the programme is now looking for startups for its second batch.

leAD Sports Accelerator Class of 2017

Applications are open for the second batch of the leAD sports accelerator. Click here to apply.

Why leAD and not any other programme?

Apart from the fact that it is one of the few dedicated sports accelerators globally and the only one of its kind in Germany, what sets leAD apart is that the team behind it has a deep-rooted connection to the sports industry, plus expertise in the tech world and the startup ecosystem.

leAD is an open platform started by Dassler’s family and backed by a group of private investors and family offices, many with a strong background in sports. This includes Thomas Riedel, founder and managing director of Riedel Communications, which manufactures cutting-edge products for real-time distribution of video and audio networks, and data and communications signals for some of the biggest sports events worldwide including the F1 races. Another name to reckon with is sports and entertainment marketing entrepreneur Andrew White, who is the former CEO of WSM Communications, which was acquired by Bill Gates in 2014.

leAD - the year that was

The leAD accelerator programme, for its first batch, received over 480 applications from 53 countries between February and May 2017. Of these, 40 were chosen for a face-to-face meeting with the leAD team in Berlin in July. Following this, the 15 best startups from 13 countries were selected for the very first leAD programme in Berlin.

The three-month programme kicked off on September 12, 2017 and was split across these three broad parameters:

Coaching and training: Over the course of 30+ workshops, training sessions and weekly one-on-one sessions with mentors and industry experts, the startups received advice and know-how on how best to shape their business strategy, investment strategy and even sharpen their pitching skills! The coaching they received helped some the startups refine their business models to the extent where one of the startups entered the programme with an idea of a skateboard that could help you learn to surf on land, and at the end of the programme was applying for the patent of the sensor, rather than the skateboard!

Networking events: Events such as Mentoring Days, which matched startups with a select group of experts, helped them accelerate their business ideas. Other networking events with programme partners Laureus Sports for Good Foundation and the Sports Tech Germany Meetup helped the teams grow their local network. In addition, weekly pitching events that were open to the public helped the teams fine-tune their pitching skills.

Capital/investment: Under the programme, leAD invested €25,000 in the 15 selected startups, in return for 8 percent equity. The startups also got an opportunity to interact with venture capitalists as part of special VC days, and close investment deals with them.

At the end of the three months, as part of the Demo Day, the startups presented their refined business plans to a group of investors and mentors, showcasing the development over the last 12 weeks in the form of newer and more effective business models, minimum viable products (MVPs) developed during the programme, stronger marketing and communication strategies, and impactful partnerships.

Most of the startups that were part of the programme are likely to close their follow-on rounds, as eight of the 15 have already reached their fundraising target within just two months after the programme.

The leAD alumni get continued support from the programme through the leAD Business Builder team, which helps the founders in all aspects of business to ensure that the companies have the best possible chance of success.

Horst and Klaus, Founders, leAD Accelerator

Who can apply

While in 2017 the focus was broader, this year leAD has narrowed the selection criteria for startups to the following three areas:

  • Performance-based technologies supporting athletes and people with an active lifestyle to be at their best with ideas around:
  • Smart devices and wearables
  • Tracking
  • Image recognition
  • Activity data and analytics
  • Apps for training and coaching
  • Next-generation fan engagement and experience: -- engaging fans better and delivering the most immersive experience with ideas around but not limited to:
  • Smart venues
  • Engagement and matchmaking
  • Media and content delivery
  • Fan data and analytics
  • Derivative sports market and new business models within sports such as:
  • Marketplaces and matchmaking
  • Influencers and sponsorship
  • New sports and esports
  • Betting, games and fantasy sports

Why you should not miss this chance to be a part of this unique programme

  • This is one of the few sports-focused accelerators worldwide.
  • You get access to network of high-level mentors including sports and business veterans, successful founders, CEOs, VCs and tech experts.
  • The programme is based in Berlin, an important global hub for startups.
  • You get the chance to interact with and learn from an international team of serial entrepreneurs.
  • You get an opportunity to network with business partners and corporates in the sports world and powerful investors who are committed to offer follow up investments to startups.

Once selected, applicants will go through a rigorous screening process, and 30 startups will be selected for a one-on-one session with the leAD team of mentors and experts in Berlin in July 2018. The expert jury will then pick the startups with the best potential for the second edition of the accelerator programme, which will commence on September 10 and will run till the end of November.

The selected startups will receive 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; get direct access to investors; and exclusive deals from leAD’s service partners. The finalists will each get €25,000 in return for eight percent equity.

The last date to apply is May 31, 2018. Apply today.

To know more, visit the leAD website

The leAD vision to build a global sports powerhouse

Besides the accelerator programme, leAD has a vision to build a powerhouse of global sports entrepreneurship, linking innovation and investment on a single platform and supporting an entrepreneur’s journey from idea to exit - with capital, knowledge and its network.

In this journey, it has already made the next steps at the start of 2018 with the announcement of a new dedicated sports tech fund called ADvantage in partnership with OurCrowd, an Israel-based leading equity crowdfunding platform. The $50 million fund will target a global portfolio of around 15 startups in the Series A stage from across Europe, Israel and the US.

For more information, you can visit the website

To apply directly click here


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