Sports Talk

Inaugural panel discussion dives deep into emerging tech partnerships

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On March 24, more than 100 guests gathered at alliantgroup's head-turning conference center in the Galleria area for an exciting discussion on the sportstech industry, co-sponsored by InnovationMap. The panelists included Houston-based thought leaders, founders, and investors who shared their insights while discussing how the city of Houston can emerge as a leader in sports technology.

With the backdrop of Houston’s skyline, the event began with an hour of networking, drinks, and light bites. Then alliantgroup’s CEO, Dhaval Jadav, kicked off the discussion by sharing his enthusiasm for the inaugural Future Focus series and introduced David Gow as the moderator for the night’s topic.

Gow is the CEO of Gow Media and the CEO of a SPAC (Special Purpose Acquisition Corp) that has raised $115 million to invest in sportstech. He explained how “technology is transforming the sports industry, creating new billion-dollar industries seemingly overnight.”

He defined sportstech within four categories: health and performance, fan engagement, e-sports, and fantasy and gambling. Across these categories, technology is enabling interconnectedness through social interaction, new communities, improved health, subscriber-based business models, software as a service, and new revenue streams.

And this doesn’t even do justice to all the changes happening with NIL, NFTs and Web3.

The panel included an all-star cast, with two from academia, an executive from the Houston Astros, and two sportstech entrepreneurs:

  • Beena George, chief innovation officer and professor of management at University of St. Thomas
  • Tom Stallings, professor of sports management at Rice University
  • Jimmy Comerota, director of strategic partnerships for the Houston Astros
  • Dez, co-creator of Apollo Houston
  • Jorge Ortiz, CEO of VarsityHype

Future Focus sportstech

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Gow began by asking the panelists “which innovation intrigues you the most?” and responses ranged from wearables to enhance wellness to new training equipment to the rise of e-sports and the metaverse, the latter of which Ortiz displayed particular enthusiasm about. He has already made a bet on the future — last year he bought a tavern in the metaverse, naming it “Isla,” after his newborn.

Gow cited Houston-based company nVenue as being well positioned for the future of sports betting.

“The company will profit from microbetting, which is rapid bets on individual moments within a game, e.g. a bet on whether a batter will get on base, etc," said Gow. "It takes raw, historical data, such as a batting average, and turns it into betting odds real-time, pitch by pitch.”

George noted that University of St. Thomas now has an e-sports team. “The young demo in e-sports suggests a high-growth future,” she shared.

The panel agreed that we are already seeing the impacts on the merging of sports and technology and how it’s shaping our engagement here in Houston.

"Everyone that knows me knows that I am a sports fanatic, and I was absolutely blown away by the panel and their discussion on what’s on the horizon for the fan experience," said Jadav. "I was riveted by the discussion and they covered so many exciting topics. I am also super excited about how Web3 and the metaverse will change how we interact with athletes and creatives and create a more immersive experience for all. I can’t wait for the next event.”

Future Focus: Sportstech was the first of many planned discussions that alliantgroup and InnovationMap are hosting. The series was created as a way for industry leaders and burgeoning startups to exchange ideas and talk about what the future of technology looks like for all of us.

The next event will focus on spacetech and is scheduled for May 5. It will be moderated by alliantgroup chairman of robotics and artificial intelligence Dr. Robert Ambrose, who recently retired from NASA, where he served as the chief of software, robotics, and simulation division at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

The panel will include Dr. Seth Shotak, senior astronomer and director of the Center for SETI Research at the SETI Institute in California.

These Future Focus panels are free to attend, though registration is encouraged.

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Building Houston

 
 

You can now hop online and invest in this promising cell therapy startup. Photo via Getty Images

A clinical-stage company headquartered in Houston has opened an online funding campaign.

FibroBiologics, which is developing fibroblast cell-based therapeutics for chronic diseases, launched a campaign with equity crowdfunding platform StartEngine. The platform lets anyone — regardless of their net worth or income level — to invest in securities issued by startups.

The funding, according to a press release, will be used to support ongoing operations of Fibrobiologics and advance its clinical programs in multiple sclerosis, degenerative disc disease, wound care, extension of life, and cancer.

"We're excited to partner with StartEngine on this campaign. StartEngine has over 600,000 investors as part of their community and has raised over half a billion dollars for its clients," says FibroBiologics' Founder and CEO Pete O'Heeron, in the release.

"This is an exciting time at FibroBiologics as we continue progressing our clinical pipeline and developing innovative therapies to treat chronic diseases," he continues. "This new funding will fuel our growth in the lab and bring us one step closer to commercialization."

The campaign, launched this week, already has over 100 investors, at the time of publication, and has raised nearly $2 million, according to the page. The minimum investment is set at around $500, and the company's indicated valuation is $252.57 million.

In 2021, FibroBiologics announced its intention of going public. Last year, O'Heeron told InnovationMap on the Houston Innovators Podcast of the company's growth plans as well as the specifics of the technology.

Only two types of cells — stem cells and fibroblasts — can be used in cell therapy for a regenerative treatment, which is when specialists take healthy cells from a patient and inject them into a part of the body that needs it the most. As O'Heeron explains in the podcast, fibroblasts can do it more effectively and cheaper than stem cells.

"(Fibroblasts) can essentially do everything a stem cell can do, only they can do it better," says O'Heeron. "We've done tests in the lab and we've seen them outperform stem cells by a low of 50 percent to a high of about 220 percent on different disease paths."


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