After conquering the worlds of medical research, robotics, and traffic navigation, Israeli companies have turned their attention toward the sports market.
For three days this week, 2,000 people in the sports media industry—including top executives, advertisers, and athletes—descended upon New York’s TimesCenter for Hashtag Sports, a conference that aims to help brands understand the rapidly changing media landscape. The post-millennial generation consumes content in a unique way that has left old-school companies bewildered. Visiting the row of exhibitors made it clear that Israel is at the forefront of this dynamic field. Eleven businesses from the “startup nation” presented on the conference’s opening day, offering exposure and the opportunity to forge connections with the NBA, NFL, Hulu, Snapchat, and countless others.
While the event hosted other countries—Holland, in particular, made a splash—Israel made the most of the visibility. “We’re good improvisers,” said Amir Lotan, creator of FanPassTick, of his homeland. He credits his army service with instilling the skill set needed to find out-of-the-box solutions. And when Israelis see a business opportunity, they pounce. “My idea came when I visited Rome for a Maccabi game, and there was a problem with ticket availability,” Lotan continued. Now his fledgling brand offers an opportunity for a frequent ticket buyers to resell a ticket—and even make a profit—when they can’t make it to a game.
Echoing Lotan’s sentiment, Adir Kol, VP of fuse.it, added that many of his peers have a head start. “If you were in an IDF intelligence unit, you have prior experience with tech,” he explained. “So when we head to university to pursue a degree in programming, we’ve already faced the real deal.” Therefore, it wasn’t particularly difficult for his team to create an augmented reality app that puts mascots in the real world, allowing users to share videos and memes on the Web.
Some of the startups are simply superior versions of existing tools, like Insoundz, a Tel Aviv-based company that provides enhanced audio for live streams. Many others focus on connecting a sports team to its fan base. WSC Sports is one such example. Their AI-driven platform analyzes live sports broadcasts, identifying every move and play of the game, and automatically creating a highlight reel to be instantly shared across social media platforms. The NBA, US Open, and Major League Soccer have all been early adopters of the service.
WSC Sports wasn’t the only presenter that has already landed big-name clients. Physimax analyzes an athlete’s body movement patterns, breaking down muscle performance, highlighting inefficiencies and injury-prone areas. They’ve struck deals with the University of North Carolina, Syracuse, Maccabi Tel Aviv, and the Indiana Pacers.
Elazar Abrahams is a former intern at Tablet, and will attend Yeshiva University after a gap year at Netiv Aryeh in Jerusalem.