Thursday 8 December 2016

OneTeam Collective: A New University Accelerator to Promote the Use of IP to Develop New Ventures

The National Football League Player’s Association [NFLPA] (American Football, that is) in the United States has announced a fascinating collaboration called “OneTeam Collective” between the NFLPA, NFL athletes, venture capitalists, and Harvard University, among others, in the form of something like an incubator.  Apparently, the gist of the idea is to allow easy licensing and exploitation of IP rights of NFL athletes by start-ups.  The NFLPA basically holds the IP rights of NFL players and now those rights will be available to early stage companies, as described in Tech Crunch in "NFL Players Association Is Launching An Accelerator to Trade IP Rights For Equity."  This raises a host of opportunities to utilize those IP rights in, perhaps, new ways. 

Here is a description of some of the aspects of the program:

The OneTeam Collective will consider business ventures and product ideas related to fan engagement, data analytics, performance and training, mobile fitness, sports nutrition, consumer products, fantasy sports, gaming, wearable technology, new media, as well as virtual and augmented reality.  

The OneTeam Collective will be the first program providing rights to sports-related intellectual property, highlighted by the NFLPA’s exclusive group licensing rights and unparalleled access to more than 2,000 current NFL players.  

The well-rounded founding portfolio will consist of KPCB and Madrona Venture Group providing consulting services and potential funding; Harvard Innovation Lab providing access to a campus environment focused on entrepreneurship for student-led events and competitions, such as hackathons; and Intel providing valuable input from a global innovative leader, as well as potential funding. LeadDog Marketing Group–an award-winning integrated, experiential marketing agency–will provide sports marketing and strategic planning resources. The Sports Innovation Lab will provide additional support to the OneTeam Collective and its portfolio companies. 

I do hope that the eventual funding from these ventures will inure to the benefit of the players.  The troubling stories concerning the physical and mental impact of concussions in the sport is a serious concern.  Moreover, the NFL has long been known as “Not For Long:” the average player has a very short career span and there is the very sad (developing) story concerning the recent death of Rashaan Salaam. The NFLPA press release seems to suggest that there could be many opportunities developed just from the close collaboration from the interested parties, perhaps even ventures that would need additional player endorsement. 
If this idea hasn’t been adopted in other countries, it looks like one to closely watch and perhaps emulate.  A potential underexploited resource—the IP—put in the position to be widely utilized for potential benefit of . . . hopefully the players.  The press release provides some hope:

Another unique element of the OneTeam Collective is its Athlete Advisory Board. These individuals will engage with founding partners and provide strategic input on portfolio companies and new prospects. Athletes will benefit by having the ability to directly interact with founding partners and portfolio companies, in order to establish a professional network, while also exploring business and career opportunities. The inaugural members of the board will consist of both active and former NFL players, including Kelvin Beachum, Mark Herzlich, Dhani Jones, Isaiah Kacyvenski, Ryan Nece, and Russell Okung. 

"Players, both past and present, have so much to offer - but never in a way like this," said former NFL Player and current Managing Partner of Qey Capital and Investor on CNBC's Adventure Capitalist Dhani Jones. "The OneTeam Collective is going to help develop and promote concepts and products that were previously just left to survive on their own. With this accelerator in place, and with players helping power it, companies can get off the ground and into people's lives. It's a great feeling to be involved in something of this magnitude."

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