Anton Lucanus

Israel has now become the ‘Silicon Valley of sports tech’

Technology seems to connect the world in the most unexpected ways. For instance, Israel is a virtual unknown in the sporting arena. However, its incredible mastery of technology has quickly established the country as the “Silicon Valley of sports tech.” Lee Aviram Shoshany, former digital media technologies expert at Israel Export Institute, said, ““The intersection between the passion for sports and the passion for technological innovation is a ball of fire.”

With over 6,940 startups under its belt, Israel is uniquely positioned to drive innovation in sports tech. In fact, it is now well into transferring its narrative of innovative success as the Startup Nation of the world, into the sporting arena.

What is more, Israel has already created over 200 successful sports-based startups, and has proved itself a global leader in the sports tech industry. In a country with less than 10 million population, this is incredible. What stands out more is the collective perspective of the people of Israel. As former President of Israel, Shimon Peres, once said, “In Israel, a land lacking in natural resources, we learned to appreciate our greatest national advantage: our minds. Through creativity and innovation, we transformed barren deserts into flourishing fields and pioneered new frontiers in science and technology.”

Moreover, it is Israel’s mastery of Artificial Intelligence (AI), that is propelling this new global value chain based on AI technology, once exclusively used in industry and the military. Israel is achieving success by applying AI in sports tech, in areas like live broadcasting, athlete development, fan engagement, stadium operations, and e-sports.

There is no doubt this innovative tech approach to sports is spiraling it into a multi-billion-dollar market, with the global sports market’s estimated annual value at $1 trillion of global GDP. Jeremy Pressman, Israel’s only active venture capitalist and professional athlete, as well as partner of ADvantage Sports Tech Fund, which invests in sports tech startups, says that sports tech is “an emerging sector” comprising over 4,000 companies globally, with over $5 billion in recent investments. This booming new global tech market is projected to increase to over three times in value to US$31.1 billion, in the next five years.

Oren Simanian, the founder of sports tech startup Colosseum Sport, believes that ““Every big industry has a big invention and then the follow-up invention.” In his perspective, “Israel is one of the biggest markets in the world that develops technology for combat soldiers, so there is advantage here.” So, the “follow-up invention” appears to be sports tech, but it is as yet in the early stages.

Nevertheless, Israel’s expertise in automation software is expanding the nation’s role on the world stage. By blending AI technology into sports tech, Israel has transformed AI into a universal resource and has stepped over the threshold of a new value chain. Israel’s sports tech ventures showcase calibrated engineering skills, enhanced video capture, sophisticated data storage capabilities and classy production and broadcasting.

Infact, by 2025, global sports rights revenues are projected to spiral beyond $85 billion, and leagues and federations across the world are seeking novel ways to scale their content output. In the present time, when Over-the-Top (OTT) consumption, which is film and TV content provided to customers over Internet rather than by cable or satellite, is the most popular mode of viewing content globally, many sports entities are experimenting with Direct-to-Customer (DTC) products, as new ways to earn money. For a large number of them, it means investing in Israel’s automated sports tech.   

For instance, Infront, a Swiss-based company earning almost 900-million dollars a year, and reputed as a provider of expertise in media, production, sponsorship, and other sports-related services to sporting entities, has broadened its scope to develop technologies and startups in sports tech. It established a novel innovation laboratory in Israel, in collaboration with several Israeli sporting entities, to operate a global digital agency for sports. The company plans to invest at $ 1 million in Israel, drawing more Israeli sporting organizations into its investment plans.

However, with high deadly contagion of the Covid virus and subsequent restrictions on large crowded events in 2020, the world of sports was compelled to take a break during the pandemic. As a direct consequence of this situation, the global gaming industry soared to incredible heights, with 2.7 billion gamers generating over $165 billion across the world. This was more revenue earned than the movie and sports industries combined.

Being a country that believes in every opportunity that comes its way, Israel too tuned into the vibrant success of the global entertainment industry. Taking advantage of this situation that arose in response to the pandemic’s lockdowns and social restrictions, former Google executive, Eitan Reisel, launched the first games-focused investment fund out of Israel. Moreover, Israel also offers the gaming industry, the most trusted and reliable online sportsbooks.

Oren Simanian said, “By adhering to the idea that the quality of technology can help increase the quality of sport, the Israeli market has found a way to work with other sports industries around the world.”

As Israel outperforms its own brilliant record in startups, American billionaire investor, Warren Buffet’s words seem so appropriate. “Israel is the best place to invest because of its people. There is no other place with such high-quality people with motivation and abilities.”

About the Author
Scientist turned techie. Founder at Neliti & Reputio. Interested in sharing lessons learnt from Tel Aviv's bustling technology ecosystem.
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