The Minnesota Twins have launched their new tech accelerator, the Minnesota Twins Accelerator by Techstars, announcing 10 startups from the sports technology and entertainment sectors as the inaugural cohort for the team’s 13-week program this off-season.
The Twins partnered on the initiative with Techstars, a Colorado-based seed accelerator with a combined market capitalization of more than $60 billion. They are the second Major League Baseball team to fund an accelerator, after the Los Angeles Dodgers.
“There are three main reasons we decided to get into this space,” Chris Iles, the Twins’ senior director of brand experience and innovation, said in an interview. “One, it’s a branding play. We’re trying to push the Minnesota Twins brand beyond baseball. Two, we’re trying to infuse innovation across the culture of the Minnesota Twins. And three, we’re looking to diversify our revenue streams as a baseball team.”
The Twins and Techstars chose companies from among thousands of applicants across the United States, including a sustainable condiment producer, a media platform for high school sports, a location-based search engine and an online experience platform.
One of the companies selected belongs to Jonah Travis, a 28-year-old entrepreneur and four-time Ivy League basketball champion with Harvard. His company, Knoow, is a real-time location-based app that allows users to connect to others for information and ask favors for a small fee. He came up with the idea when looking for a pickup basketball game in Brooklyn.
“I couldn’t find a place to pickup basketball,” Travis said in an interview. “I had heard legendary pickup basketball stories, but whenever I would settle on a spot, take an Uber, and arrive at a court, they either had leagues on them or were empty.” The Minneapolis native is planning to add features like information about lines for stadium concessions, and closest parking spots—solutions to “all the problems that make life unnecessarily complicated and can be solved by simply asking someone that already Knoows it.”
Some of this year’s startups are sports-focused, but the partners said that was by no means a prerequisite; they looked for companies that could offer applications within the sports world and also beyond it.
“That’s a part of what the next three months is going to be,” Brett Brohl, managing director of the accelerator, said in an interview. “How can we plug these companies in with the Minnesota Twins and with the rest of the sports world, in Minnesota and beyond?”
The program uses mentors from the Twins’ organization and elsewhere in the sports industry to help the startup companies make connections.