Smart fabric startup Nextiles announced a $5 million seed round Tuesday, led by Drive by DraftKings and joined by the NBA and Madison Square Garden Sports Corp., among others.
Using miniature sensors sewn into traditional fabrics, Nextiles is building smart sleeves to help tennis and baseball players track a variety of performance and health metrics, including more advanced measures that a simple strap might miss. It’s also developing other uses for its tech, which can be integrated into just about any fabric. That could mean smart socks, or replacing large, expensive force plates with what amount to smart towels.
“What stands out to us about Nextiles is its materials science expertise and overall approach to the human performance industry,” NBA VP of basketball strategy Tom Ryan said in a statement. “We’re excited to support Nextiles in its next phase of growth as we continue to help design and test new solutions to better quantify performance.”
Founded in 2018 and currently based in Brooklyn, Nextiles was selected in the NBA Launchpad’s first cohort after pivoting its focus from physical therapy to sports. This year, the company is hoping to ramp production from at least 1,000 items a month to 10,000. It’s also turning its attention to software, making the advanced data pulled from the devices more accessible for players and trainers.
“Really the hardware is a means to an end,” Nextiles CEO George Sun said. The hope is that one day the technology is simply ingrained in clothing or equipment to the point where users aren’t even thinking about it.
“Nextiles is building the future of wearable technology with its semi-conductive threads, providing breakthrough movement analytics for athletes to improve technique and avoid injury,” Drive by DraftKings CEO Meredith McPherron said in a statement. “We are thrilled to partner with Nextiles as they expand their product application across all athletics.”