While country music and bachelorette parties might be top of mind when most people think of Nashville, those in the startup world are more likely to talk about healthcare ventures.
But could the city soon be known as a hub for SportsTech? Or maybe a center for entertainment and media tech innovation?
Hypepotamus has covered several of those sports and entertainment startups over the years, but there are recent signs that this sector is growing even more. This April, Yahoo acquired local sports betting app Wagr to expand its gaming portfolio and Napster moved its HQ to Nashville last month to embed in the city’s talent pool.
Talking to many sports and entertainment tech leaders in town – including ex-pro athletes and touring musicians and seasoned founders – it feels as though Nashville is ripe for this type of startup innovation right now.
Just ask Nashville transplant Derek Brown. He is a LinkedIn alum and fintech entrepreneur who came to the Music City in 2020 by way of New York and California. He told Hypepotamus that he’s been impressed with the number of seasoned entrepreneurs he’s met over the last three years, adding that Nashville’s mid-market size is a competitive advantage for growing startups.
“As an early-stage consumer startup, your number one enemy isn’t Twitter or Meta or Google. Your number one enemy is time. And living in a place like Nashville, [your] runway extends that much further, which gives you more that much more time to figure things out,” Brown told Hypepotamus.
Nashville’s focus on growing its sports and entertainment infrastructure is also helping drive startup innovation within the city.
“Traditionally known for its deep ties to music, I think Nashville has always had a strong pull on young creatives with big dreams determined to work hard. Over the last couple of years, I’ve seen the same dynamic play out across other industries, especially in tech and sports entertainment, attracting highly motivated people who want to experiment with new ideas and business models to bring the sports media ecosystem into the social age,” said local founder Cooper Lycan. “Locating in a city built around the potential for growth through content creation couldn’t be more perfect.”
So, which startups are making Nashville a sports and entertainment tech hub? These are the names you need to know:
Blu Chip Analytics
Spencer, who ended his professional sports career with the Tennessee Titans, settled in Nashville to launch the B2B platform that helps sports organizations get better data on athletes.
Blu Chip, which creates personality and behavior reports for elite athletics, works directly with sports organizations to help them better understand the athletes they are working with. This type of reporting is personal for Spencer, who said he saw how many athletes struggle after going through professional and collegiate sports programs.
“We give [sports organizations] a better sense of who [athletes] are…so as they start to make their transition into the league and out of the league…they have a better sense of who they are.
We asked Spencer what makes Nashville the right place to build Blu Chip Analytics, he said he stayed in Nashville because the startup community had “a lot of interest in helping me grow as an entrepreneur.”
It’s the biggest game of the season. As you sit in front of your TV you think: I just really want to talk to someone about that wild play.
Sports fanatics might take to Twitter or Reddit to find kindred spirits also cheering on their teams. But social media platforms and other community hubs aren’t designed with fans and the sports watching experience in mind.
That’s where Bunches comes into play.
The mobile app startup allows users to join different communities specifically curated around their favorite teams – be it Georgia Bulldog Football or Nashville’s Major League Soccer squad. Members can chat during the game, get live stats, and keep the conversation going as news breaks or a team looks ahead to the next season.
Nashville is the perfect place to launch such a sports-focused platform, Co-founder Derek Brown.
“The combination of Nashville being a sports town with [the city] having the creator infrastructure to support influencers, entertainers, athletes, and artists of all types, is a unique combination. Especially when you combine that with the increasing level of founder quality, and company quality that exists here…it’s a pretty special place to be building sports tech.”
Co-founder Jason Burchard told Hypepotamus that Techstars is an opportunity for RootNote to “start talking to different professional sports teams, leagues, universities, and other sports-adjacent businesses that are currently struggling with their owned and operated data and content as well as the data and content associated with all of their athletes” in the post-NIL world.
While RootNote is heading to Indianapolis for a few months to participate in the Techstars program, Burchard said the company is excited to continue to grow within Nashville.
“I think there’s a really good ecosystem here. And I think one of the things that’s also interesting about Nashville is we’re starting to see more outside capital move here, which is obviously important for any type of startup ecosystem. It’s still very early and dominated by healthcare, but we are starting to see interests and more funds relocating here, which ultimately will help the early stage investment market here,” he added.
Last month we profiled the team behind EVA, an entertainment booking platform also building in Nashville.
For co-founder Channing Moreland, building in Music City is an “ideal launchpad” for sports and entertainment-focused startups.
“In the past decade, Nashville has transformed from a captivating tourist destination into one of the most desirable cities to relocate to,” Moreland told Hypepotamus. “There are numerous factors contributing to Nashville’s tremendous success, and the remarkable growth of the sports and entertainment industry plays a significant role.”
She noted that the city has seen a flurry of new stadiums and concert venue openings recently, including First Horizon Park, Ascend Amphitheater, and a highly-anticipated field for the Tennessee Titans coming soon.
That growth is particularly helpful as EVA continues to look at ways to change the entertainment booking process.
“Regarding the entertainment industry, while Nashville will always be synonymous with country music, it is incredible to witness our city becoming a thriving hub for diverse musical genres as well. The richness and variety we are infusing into Nashville’s music scene is truly remarkable. I can’t wait to see what the next decade will bring for Nashville and our ever-growing community.”
It’s been a few years since Hypepotamus covered Soundstripe, a music licensing platform streamlining the music licensing and publishing process. But one thing hasn’t changed, according to founder and co-CEO Travis Terrell, and that’s the fact that “Soundstripe and Nashville are so intertwined. We simply wouldn’t have the success without the resources Nashville has to offer.”
The startup has grown significantly since that 2018 Hype article, with Terrell recently telling Hypepotamus that Soundstripe now has “served tens of thousands of customers from over 160 countries. Our customers now span from the most beginner creator on Youtube, to the biggest brands in the world, including Amazon, Adobe, and Microsoft.”
The venture-backed startup has evolved its product to include “selling a robust catalog of amazing music, sound effects, and stock footage, delivered in multiple forms, such as a mobile and desktop app, Adobe and Twitch extensions, and new project and collaboration features to help teams manage their music projects more effectively,” Terrell added.
Stephen Glicken, a twenty-year veteran in the entertainment space, is looking to innovate the wide world of ticketing with Project Admission, a startup that integrates into big ticketing platform as a “complementary layer” to help create a better ticket buying, selling, and distribution process for sports teams and stadium owners.
Project Admission, also a Techstars Sports accelerator grad, has its HQ in Nashville while growing its remote-first and venture-backed team.
Glicken initially moved to Nashville to grow a different startup12 years ago. Over the years, he told Hypepotamus that he’s been impressed with the city’s growing tech scene.
“I’ve seen the infrastructure really grow…there is definitely an energy,” he added. “There’s a lot more tech companies here and now there are funds helping to add fuel. And we’re starting to see the sports world grow,” since the city hosts NFL, MLS, NHL, and several high-profile college teams.
Cooper Lycan started working on predictive modeling around sports betting when he was a Cadet at West Point. But the more he dug into the sports betting world, he wanted to build something to combat the competitive and the “growing toxicity of the ecosystem.”
His startup, Nashville-based SoBet, got off the ground in 2022 as a media platform for the growing sports betting industry. The startup told Hypepotamus that it provides “expert content from independent creators, to increase transparency, create a more modern sports media ecosystem, and offers a community-based approach to fan engagement while fostering healthier habits.”
With Lycan serving as CEO and Founder, SoBet has raised over $1 million pre-seed round while growing the team to 10 staff members and 32 expert creators.
“We have built out a small production space in Nashville and some of our top-performing content creators have recently moved out to Nashville – with more making the move to Music City this summer,” the team added.