Roaring crowds, fans decked out in national flags, nail-biting overtimes, unexpected twists and turns and hilarious Suarez and Howard memes. The 2014 World Cup is well under way, and while Israel may not be in the running for the glorious title, the Startup Nation sure does know a thing or two about winning sports fans over. In honor of the 2014 World Cup, NoCamels proudly presents the ten most cutting-edge Israeli companies re-inventing the world of competitive sports.
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Kicking off our list is the world’s largest fan-generated soccer website, where anyone can sign up to become a sports journalist, regardless of their level of experience. Founded in 2011 by four Israeli entrepreneurs, FTBpro currently has over 2,000 passionate “fan writers” who put together thousands of articles each month in nine languages for an audience of more than 10 million readers.
With the 2014 World Cup under way, FTBpro features almost 300 articles every day about the tournament written by fans, covering topics ranging from in-depth analyses of upcoming matches to lighthearted topics such as Top 10 lists of memes and tweets.
Tennis legends Novak Djokovic and Billie Jean King are among investors who recently contributed $3.5 million for the global launch of Israeli company PlaySight’s SmartCourt, a tennis-analytic system designed to measure and record playing performance. SmartCourt provides 3D tactical, game management, information and holistic real-time statistics for tennis players to improve their skills.
SmartCourt also enhances the overall tennis-playing experience by making it digitally interactive and sharable via social media outlets. PlaySight’s recent investment will also further research in applying the SmartCourt technology to other kinds of other sports like basketball, soccer, and hockey.
Replay Technologies, based in Tel Aviv, has developed the latest in 3D video playback technology—freeDimension, or “freeD” for short. The company already has some impressive clients already on its roster such as the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys and the 2012 London Olympics.
The technology works by installing 24 cameras around the sporting arena. Each camera’s footage is then recorded and synchronized, creating a 3D replay experience to make viewers at home feel as though they are watching the game live. Thanks to FreeD, you can look forward to watching your favorite replays from every perspective—including through the ‘eyes’ of the ball!
This startup has less to do with screaming and more to do with cheering! Screemo gives fans the opportunity to interact directly with advertisements at sporting events like basketball games, using nothing but their smartphones. The technology enables event sponsors of all kinds to quickly set up mass participatory events for sporting event attendees like engaging trivia games and competitions for prizes.
Screemo has already scored, with McDonald’s Pong event in Sweden in 2011. The fast food giant ran an interactive game that pitted players against each other, with all of the Pong action displayed on a giant billboard. Passersby logged into an app developed by McDonald’s, and winners were awarded coupons for free food items, like desserts. Not exactly the most figure-conscious app on this list.
Soccer fans who love to watch games live, but find the television viewing experience a bit too removed now have a way to virtually “be present” at their favorite sporting events. Israeli startup Vubooo’s “virtual stadium” app brings the game to fans’ phones and tablets, letting them be a part of the action in real time.
Vuboo takes advantage of Internet updates and social networking to report on what is happening in the game in real time — who took a shot on goal, how far the players ran, who blocked and who didn’t, who passed to whom, who’s in the penalty box, etc. You can cheer your favorite player (called “Vuvu-ing” in the app) or boo during the event, although the fans in the stadium, and of course the players on the field won’t hear you. You can also comment, or see the comments of other fans, all of whom are watching and/or following the game together with you through Vubooo.
This company provides “Personalized Content Channels,” or a media platform that allows users to create their own sports channels based on their personal viewing preferences. 365Scores supports 10 sporting categories for sports like soccer, basketball, handball, rugby, cricket, and more. The service also allows fans to view scores, statistics, game predictions, video highlights, and even player tweets in over 18 languages. Users can get 365Scores on their web browser or mobile device, whether at home or on the go. With ultimate 2014 World Cup viewing access, we think this one is a keeper!
This “player development platform” is a site that allows coaches to send personalized feedback to each one of their athletes based on team data such as video analysis, statistics, and more. After uploading their footage, these teams will be able to crop the video, write their comments about it, and then send it to the selected players. The players can then log onto their own profiles and see a dashboard filled with insight on how to improve their game from their coaching staff.
This process has the potential to completely change the way coaches use the data they generate, and provide an affordable coaching solution to younger or underfunded teams. Varsaty is still brand new, and has just been released to a few hand-selected professional teams.
Etgarim means “challenges” in Hebrew, but it’s also the name of a groundbreaking non-profit organization that helps disabled children and adults in Israel take part in extreme outdoor sports. Founded in 1995 by two disabled Israeli Defense Force veterans and several rehabilitation experts, Etgarim’s program allows more than 5,000 children and 700 adults to take part in strenuous activities and extreme sports such as running, cycling, sailing and rappelling. Some Etgarim members have already won several gold medals. It’s sailing team, comprised of disabled IDF veterans, won the gold medal in the Athens 2004 Paralympics.
The Israeli company AposTherapy offers athletes who suffer from orthopedic injuries after years of strenuous competition an alternative to invasive medical procedures with specially designed orthopedic shoes. AposTherapy is a personalized program for the treatment of various orthopedic conditions, which uses an individually calibrated, patent protected, foot-worn biomechanical device. NFL veterans who tried the shoes and are singing their praises include New York Giants players Bart Oates and Karl Nelson.
More and more basketball and hockey coaches are now adopting the IntelliGym® system, a cognitive training program originally created by Israeli company ACE to train fighter pilots. The IntelliGym program has been proven to improve the performance of athletes on the court by more than 30 percent. The Basketball IntelliGym and the Hockey IntelliGym both work to improve crucial skills, considered un-trainable until recently, including awareness, reading plays, anticipation, decision-making under pressure, execution, long term concentration, and avoiding errors.
Several hall-of-fame coaches endorse the system and the results are also quite impressive. The U.S. under-18 national hockey team increased their win ratio from 29 percent to 70 percent after only ten IntelliGym® training sessions. In addition, several NCAA Division 1 powerhouses adopted the Basketball IntelliGym® as part of their training regimen including the University of Florida, Memphis, Kansas, Iowa, Georgia Tech, Kentucky, and others.