Peripatetic venture capitalist Wayne Kimmel is always in search of the next new thing. That’s what drove him in 2000, when he was among the first investors in a platform that delivered restaurant food to your door. It was called SeamlessWeb, and today it’s traded on the New York Stock Exchange as GrubHub. And that’s what he was thinking when he invested in Take Care Health, which Walgreen’s bought and turned into their in-store health clinics in 2006. So it should come as no surprise that, in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the 1992 federal law that made sports betting illegal in every state except Nevada, there’s Kimmel again, focused on figuring out the future.
Tomorrow, SeventySix Capital, the firm Kimmel runs with partners Jon Powell, the former owner of the King of Prussia Mall, and former Phillie All-Star Ryan Howard, will host The Future of Sports Tech and Sports Betting Conference at the Prince Theater.
The conference, in partnership with Arizona State University’s Global Sports Institute, run by former Wharton Professor Ken Shropshire, is just the latest manifestation of Kimmel’s latest big bet. While headlines chronicle athletes and their political activism, Kimmel believes something else is also happening, which he’s intent on funding: Athletes are flexing their muscles in the boardroom, too, and finding bottom-line and social impact returns.
“The vision for us is that athletes have more than just financial capital, they have social capital,” Kimmel said on Saturday, while on his way to another sports and business event with Howard and the Eagles’ Zach Ertz. “They help companies open doors, they have online followings, and the passion, drive and resiliency they’ve used to succeed on the field are the same traits needed to make it as an entrepreneur.”
Who better, then, Kimmel argues, to seize on the burgeoning sports betting industry and shape it to change the world? Exactly how is the brainstorming that will take place tomorrow.
“Sports betting is a new $200 billion industry,” says Kimmel. “Yes, the big casinos are the first to take advantage of it. But we believe we’ll be finding the Facebooks and Googles of the sports betting industry. Ryan and I want to find them, and invest in them.”
The conference will feature those that Kimmel already sees as game-changing, like Philly-based N3rd Street Gamers—esports are exploding—and Shot Tracker, a technology that turns a basketball court smart, with sophisticated mapping of every move on it. “The world of sports is changing in ways that are hard to predict,” Kimmel says. “But that’s the fun of it.”
Adding to Kimmel’s breathless prognosticating will no doubt be Shropshire’s shrewd social commentary. They’ll make an interesting pair, salesman Kimmel with his predictions, and academician Shropshire with his “what it means for society” big-picture musings.
The Future of Sports Tech and Sports Betting Conference, Tuesday, June 26, 8:30 am-11:30 am, $99, Prince Theater, 1412 Chestnut St.