On August 24th, the Los Angeles Dodgers started its Accelerator with R/GA, the internationally recognized ad firm. Our company, FieldLevel, was announced as one of the 10 companies participating in the program. According to the program's directors, they scoured the Earth looking for ideal companies, evaluating roughly 600 enterprises from over 30 countries.
To say our team was at first apprehensive about joining would be a grotesque understatement, like calling the Titanic a "boat" or the 1996 Chicago Bulls "just a basketball team." We flat out rejected the notion. Over several years, we'd built a profitable company with formidable market position. We'd executed significant partnerships, expanded to over 20 countries, and increasingly landed just about any meeting that we desired.
Everyone, including our own team, feared that joining an accelerator would be a stigma. In fact, almost every investor, advisor, and acquaintance said, "Why the hell would FieldLevel join an "accelerator"? Sure, the encounters with Magic Johnson would be cool, and the additional press would only further validate what we'd already been doing. But many felt that FieldLevel's involvement in an accelerator could suggest that management was lost.
However, we joined the Dodgers Accelerator, and thus far we're very happy that we did. To the contrary of initial perceptions, the program stands to rapidly accelerate a few highly strategic initiatives for our company, and each day we meet more and more truly fantastic people.
Here's why we joined:
First, the Dodgers Accelerator is not an "accelerator." The run-of-the-mill accelerator is a few founders with an idea and not too much else. They're given office space, guidance, a few introductions, and sometimes cash in exchange for a little equity in the business. The Dodgers Accelerator is considerably different.
It's comprised of companies at a wide range of stages, which makes it more diverse and dynamic. Some companies have raised millions of dollars, others are generating millions of dollars, and a couple of them are just getting started. In terms of geography, some companies are based in the Dodgers' backyard of Los Angeles (e.g. Appetize, FieldLevel, and FocusMotion), while one company, Kinduct, hails all the way from Nova Scotia! So although the program as a whole is meticulously structured, it's also tailored to the unique needs of each company and its specific stage.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Everyone knows that the Dodgers are an iconic brand, but the new ownership group is relentless about improvement. The Dodgers Accelerator is just one example of that but also exudes their appreciation for technology's unique ability to dramatically reshape industries. Thus far, everyone we've encountered from the Dodgers is not just bought in but even rolling up their sleeves and helping. This is a very big deal, as their clout and reach are extraordinary.
But for us, it was their deep understanding of our space that was vital for making our final decision. One of the Dodgers top executives had personally endured a frustrating college recruiting experience and immediately grasped how we could collaborate in helping change the lives of millions of athletes all over the world.
From the outset, it was difficult to understand how such a big company could truly understand the needs of a much smaller one. But our desire to partake in the program intensified after speaking to R/GA's Global COO, Stephen Plumlee. Like any great service provider, he was confident that R/GA could help but incredibly humble about the firm's many successes with major brands and their heaps of industry awards. After all, R/GA is the creative force behind some of the world's biggest companies, like Nike and Google, but they also seem to understand how to help companies like ours. We're doing all that we can to leverage their expertise, for no company can be too good at things like marketing, communications, and branding.
Perhaps this Dodgers Accelerator marks another shift in the startup world. In recent years, cloud computing and lean concepts have created an entrepreneurial era where it's never been cheaper to test an idea. Startups are now expected to have substantial traction before raising capital. Subsequently, valuations are at almost alarming highs. From our initial experience with the Dodgers and R/GA, it appears that "accelerators" have advanced too.