Sports  innovators wanted in Denver September 26, 2018     


$15,000 Cash Prize


We're looking for driven entrepreneurs 

to compete in an arena with an audience made up of sports & fitness industry executives. The industry knows that for consumers to be physically fit, the industry must be financially fit. This means the industry must always be innovating.  Is your product just the sort of positive disruptor these industry leaders are looking to get behind with their influence and support?  

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To compete

and be a part of the growing $120M+ story during the Sports & Fitness Industry Association's Industry Leaders Summit September 26-27 at The Brown Palace Hotel & Spa in Denver, Co

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Present your playbook   

to an esteemed panel of judges made up of sports & fitness executives, venture capitalists and leaders from private equity.

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Network with industry leaders

before and after competing in the Start-Up Challenge. Finalists will get to participate in leadership discussions and network at cocktail receptions and over meals during the Industry Leaders Summit.    

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The winner receives  

$15,000 in cash from Venture Capital Firm Black Lab Sports and an all-expense paid trip to spend a day with the Innovation Team at the Under Armour world headquarters in Baltimore, Maryland. SFIA will coordinate and provide flight, hotel accomadations, and introductions to key executives.

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The details

SFIA Industry Leaders Summit

September 26-27

The Brown Palace Hotel and Spa

Denver, Co.

SFIA Start-Up Challenge

Wednesday, September 26 at 8:00 AM MDT

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Some of the judges

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Chris clawson

is the former President of Life Fitness and current Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Sports & Fitness Industry Association whose mission is to “Promote Sports and Fitness Participation and Industry Vitality.”

Chris earned his MBA from Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management and received his baccalaureate degree from San Diego State University. He also attended Newman University in Wichita, Kansas, where he was an Academic All-American in baseball and is a two-time member of its athletic hall of fame. Before joining the fitness industry, he was a professional athlete, playing for the minor-league organizations of both the Houston Astros and Atlanta Braves.

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Lorin Hamlin

joined Under Armour in 2011 to manage the grand opening of the state of the art Innovation Lab.  While acting as legal liaison for the Innovation team, Lorin’s role quickly grew to include business development and strategic alliances.  As part of the Innovation Partnerships team, Lorin now oversees Idea House, a platform which embraces the entrepreneurial spirit on which UA was founded; and Future Show, historically a showcase of the best ideas and concepts submitted through Idea House featuring an in-house trade show exhibition, in which Under Armour employees voted on their favorite products and innovations and the winner pitched to a team of top UA executives for a chance to develop their concept or product to commercialization through UA.  Taking into account the stellar growth of UA, the platform has been completely revamped and streamlined to ensure UA is the first to see the very latest concepts and products, directly aligning with the specific needs of all athletes.   She recently worked on Cupid’s Cup, a young entrepreneur competition formed by Kevin Plank in conjunction with the Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland that is currently expanding into other partner schools.  Lorin also has a special interest in start-up accelerators, particularly those related to sports technology.

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Alison minter

is a Managing Director with more than 18 years of consumer private equity investment experience. Since joining North Castle in 2001, she has actively managed the firm’s investments across a variety of Healthy, Active, and Sustainable Living sectors. She currently serves on the Board of Directors of Full Swing, ProSupps, HydroMassage, Sprout Foods, SmartyPants, and Red Door Spas, and has previously served on the Boards of Directors of Doctor’s Best, Octane Fitness, Contigo, Ibex, Cascade Helmets, Atkins/Bora-Bora Organic Foods, and Avalon. In addition, she was actively involved in our investments in Naked Juice and Leiner Health Products. Prior to joining North Castle, Alison worked at Evolution Global Partners, an investment firm sponsored by Texas Pacific Group, Kleiner Perkins, and Bain & Company. Prior to Evolution, she worked in the Insurance and Leveraged Finance groups of Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette, where she executed restructurings, financed leveraged buyout transactions, and provided advisory services for financial sponsors. Alison also serves as a member of the board of the New Canaan Soccer Association and the New Canaan Lacrosse Association. Alison also serves on the Women of Leadership Committee for ACG New York. She earned an A.B. in Economics from Princeton University.


Mike zlaket

has been President and Chief Executive Officer of Rawlings Sporting Goods since February, 2015.  Prior to joining Rawlings, Mike held a series of senior management roles with increasing responsibility over a 20-plus year career at Easton-Bell Sports, Inc., culminating in the role as President, Easton Sports. 

Mike is a proven executive with a consistent track record of delivering top line and bottom line growth in a variety of sports related businesses.  He has an in-depth background related to product innovation, investing in new products and product technology supported by innovative marketing programs, and he possesses strong and credible retail and industry experience with contacts across amateur and professional sports.  Importantly, Mike also brings a solid reputation for building strong, cohesive, and dynamic teams.

A graduate of the University of California at Berkeley, Mike along with his wife Dianna, relocated to St. Louis from Southern California.  They have twin daughters who are both in college.


Keith Bank

is the Founder and Managing Partner of KB Partners and has a diverse background in start-up companies, real estate and other entrepreneurial ventures.  Keith has been a very "hands on" venture capital and angel investor in a wide variety of industries, including the medical, semiconductor, internet, telecom, software, cable TV, sports and golf, consumer and retail, and social media arenas.  He currently serves as Chairman of the Board of Directors of SteadyMed, Ltd. (NASDAQ:STDY), Versatile Sports Partners and Club Champion Golf and holds multiple other board seats.  Prior to forming the KB Partners venture funds, Mr. Bank co-founded and served on the Board and as President of MST Analytics, Inc., a semi-conductor product and services business which was successfully sold to ATMI, Inc., a public company, in 1999.

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matthew tingler

is a Managing Director within Baird’s Consumer & Retail Investment Banking practice where he advises on equity offerings, mergers and acquisitions and other financial advisory services with a focus on the apparel and footwear, sporting goods and fitness, health and wellness, and outdoor recreation sectors. Prior to joining Baird, Matthew was a Senior Associate in Merrill Lynch’s Mergers & Acquisitions Investment Banking practice. Previously he was an Associate in Citigroup’s Equity Research practice and a Manager in Ernst & Young’s Transaction Advisory Services practice where he performed M&A due diligence, restructuring and valuation assignments. Matthew received an M.B.A from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University with distinctions and a B.S. in accounting and marketing with high honors from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is a Chartered Financial Analyst charterholder through the CFA Institute and a recipient of the SGB 40 Under 40 award sponsored by SportsOneSource Group.


Stay tuned...The full panel of judges will be announced shortly...


Your audience

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The start-up challenge…

is a highlight of the Sports & Fitness Industry Association's Industry Leaders Summit. While in Denver, finalist will get several opportunities to network with executives from the sports & fitness industry, along with leaders from venture capital and private equity. These industry leaders and potential investors will be your audience should you be selected as a finalist to compete in the challenge. 


past winners and finalists

Since the inaugural Start-Up Challenge in 2016, finalists have raised more than $120,000,000


2017 winner: shottracker

ShotTracker's Founder/CEO Davyeon Ross and Co-Founder Bruce Ianni won the SFIA's 2017 Start-Up Challenge with their game-changing product helping basketball players, teams, and coaches get real-time insights on court performance. Since competing in last year's Start-Up Challenge, ShotTracker has raised more than $10,000,000 and now counts Magic Johnson, David Stern, and Ryan Howard as investors. 

2016 winner: Hookit

Hookit CEO Scott Tilton took the Start-Up Challenge prize in 2016. Hookit's sponsorship analytics platform is disrupting the sponsorship marketing industry by equipping marketers and properties with actionable insights to effectively valuate partnerships. Since winning the inaugural challenge, Hookit has raised more than $16,000,000. 

Participating in the SFIA Start-Up Challenge was a great opportunity for PlaySight. Not only did it give us a platform to share our story and vision with industry leaders and experts, but the event itself was both inspiring and educating – it definitely helped us with our on-going fundraising efforts as well.
— 2017 Finalist Jeff Angus, Playsight


2017 Finalists from left to right: Jeff Angus (Playsight Interactive), Mark Strella (Locally), Davyeon Ross (ShotTracker), John Peters (SFIA), Steven Webster (asensei), Martin Matak (VERT)

I was blown away by the content, the attendees, the networking, not too mention access to industry leaders. Only regret was not winning!
— 2016 Finalist Kent McKeaigg, Founder of OrderMyGear
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2016 Finalists from left to right: John Peters (SFIA), Dustin Sproat (Shnarped), Scott Tilton (Hookit), Jeff Stein (GearSay, Inc.), Kent McKeaigg (OrderMyGear), Robb Quinn (SymGym)


Application process

Applications are due by Monday, July 16, 2018. Once reviewed by our distinguished panel of experts, five finalists will be chosen to compete in Denver on Wednesday, September 26th, during the Sports & Fitness Industry Association’s Industry Leaders Summit. The five finalists will be announced in August.

If chosen

Should you be chosen as a finalist, you will receive an official invitation to the SFIA Start-Up Challenge, which will also include a complimentary registration for the Industry Leaders Summit (a $1,700 value). You will be responsible for travel to Denver, along with lodging and other personal accommodations. The SFIA will extend a discounted group rate to you at the host hotel, the Brown Palace Hotel and Spa.

The opportunity

You will compete for a $15,000 cash prize from Black Lab Sports and an all-expense-paid trip to the Under Armour global headquarters in Baltimore to meet with the Under Armour Innovation Team. While at the Summit in Denver, you will have several opportunities to network with sports & fitness industry executives, other entrepreneurs and potential investors. Should you win, in addition to receiving a free year of SFIA membership, you and your company will be featured in all collateral promoting the 2019 event, as well as in general SFIA marketing and informational material. You will also be invited to speak at the 2019 Industry Leaders Summit.