Arno Hermans, together with Victor Beerkens and others, devised an accelerator programme especially for sports start-ups, under the name Sport eXperience. That was at the end of 2015. Hermans said that “there are so many beautiful and clever things going on in the field of sports, that it is a shame not to apply this in everyday life”. The first version of the acceleration programme started in January 2016. Six more followed, including two in Denmark. The Sport eXperience team also gives advice to Start-ups. In 2015, Hermans dreamt of a “physical stadium as a breeding ground for sports innovation”, today Sport eXperience launches a virtual platform: Sport Tech Campus.
What is your main motivation?
“I want to inspire people and be involved in the growth of a company, that’s what I like best. Start-ups develop an application, as a solution for their own problem, but is there really a demand for it? With Sport eXperience we help them to explore the market and to link them to a requesting party. You can call us a matchmaker or connector.
With Sports Tech Campus we want to combine all the knowledge and experience of these sports Start-ups and our business network. See who is doing what, that they don’t have to reinvent the wheel and that they can complement each other. Each Start-up fills in a profile and therefore has its own page on the platform. It is also interesting for investors. “Via Sports Tech Campus, they can do a competition analysis and see who is already doing what, for example in hockey. With the information from this platform, we can organise events, help to explore markets and validate ideas, focusing on where the need lies.”
What’s your biggest obstacle?
“I often want to go too fast, see opportunities everywhere, meetings where we have to go or connections that can be made. What I have to ensure is that I get people with me.”
Has there been a moment when you wanted to stop?
“There have definitely been times when I wanted to stop. If some things just don’t work out or a proposal that doesn’t go through. When I put a lot of time into it. Then I think: why am I doing this, what am I doing it for? That kind of thought. But then I come home and there is still that nice e-mail or a nice conversation. Then I sleep over it and the next day I think: oh yes, actually it’s pretty cool.”
What are you most proud of?
“We have learned a lot in recent years. That experience has brought us where we are today. It’s a lot of sowing and slowly the more fun part breaks out, the harvesting. There have been many beautiful moments. Like in March when we went to a Danish sports fair with ten Start-ups. Then I can fully enjoy it, when we present ourselves there with twenty people. You have a little plan in advance, so it’s exciting whether people will sign up and actually be there. I really enjoy it when we sit together in our apartment in the evening and drink beer. That is very informal, if that succeeds, that’s what I think is really fantastic.”
What can we expect from next year?
“We are going to turn the virtual platform Sport Tech Campus into a European platform. First in the Netherlands and this summer in Denmark. If it works there, we will expand to include Germany, France and Italy, for example. Contacts with the United States are already in place.
We also continue to help sports and innovation companies with projects, in the Netherlands and abroad. For example, in Urban Sports, for which we have just applied for a subsidy together with a German company. And I’m involved in a company that has developed the most innovative skateboard, biodegradable, even firmer, even lighter.”
Where do you think you’ll be in five years?
“If we tackle the Sport Tech Campus properly, it will become a global platform in which all sports and innovation companies can find their place. We’ll fly all over the world. To tell about the Sport Tech Campus. Or as a member of the jury at a sports innovation event, for example, or just visiting companies and sparring with them. My ultimate personal ambition is to become an angel investor in the sports and innovation corner. Sport eXperience will continue to exist, we will continue to build bridges to other sectors such as healthcare and we will tackle new social challenges such as preventing obesity in children and combating loneliness of the elderly.”
For your information:
Founders: Victor Beerkens and Arno Hermans
Founded in: 2015
Financial information: Sport eXperience is self-financing and is paid per project, Start-ups that create a profile on Sports Tech Campus pay monthly € 12.50. Members exchange information via the platform, can be found and can participate in the events free of charge. Hermans hopes to expand the number of paying participants in Europe to about two thousand members.
The team consists of five people: Victor Beerkens (co-founder, internal organisation and international business developer), Aswin Steenhof (sales manager, “with a network in the sport”), Johan de Rooij (financial manager “is finance finance finance”), Bart Rovers (facility operations and “has a network in the fitness industry”) and Arno Hermans (founder, face out, comes up with new ideas). And many others with whom Sport eXperience has regular contact, such as in Denmark.
What is your ultimate goal?
“I want Sport eXperience and the Sport Tech Campus to become the sports and innovation platform of the world. To be that connecting link, worldwide. With a lot of people of course, I can’t do that alone.”