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VOL. 132 | NO. 226 | Tuesday, November 14, 2017


Michael Graber

How Betting On the 76ers Paid Off

Michael Graber

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A talk by Rhyan Truett, director of Innovation Lab operations, Philadelphia 76ers. Rhyan Truett is the director of operations at the Sixers Innovation Lab crafted by Kimball. The Sixers Innovation Lab supports rapidly growing, early-stage companies in the consumer product space and provides speed and flexibility; individualized, industry-leading consulting; and investment opportunities to startups with potential.
Alongside managing director Seth Berger, Rhyan manages the day-to-day operations of the Innovation Lab, currently supporting four companies in the esports, digital media, pet care and daily fantasy sports industries.

There is a growing trend in major league sports in which many teams are launching their own incubators, partnering with startups, and using innovation methods to launch and scale the growth of these companies. These captive VC companies serve as guided incubators for the startups. In the end, the sports team owns a percentage of the companies, so they are betting on diversifying their streams of revenue. This model of growth is now adopted by four major league teams and more are rumored to be exploring it.

The 76ers Innovation Lab invests in consumer-based companies. They have a broad portfolio without a timeline for their companies to leave the accelerator. As such, they are able to leverage all of the experts within the whole sports enterprise. They also offer free food and housing, and legal services for their startups.

Dylan Elder, the leader of a 76ers Innovation Lab company, started indulging his passion for fantasy sports when 10 years old. At 20, he took a leave of absence from Georgetown University to partner with the Philadelphia 76ers and pioneer the development of Monster Roster into a leader in the daily fantasy sports industry.

Monster Roster is a fantasy sports roster creator. When “we found the lab,” Dylan says, “I had no idea how to run a business. Those are the main things the lab has helped me with, as well as creating a scalable product.”

After looking at the competitive landscape, Dylan saw a need that fantasy sports had: the ability to generate lineups with a powerful algorithm.

“The lab helps me think through things differently,” Dylan says. “I’m constantly challenged to consider how to scale the business while leveraging what we have built.”

Users build their own lineup based on intelligent recommendations, making it “quick, easy and simple,” and not allowing for “bad decisions.” Through the app, the teams from Monster Roster “perform 40 percent better” than unaided.

The lab has three other companies in addition to Dylan’s. The “community it has created” has been the biggest unforeseen benefit.

“It helps to solve problems and brainstorm.”

Michael Graber, managing partner of the Southern Growth Studio, can be reached at southerngrowthstudio.com.

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