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Comcast NBCUniversal picks 10 sports and esports startups for SportsTech Accelerator




Comcast NBCUniversal today announced it has picked 10 sports tech and esports startups for the first annual Comcast NBCUniversal SportsTech Accelerator.

Comcast NBCUniversal is investing $50,000 in each startup and training them for 12 weeks, in partnership with Boomtown Accelerators. Two of the winners are esports companies.

It chose the winners from over 1,000 applicants in 70 countries. The companies will work with Comcast NBCUniversal and the SportsTech partner consortium, which includes NBC Sports, Sky Sports, Golf, NASCAR, U.S. Ski and Snowboard, USA Cycling, USA Swimming, and Comcast Ventures.

“Esports is really something that is important for us as a company to get ahead of,” said Jenna Kurath, the vice president of startup partner development and head of sports tech at Comcast NBCUniversal, in an interview with GamesBeat. “I think it is only a matter of time before, if it hasn’t already happened … esports eclipses traditional sports in terms of youth participation. They have all the advantages of being digital-first and learning from traditional sports. It’s probably a matter of not ‘if’ but ‘when’ esports becomes its own Olympic sport.”

Startups were selected based on their technology solutions focused on the accelerator’s eight target areas: media and entertainment, fan/player engagement, athlete/player performance, team and coach success, venue and event innovation, fantasy sports and betting, esports, and the business of sports.

Comcast NBCUniversal

Above: Comcast NBCUniversal SportsTech has 10 startups in its first accelerator class.

Image Credit: Comcast NBCUniversal

The 2021 program kicks off today but will be held virtually, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The founders will participate in this accelerator from cities across the globe, including Atlanta, New York, Los Angeles, Toronto, and Geneva.

“We launched a year ago on January 14. And then we found ourselves two months later with sports on pause,” Kurath said. “We used to think that sports was recession-proof. But nothing is COVID-proof. But it really gave us an opportunity to lean in even more. It didn’t change our vision at all, which was really about investing in and developing the next great sports technologies.”

Comcast NBCUniversal also brought more brands into the partnership so that it could expose the startups to partnership opportunities with everything from the Olympics to NASCAR. Kurath positions the startups as being at the intersection of media, technology, and sports — not to mention gaming, with the esports connection.

For esports pitches, Kurath said, “We had two months before sports went on pause. So we saw a lot of applications come in that were really about live sports happening in live venues and events. A lot of those startups have had to kind of look at their business and pivot. How do you not only survive, but thrive during COVID, but then make sure you have a COVID-resistant business on the other side of it? That’s what’s been so interesting. At first, we had some concern about the pause in sports. It did not change the number of applicants coming in. If anything, it’s just a reminder of the grit, resiliency, the ability to pivot that the great entrepreneurs out there do.”

Focus on Sharper Sense

Above: Sharper Sense is using electrical stimulation to enhance performance.

Image Credit: Sharper Sense

I spoke with Charles Rodenkirch, president of Sharper Sense, one of the 10 companies named for the accelerator. The startup spun out of Columbia University, where Rodenkirch got his doctorate, to develop neuromodulation. It’s developing a noninvasive stimulation patch that  enhances the brain’s ability to accurately process sensory information received from the eyes, ears, and skin, Rodenkirch said.

For everyone from athletes to those with learning disabilities, impaired sensory processing decreases sensory acuity and reduces the ability to understand spoken words and written words, but it also interferes with performance at work, during recreation, and in sports, he said.

“There are clinical causes of impaired sensory processing, like sensory processing disorders … that long-term we can treat,” Rodenkirch said. “But even healthy individuals will have temporarily impaired senses from things like inattention or fatigue. So when you think about athletes at the end of a long race, [it’s about] making sure that they’re not having these types of misperceptions. I’m sure everyone’s familiar with standing in front of a cupboard looking for some sort of ingredient for all your cooking and then noticing that it’s been in front of your face for the whole last minute. So this is kind of a moment where you’re having this type of impaired sensory processing. For athletes, these types of moments are really strongly linked with errors. Things like, ‘I didn’t see that defender out there,’ or the ‘steering wheel didn’t feel right.’ We really think we can help improve both safety and performance.”

Rodenkirch said he was aware of pseudoscience hucksters out there who have been selling devices that reportedly help you with your physical and mental acuity. But he said his company will have research to back it up.

The company has completed its preclinical research, which has produced a proof of concept showing that the company’s tech could reduce error rates on sensory testing tasks and games. Next, Sharper Sense will spin up clinical studies for a patch that could send electrical signals into an athlete’s body to improve things like awareness and reaction time. The tech might be useful for gamers and esports players as well.

“We really think of ourselves as this new generation of neuromodulation technology that’s built out of true science,” Rodenkirch said.

NASCAR chief innovation officer Craig Neeb said in an interview that his group is watching i-racing and traditional racing converge through esports broadcasts. Racing simulators are getting much more accurate, and he said it has become fun to watch real pro drivers compete in the simulators during the pandemic. That also gave a boost to i-racing esports.

“Having something from Sharper Sense for either drivers to train or actually compete, where there’s lots of money on the line — and this can be a really excellent tool to help those just get that little subtle edge,” Neeb said. “A 10th of a second, 100 millisecond can make a difference, right?”

Accelerator details

The accelerator curriculum has workshops on fundraising, sales, marketing and branding, product/market fit, mental health, company culture, and working with corporations. The startup founders will meet seasoned founders who will share their insights on building and selling highly successful businesses. In the future, each company will have the opportunity to work at Comcast NBCUniversal’s Central Division Innovation Center in Atlanta at Truist Park, which overlooks the Atlanta Braves stadium.

Kurath will lead the startup teams as they work with mentors and business units throughout the program and beyond, and as they seek deals or proofs of concepts with Comcast, NBCUniversal, and Sky brands. At the conclusion of the program, the companies will participate in a virtual Demo Day on May 26 and present their businesses before some of the world’s leading venture capitalists, startup founders, business executives, and media.

The winners:

  • Ane Swim, a William Pleshette Company, in Atlanta, Georgia. The company designs advanced swimming apparel for diverse swimmers and aims to eliminate the barriers that keep people from enjoying the water. The flagship product, Ane Swim, provides hair protection and the ability to keep hair completely dry so swimmers can enjoy being in the water.
  • Dibz in Toronto, Canada. For event venues that have unsold seats, Dibz provides a text messaging solution for guests to instantly upgrade their seats.
  • Eon Media in Toronto, Canada. Eon Media makes a full-featured suite of next-generation video-streaming software with 60-70% cost savings and zero code change that can bring customers targeted, user-personalized experiences via advanced AI/machine-learning methods.
  • GlobalM in Geneva, Switzerland. GlobalM provides professional streaming solutions in broadcast quality to media outlets and broadcasters featuring an advanced secure video streaming network to meet the requirements for high-quality, low-latency live or file-based video delivery over the internet.
  • Nvenue in Dallas, Texas. Real-time predictive analytics designed for fan engagement, nVenue’s AI/ML software delivers powerful play-by-play predictive insights to fans before each play.
  • Safety Skin in Cleveland, Ohio. Safety Skin develops and sells reflective skin and body care products to help cyclists, runners, and others prevent accidents and improve roadside safety.
  • Sharper Sense in New York, New York. Sharper Sense develops a neural interface that enhances athletes’ perceptual ability, leading to improved awareness and reaction times during training and competition.
  • The Sonar Company in San Antonio, Texas. The Sonar Company uses proprietary ultrasonic tone technology to transmit and receive data, interactions, beacons, and messages between devices in locations where traditional wireless communications are impossible or impractical.
  • StreamRecap in Los Angeles, California. StreamRecap builds video solutions for teams, leagues, and streamers across all esports, with a focus on instant automatic highlights and coaching tools. It has a connection with Riot Games’ League of Legends tournaments, with a focus on high school- and college-level competitions. It could also expand to coaching tools as part of a suite for esports teams.
  • XiQ in Atlanta, Georgia. XiQ develops smart devices that replace the conventional key ignition on most non-automotive vehicles, including golf carts and construction vehicles. The devices enable security, fleet IoT, and mobility sharing solutions to alleviate the transportation challenges facing many communities today.


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Sumail’s absence; A gap year or fall from grace?




Dota 2 Cristy “Pandoradota2” Ramadani

Is Syed Sumail “Suma1L” Hassan’s absence from the DPC 2021 season a cause for concern for fans or just a gap year for the undisputed NA alpha player?

He was named as one of the 30 most influential teens of 2016 by Charisma, swagger, talent, and a long list of accolades he has it all. Syed Sumail “Suma1L” Hassan should be considered Dota 2 ‘s most eligible and desirable bachelor core players. 

Known for his Storm Spirit and aggressive Aegis steal attempts, for years SumaiL has continued to demonstrate his exceptional raw talent, instinct and focus. He is explosive, fearless, and a terrifying opponent.  He is short-listed as one of the best NA players of all time, and perhaps even from around the world. 

But in 2021 this King has gone from red carpet rollouts to all but vanishing from the radar. 

He’s been spending his time dinking around other games and still stomping around the NA pubs —a far cry from the arduous grind and commitment that propelled his ascension to the top. 

How is it possible that he is still not competing in the DPC? How and when did things go terribly awry? How did a once illustrious career fade into the shadows?

Suma1L and the Evil Geniuses Era

Image courtesy of ESL

According to his TI5 player profile, at an age when most children are playing hopscotch and learning how to read and write, SumaiL was already toying with dreams of a competitive gaming career. In Pakistan, where he lived for almost his entire life, gaming resources were not as readily available. He didn’t have his own computer so, in order to be able to go to the Internet Café and play, SumaiL, his cousin and other friends would often pile up on a small motorbike built for only one person. He even had to sell his bicycle once, to keep his dream alive.

I lived in Pakistan for 15 years. Growing up, I wanted to play so bad that I sold my bike just to be able to play for more hours.

SumaiL took his career very seriously. He practiced for at least nine hours a day and is grateful to his father, who has worked very hard to get him and his family over to the United States.

He joined EG in 2015 as a 15-year-old who had started to gain recognition in NEL, the North American Elite League. The addition seemed rather unconventional but would soon prove to be spectacular as the young player grew into one of the most legendary and famed core players in the world, winning TI5 at just 16 years old.

Hassan had become the youngest champion in the history of The International, earning the highest paycheck ever awarded to a Dota 2 player, $1.3 million. The International 5 total prize pool reached a total of over $18,300,000 and The International 5 champions, Evil Geniuses, walked away with over $6.6 million.

For five years he grew in more ways than one to become NA’s ‘King’ — rising in fame and collecting many trophies and accomplishments.

In the post-TI9 shuffle, he left EG on rocky terms and that’s where his career begins to sputter and stall.

Suma1L Post Evil Geniuses Era

After TI9 Suma1L moved to the inactive status for three months before heading to Quincy Crew to play alongside his brother Yawar “YawaR” Hassan.

Only a few hours after qualifying for the first minor of the season, QCY Manager Jack Chen announced that Suma1L had left the roster amid what seemed to be contractual and legal issues, and had been teamless for another three months once again.

It was at the start of the new year that new hope was on the horizon as the young NA player had announced he would be joining the OG lineup for the rest of the season. Fans were overjoyed.  The ‘King’ was now able to compete at the highest levels of Dota 2 once again and he, himself, has said –

“I am just very excited. The most I have been in my entire life.”

It seemed like the perfect dream team to head into TI10 with, but it never really came to fruition. It was barely two months later that the Coronavirus shook the world including esports and all LAN events and most top-tier competition came to a halt.

With players scattered over the world, the organization – like many others, was forced to field temporary and alternate lineups for the regional online events that followed. Even once able to play together as a team, players like Sumail were playing with high ping or odd hours. 

Sumail told GosuGamers before Bounty Blast 

Personally, for me, I’ve been playing on a really weird schedule for two months so I’m a bit exhausted. I’m taking a few days off and then after that we’re going to be scrimming a lot and hopefully we’ll get our form back by the time the event comes around. 

He even mentioned that he was considering moving to Europe for this – to move to Portugal with N0Tail.

But those plans were thwarted when six months into his tenure, OG announced yet again some changes to their roster, parting ways with the king himself in July 2020. 

Becoming a part of the star-studded roster of Just Error was short-lived, it was over before the DPC season even started,  and he never did seem to find a home for the first or second season of DPC 2021.

There are no open qualifiers for TI10. There are no unexpected cinderella stories for those looking to emulate OG in their TI8 run. Now unless he joins up with a team as a replacement for another player, there is little to no hope to see SumaiL competing at TI10. 


Will we see SumaiL make a return in time for TI10?

Yes, of course!
Thank you for voting!

Nope, it is over for him
Thank you for voting!

Cristy “Pandoradota2” Ramadani

Pandora is a behind the scenes Dota 2 professional Jack of All Trades. When not busy with Dota 2 work, she is out trying to save the world or baking cupcakes. Follow her on Twitter @pandoradota2

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Fortnite: Epic Vaults Rocket Launchers, Cuddlefish & Explosive Bows From Competitive




Epic drops a bombshell of changes ahead of FNCS Chapter 2 – Season 6.

Epic Games has announced the removal of three controversial items from Fortnite’s competitive loot pool today. The Rocket Launcher, Cuddlefish and Mechanical Explosive Bow are no more. While no explanation followed the announcement, Fortnite’s competitive scene will welcome this change with open arms. This loot pool adjustment follows Epic’s removal of the Shockwave Bow last month. As the competitive possibilities narrow, players are actively preparing for this season’s Fortnite Champion Series (FNCS).

Also Read: DreamHack Postpones Open Duos Tournament for “Integrity Concerns”

A Welcomed Change in Competitive Fortnite

Cuddlefish, Rocket Launchers and Explosive Bows each have their respective issues in Fortnite, mainly from a tournament standpoint. Many players earlier this season discovered the true power of Cuddlefish, which could be strung together and eliminate opponents through fully built structures. They also made our list of five changes that would make Season 6 more competitive.

Rocket Launchers have been a topic of controversy since the dawning of competitive Fortnite. Their removal is a significant and welcomed change in Season 6 that balances out the landscape even more. Like Rocket Launchers, players could abuse and spam Explosive Bows, albeit for far less damage. Nonetheless, it’s refreshing to see Epic making such critical adjustments before the FNCS commences next weekend.

Also Read: DreamHack Cash Cup Extra Europe & NA East Results

The developer’s recent Primal Shotgun nerf and general weapon balance changes show that they are taking the competitive scene more seriously. If this trend continues, Season 6 tournaments will be top-notch.

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Overwatch League 2021 Day 1 Recap




After many months of waiting in the Overwatch League offseason, esports is back and Day 1 of 2021 OWL saw big winners in today’s teams.

OWL Day 1

Today’s games started with a showdown between the two Texas-based teams. Houston Outlaws and Dallas Fuel played each other in a heated five-map series. Houston took the first map on Busan but from there, it was a back and forth. Jung-woo “Happy” Lee, the DPS for Houston Outlaws, saw a particularly good game with huge multikills on his McCree. In the end, the Outlaws defeated the Fuel in a close 3-2 match for Day 1 of 2021 OWL.

Following that, back-to-back Overwatch League Champions San Francisco Shock played the Los Angeles Gladiators. Although this matchup was not as volatile as the first, it was still just as exciting. Most notably, Minki “Viol2t” Park, one of powerhouse players for San Francisco, swapped roles. Normally playing flex support, he flexed to DPS today and made big plays with it. Despite hard work from Indy “SPACE” Halpern, the Gladiators couldn’t keep pace. Day 1 for the 2021 Overwatch League wrapped up with the Shock coming out on top 3-1.

Overwatch League 2021

In a four-month-long regular esports season, the 2021 Overwatch League sees many teams change up their 2020 performances. Teams like Washington Justice and Hangzhou Spark made massive changes in their rosters and facilities to make comebacks.

Overwatch esports will see lots of excitement this year as star players look to flex their roles. OWL 2021 Day 1 is over now but the action resumes tomorrow as the Guangzhou Charge face the Shanghai Dragons. Because tomorrow’s games are in the Eastern Conference, they start at 2 AM PST on April 17.

Written by Justin Amin

If you’re interested in seeing more of Esportz Network, follow our social media at Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. We have daily podcasts at the Esports Minute and weekly interviews at the Esportz Network Podcast. Anyone can also join our community on Discord and chat about your favorite games, esports, and more!

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C9 White Keiti Blackmail Scandal Explains Sudden Dismissal




Dustin Steiner
in Valorant | Apr, 16th 2021

Something struck fans as odd about the situation surrounding the dismissal of Kaitlin “Keiti” Boop, a rising female Valorant player that joined up with C9 White in the run-up to Riot’s Game Changers event. She was part of a six-woman roster that competed in the event. Keiti was also a part of the roster for the VCT Stage 2 Challengers 1 Qualifiers, too. It seems that these concerns ended up being valid. While C9 did not give a reason for her dismissal at the time, a Valorant observer known as Melanie_mhs has come forward with allegations that a member of our team confirmed via a recorded discord call – that Keiti blackmailed this observer with releasing lewd photos that were obtained through a mutual friend. 

The Allegations of Keiti’s Blackmail

Strap in, because this is a wild ride. 

I thought that was extremely nice of her to do, especially because I never really knew Keiti personally, never interacted with her,” she continued. “I kept talking to her in the DMs, when it finally clicked to me. Two years ago, she was in the Siege community, and I found out she was friends with M. I started asking her about that time, because I was curious, not knowing that’s where the leaked nudes happened.

Apparently, this conversation continued, until now-former C9 ace Keiti confessed that she was the one who made the burner account used to engage in blackmail over a Discord call (which Esports Talk has independently verified.) The reason? She said that she ‘wanted to be friends with” Mel, something that likely could have been achieved through means far easier than blackmail – especially given that both of them were participating in the same scene and likely could have been introduced if they really wanted to.

The same day that night, she kept messaging me. She wanted to talk to me about something important. I joined a voice call with her when she confessed. She confessed to me that she was behind the burner account, threatening to leak my nudes,” she concluded. “Her reasoning to me didn’t seem malicious, but many of my friends told me she was trying to manipulate me. I’m not very well with reading my own emotions, I was quite honestly in shock. She threatened to leak my nudes to me, because she wanted a reason to reach out to me on her main account. She wanted to be friends with me. She’s said many things in the recording which made me almost forgive her. But, I shouldn’t have to go through the stress and frustration just because someone wants to be friends with me. She did say she would seek help. And I really hope she does.

This led to the Cloud9 situation. Melanie says that she wanted the reason for all of this to be kept quiet, but did want C9 to know that a member of their team, Keiti, was involved in the blackmail of a member of the community. This is why Cloud9 kept the situation quiet, according to her. However, it seems that the community’s support for this person scarred her greatly, but that she most of all feels guilty for the other players on Cloud9.White, who weren’t able to participate in Valorant Champion Tour qualifiers. 

The overwhelming support of the community for someone that has traumatized me greatly, still hurts me deeply,” she said. “I’ve been struggling with dark thoughts in the past, and since I’ve joined VALORANT. I haven’t had that problem in a while, except for last week. And it scared me. I didn’t want to tell my parents or my siblings again that I was suicidal. I didn’t want to be a failure to them. Seeing everyone speculating about what happened to C9W was an immensely triggering experience for me. All I feel is guilty. Guilty they’re not able to play in the VCT Quals. Guilty there’s so many disapproving eyes on them. Guilty Cloud9 got a lot of flake for something that wasn’t their fault.

Esports Talk reached out to Keiti for comment on the situation but did not receive a reply before press time. 

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