Announcing 1st And Future, A Startup Competition From TechCrunch, The NFL And Stanford

In little more than three months, the NFL’s historic 50th Super Bowl is coming to Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California.

Just when we were in the depths of planning our dip-to-chip ratio for our viewing party, the NFL came to us with an idea: A sports-themed pitch-off competition just before the big game named 1st and Future.

The concept is simple. The NFL wants to see promising startups and technology that would advance the game and its facilities. TechCrunch is bringing our Startup Battlefield experience to recruit and train contestants, as well as run the competition. The audience will be NFL team owners and executives, in addition to invitees of Stanford and TechCrunch, and we’ll stream the entire event so everyone can follow along. Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business stepped in to contribute their extensive academic expertise on the startup scene, and to give the pitch-off a suitable setting.

Given that this was certainly one of the better offers we had for Saturday morning February 6, the day before the Super Bowl, we’re happy to announce 1st and Future, engineered by TechCrunch, the NFL and the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

This is our first call for any and all startups interested in participating in the pitch off. Here’s what you need to know:

What are the competition themes?

The Future Stadium — The winner will be chosen based on the judges’ assessment of which startup’s product is most likely to be implemented and have the biggest impact on the experience of attendees at live, stadium sports events.

Bringing Home The Game — The winner will be chosen based on the judges’ assessment of which startup’s product is likely to see wide consumer adoption and alter in some fundamental way the enjoyment of live sports broadcasts in the home.

Tomorrow’s Athlete — The winner will be chosen based on the judges’ assessment of which startup’s product will have be most widely adopted and have biggest impact on athletes safety during practice and games, as well as improving their performance and training.

Startups must fit into one of these three categories to participate.

Some Q&A

How many startups will pitch per theme?

We are looking for four companies to compete in each category.

What are the requirements to qualify to participate?

Apart from clear relevance to one of the three themes, qualifying startups should:

  • Be early-stage companies, having raised an A-round or less
  • Have a fully working product/beta, reasonably close to or in production
  • Have limited press or publicity to date
  • No known intellectual property issues.  

What do the winners receive?

Apart from pitching in front of NFL team owners and executives, the winner of each theme will receive a $50,000 check from the NFL Strategic Investment Fund and an invitation to meet with top NFL executives. Air and travel expenses for two members from each winning team are included.

Oh, one other thing: Each winning team wins two tickets to the Super Bowl. Yep.

Are costs to attend the pitch-off covered?

Yes, airfare and hotel for two people per startup are covered by the NFL.

Who picks the startups that will compete?

The TechCrunch editors who run the TechCrunch Startup Battlefield competition will choose the finalists from the application pool.

Who will judge the pitch-offs?

TechCrunch will select four judges for each theme. They will be noted entrepreneurs, investors and qualified people with relevant experience who are familiar with the theme. A TechCrunch editor will moderate the judging, and cast the tie-breaker ballot, if needed.

What is the pitch-off format?

Each company will have five minutes to present. The judges will have five minutes to ask questions. Live demos are strongly encouraged.

When is the application deadline?

December 9.

When will you notify the finalists?

December 30.

Will TechCrunch’s team help prepare startups for the pitch-off?

Yes, in person training and rehearsal sessions will be required, as will in-person rehearsal at Stanford’s CEMEX auditorium on February 5.

What else do I need to know?

The pitch-off is from 9 a.m. until noon on February 6. There will be a reception at the end of the pitch-off, where each company will have room to exhibit and talk 1:1 with pitch-off attendees.

If you would like to apply — please click here.

Questions? Get in touch at