At a game on Tuesday night, the Sacramento Kings held the National Basketball League’s first ever pitch competition. Four local companies (narrowed down from 32 semi-finalists and about 100 applicants) pitched to the entire stadium, which voted on Twitter for the winner.
QuickLegal, an on-demand legal advice service, won the competition and took home a $10,000 cash prize. But perhaps more notable is that Kings chairman and tech entrepreneur Vivek Ranadive will invest $5,000 in each of the four finalists.
While the companies won’t gain much from the small $5,000 investment, having Ranadive on their cap table is probably a good consolation prize.
When I spoke to Ranadive about hosting the NBA’s first venture competition, he was enthusiastic about the fact that this is just the start to more outreach between the team, the NBA and the startup community.
One interesting aspect of the pitch-off is that the contest accepted startups from all industries. This is a different approach from pitch contests and accelerators run by other leagues, which tend to only solicit companies working in the sports entertainment and media space. Some examples are the Dodgers Accelerator and the 1st and Future pitch contest held by the NFL, Stanford and TechCrunch.
So why would the King’s contest specifically omit a focus on the intersection between technology and professional sports?
Ranadive explained that the Kings’ mission statement includes “enhancing lives, reaching the lives of those it touches, and [making] the world a better place.” Essentially, the only way to hold a venture competition that supports the team’s goal of making the world a better place is to solicit companies that share the same goal, regardless of which industry they focus on.