After 2 and a half months of training and meetings, the Costa Rican startup ‘The Sonar Company’ closed its participation in the first edition of the SportsTech business accelerator with a flourish. This was sponsored by the American media giant Comcast.
The corporation – owner of studios like Universal or channels like NBC – announced that the Costa Rican company closed an investment round of US $ 1 million. Interest in its novel technology even caught the attention of legendary NBA coach and former NBA player Doc Rivers, who invested an undisclosed sum.
The news was confirmed by the company’s co-founder, Allan Matarrita, who added that they also reached agreements to continue the tests with a couple of professional teams. However, he stressed that the most exciting thing is the potential for escalation, thanks to the exposure achieved.
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Now his invention, which activates mobile device applications thanks to the emission of ultrasonic tones and without the need for the Internet, will be adapted to meet the needs of its new partners, among which Comcast itself stands out.
“We are adapting the system, practically, that it is only for broadcast (transmission). There are certain requirements on television that require our attention. The idea is that our signal can be used as a replacement for QR codes, which some television companies are using at the moment. It is perfectly possible, we have already verified it. It is a great challenge on television, because there are many threads in the middle, because something can go wrong and it is not always on our side. So we believe that the reward is huge, Comcast knows it and that is why it has already invested in us”, explained Matarrita.
In this way, both viewers and fans in events with less Internet infrastructure can enjoy various experiences through their phone and in real time. Its commercial potential is even greater when considering that, through this technology, the user could receive information about the sports shoes of a specific player, as well as the links to purchase them online.
Precisely, at the end of February, Matarrita spoke with this medium to explain that the fact of having received the invitation to participate in the program was already a victory. In fact, this is the first edition of SportsTech.
While it is not the first time The Sonar Company has participated in an event of this type, it is the most important on its resume. In addition to this, Matarrita had to overcome an additional obstacle: take care of the final presentation.
This after the team decided that the “million dollar pitch” should be in charge of one of the co-founders. “I have a lot of experience pitching here in Costa Rica and in the United States. However, my partner Nick was the one who had assumed that role. So he was very interesting because of the language issue”, he explained.
Precisely, the call for the business accelerator was announced in May 2020. However, shortly after the other founder, Nick Heyward and who is also from a Canadian family, died in an accident.
Nicholas Heyward practiced in the world of video games for more than 14 years. He met Matarrita in a training program at the Costa Rican business incubator Parque Tec. “He noticed that we could exploit technology with gaming platforms,” Matarrita said in 2019.
Although Matarrita considers that he has a good command of English, he acknowledges that the vast majority were self-taught. In addition to this, he adds that making a business presentation in the native language is already complicated, it is more so in a second language.
However, he took advantage of the trainings offered by Comcast, practiced with his team and even took private lessons so as not to leave any details out. The result speaks for itself. “We screwed up a lot, we made a lot of efforts. We worked a lot on the subject of the script, the corporal and facial expressions. It’s a $ 1 million pitch, ”he agreed.
This effort was not in vain. In addition to achieving the goal of raising the millionaire sum, the presentation of the Costa Rican enterprise was highlighted by the organization as one of the best. It should be noted that in them, the person has around 3 minutes to “make the sale.”
Doc Rivers and its investment
Due to the pandemic, the entire process was virtual. While some might surmise this to be an advantage, it rather allowed thousands of people to connect to the event to watch the 10 performances.
Among them, a significant number of companies and investors ready to support disruptive projects. It was there that the name of current Philadelphia 76ers coach, Doc Rivers, stood out.
Indeed, one of the stadiums in which Sonar technology was tested was the Wells Fargo Center. The gym is home to the Rivers-led team, as well as the NHL’s Hockey team, the Flyers. In fact, the latter are 1 of the 2 teams mentioned by Matarrita as short-term test partners. Additionally, the San Antonio Spurs will also implement a pilot plan.
The history with that squad is not new. In 2019, Matarrita told this medium that the company was testing its technology in partnership with the owners of the Alamodome Stadium. It is one of the most famous in the United States and it has a capacity for 64,000 spectators. It was even the home of the San Antonio Spurs until 2002.
In addition to achieving the fundraising goal, the company also managed to attract human talent. Following the incubator, stadium technology expert Danny Abelson will join the team as director of operations.
How does the invention work?
“This technology works by acoustics and by our ability to adequately compress sound in different environments”, said Matarrita.
By means of ultrasonic tones, emitted through the stadium’s speakers, users can use applications without the need for the Internet. This responds to the problem of signal loss, in massive events, a situation that is not alien to other countries.
Even those with more advanced telecommunication technologies or with more infrastructure. This technology is known as “data over audio” (DOA).