Nascar Partners With Comcast NBCUniversal SportsTech Accelerator To Streamline Logistics
Nascar is finding new ways to include startup businesses as part of the preparation for the Next Gen car and business model, which is set to take the green flag in 2022.
As part of the Next Gen, Nascar recently teamed up with Comcast NBCUniversal for the first-ever SportsTech Accelerator, powered by Boomtown Accelerators.
Comcast NBCUniversal, a longtime Nascar partner, introduced the sanctioning body to a startup that can streamline at-track logistics in a brand new way. XiQ, a Georgia-based startup, is starting to work with Nascar to protect golf carts from being stolen at racetracks across the country.
“It was obvious to work with Nascar because they’re on the cutting edge of truly leading in innovation,” Jenna Kurath, Comcast NBCUniversal vice president of startup partner development and the head of SportsTech, said. “2020 was a great example of being one of the first to come back safely in sports, pivoting to iRacing in the meantime and bringing on new fans.
“If you look at us as a company, our connection to sports runs deep. This is a unique way for us to stay in the forefront of shaping the future of sports.”
Nascar will be using XiQ to replace the conventional key ignition on golf carts that the sanctioning body uses at tracks. XiQ’s technology can control golf carts via a mobile application, enabling Nascar to lock and unlock a vehicle when needed without having to worry about other issues that might arise.
Craig Neeb, chief innovation officer of Nascar, believes this is the perfect way to strengthen Nascar’s partnership with Comcast NBCUniversal, while also helping a startup grow its platform.
“We’re busy day-to-day and looking at our future strategies, and to have this amazing ability to reach into a pipeline of creativity and folks who are thinking about the future with their resources and talent is incredible,” Neeb said of the accelerator.
While the issue of hijacking golf carts at tracks might not be one that occurs frequently, XiQ will help Nascar in the long term as part of an overall industry strategy to modernize the way things are done on race weekends.
“I’m so excited that I want to jump around,” XiQ co-founder and CEO Karlos Walkes said. “We understand we have a responsibility on two levels. First, we’re bringing a quality, American-made product and technology to the table that satisfies their needs.
“More importantly, we’re in a position to earn the trust of everyone in the cohort and Nascar especially. We’re prepared to do that and we aim to be a true partner with Nascar. It’s rooted in trust and let Nascar know they can rely on us.”
The SportsTech Accelerator program began with more than 1,000 applications from startups across the country. At the end of the process, only 10 companies were chosen for the three-month curriculum.
Neeb began mentoring Walkes before the program officially kicked off on Feb. 22. Karuth strategically set up each of the startups with sports leagues that could help them take off, and she also recruited external experts to help these small businesses grow exponentially.
“This accelerator moves us from point A to point Z,” Walkes said. “With the rapid growth based on the reputation of these two organizations, we realize we have a responsibility.”
The responsibility could extend into a long-term partnership, too. If all goes well, Nascar is on board with giving XiQ more opportunities.
Neeb said that as Nascar moves forward and embraces change more than ever, industry insiders should expect more technological advancements. And since the pandemic began and Nascar has expressed a willingness to adapt, Neeb’s phone hasn’t stopped ringing.
“The pandemic caused us to think differently and be aggressive, and that’s not going to stop,” Neeb said. “Innovation opportunities that come through the accelerator program will continue to let us sample new things. We’re going to let people know this is a sport that wants to grow, be inclusive and have fans for life.”
Nascar will not stop there. Neeb and his team want to explore all types of startups, especially ones that can enhance the fan experience in the future.
Neeb said, “From the fanbase, broadcasters and competitors themselves, we’re thinking really creatively about how we augment that car with technology to make it exciting in 2022.”