Global Sport Institute begins new social impact challenge at ASU

A new $10,000 grant helps start-up ventures while positively impacting communities

ASU is looking for innovative ways for people to make a social impact through sports. The Global Sport Institute at ASU is partnering with Venture Devils to launch a new $10,000 competition for ideas that improve communities through sports. 

The Global Sport Social Impact Challenge will reward ventures that come up with creative concepts covering the topics of health and wellness, wearables, obesity solutions for kids, concussion protocols and fan experiences at sporting events.

“The big purpose here is to get folks to think creatively and critically about issues that are going on in the world and tying them in with sports,” said Jeff Kunowski, the lead venture mentor and co-founder of ASU's Global Sport Venture Development program. "The challenge is not only open to students and faculty at ASU but any ventures world-wide."

The winner will be awarded with mentorship, co-working, seed funding to help grow their ideas and education on entrepreneurship from the Venture Devils, a program in the office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation at ASU. The different funding tracks, including the Global Sport Venture Development program, provide seed funding to help startups grow their ideas.

Additionally, the winners will travel to the Adidas headquarters in Portland, Oregon for mentoring. 

“We are offering these resources and funding to help these individuals to take what might have been an idea on a back of a napkin and/or something they thought could really make a difference based on their experiences or what they dealt with in their lives,” Kunowski said.

Last year was the first time the institute launched the Global Sport Venture Challenge, a funding for-profit track for startups that focus on sports. However, this year the group wanted to create a challenge that allows ventures that may be non-profit to make a social impact through sports. 

“It really speaks to the mission of the Global Sports Institute,” Kunowski said. “The whole purpose of this institute being formed was to draw attention and create awareness and solve issues in the world … through the lenses of sports.”

Billibars, a start-up that created detachable bicycle handlebars to streamline and ease storage, was the winner of last year's Global Sport Venture Challenge.

Entrepreneurs who want to compete in the Global Sport Social Impact Challenge must first apply to Venture Devils. The winner of the Global Sport Social Impact Challenge will be announced on Nov. 30. on Demo Day, a day-long pitch competition hosted by Venture Devils. 

Last year, Venture Devils awarded over $829,000 to 114 teams, according to Tracy Lea, the assistant director for venture development in the Entrepreneurship and Innovation unit at ASU. 

“I think that it’s really important to be able to be an inclusive program,” Lea said. “We accept our students into the program regardless of whether they’re just starting an idea.”

Mentorship is one of the Venture Devils’ main pillars because it is key to getting their idea to market. There is a pool of about 50 mentors who come from different industries and levels of expertise, many of which have started their own businesses. 

“A lot of times people have great ideas, but they don’t necessarily have the resources and know how to implement those ideas, so (we give) people the combination of business resources to put together an idea and make it operational," Karina Bohn, chief operating officer of Global Sports Institute, said. 

The Venture Devils look at mentors’ industry experience and other additional skill sets that can help their ventures. Mentors are assigned based on what the venture needs to succeed. Throughout time, ventures can be assigned more than one mentor depending on what they need.

“The key really is to connect the appropriate resources to ventures on ideas that can have a phenomenal impact not only in our community, but across the globe,” Lea said. 

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