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UEFA Start-Up Challenge off to a successful debut

Seven young companies gathered in Lausanne last week in order to kick off their projects within the UEFA Start-Up Challenge, which is conducted by UEFA in partnership with ThinkSport. The exclusive 12-week accelerator programme has been designed for early- and growth-stage start-ups with ambitions to impact football positively.  The participating start-ups were carefully selected last month during a keenly contested pitch day. In the coming weeks, they will be on a mission to address and try to solve some of UEFA’s current business needs. 

The UEFA Start-up Challenge forms part of the new UEFA Innovation Hub, aimed at helping UEFA in better catching trends and staying ahead of the game, both on and off the pitch.

The kick-off week brought together the start-ups and their mentors at UEFA in order to define together the scope of their projects and the deliverables. In addition, the young entrepreneurs received coaching from external experts of renown academic institutions in the region (CIES, EPFL, HEIG-VD, IMD and SmartMove) as well as the local business sector (Innosuisse, Mercuri Urval, Nespresso, PVLSE and UP Green). They were trained on topics of general relevance for start-ups, including leadership and organisational skills, team work, working under pressure, as well as on more specific themes such as computer vision and artificial intelligence. The seven start-ups also visited the UEFA headquarters in Nyon and tested their football skills during a friendly match against the UEFA team. 

Many of the participants were positively surprised by how much they benefitted from each other by exchanging their experiences and new ideas face-to-face. Anna Hellman, director of ThinkSport said:

“It was very well received that we brought together the start-ups in the same place and gave them the opportunity to learn from each other alongside the official programme. We saw many lively exchanges with some light bulb moments and it seems everybody is already looking forward to the next gathering.”

Thomas de Pariente,director of strategy at My Coach Sport, a start-up specialised in conceivingand developing digital tools to ease and improve sports practices of organisations and athletes, said after the kick-off week:

“This first week was the opportunity to get to know each other and appreciate the great diversity of our activities. Indeed, we all come from different countries and propose different services. We have understood that we are now part of UEFA’s global reflection and that each of us will provide a specific skill to serve football’s evolution. For My Coach Sport, this is a great opportunity to broaden our horizon and create synergies with UEFA, as well as with other start-ups.” 

All seven start-ups will now work on their projects and gather again for a week in Lausanne in mid-April. The final projects are scheduled to be presented mid-June.