From Fast To Sustainable Growth Via Sports

By Adam Grossman

Frisco, Texas was the second fastest growing city in the United States in 2016. Over the past 20 years, the city has grown from 5,000 people in 1987 to over 163,000 in 2016. The rapid growth is in part due to large sports venue investments made via public / private partnerships the city has made with the Dallas Cowboys, Dallas Stars, FC Dallas and the Frisco RoughRiders (minor league baseball team) that make up the city’s $5 billion mile.

However, Frisco appears to be shifting to a different type of investment when it comes to sports. Last week, Stadia Ventures brought its most recent cohort from its accelerator programs to explore the opportunities available for sports startups in Frisco. Hosted by LaunchPad City, which works with startups and has been in talks to bring a branch of Stadia Ventures to town, new companies from across the country were able to build relationships with leading sports executives throughout Frisco.

Building innovation hubs is not novel practice for cities or states looking to attract new businesses and top talent. San Francisco, Boston, New York City, and Chicago are among the many cities that have made significant investments in building the infrastructure for startups to thrive. In addition, many cities, states, and countries have made similar public / private investments in building facilities that Frisco has, often achieving less success, as we note in our book The Sports Strategist: Developing leaders for a High-Performance Industry.

What is particularly interesting about this approach is that Frisco is making an investment in ways that will continue differentiate the city from other municipalities. Rather than focusing on just innovation, Frisco can narrow its focus to become the sports entrepreneurship capital. Given that sports is a $57+ billion year industry, there are a number of young companies entering the space and looking for homes for their businesses. It is one reason that Blue Star Sports, a leading provider of sports management software and payment solutions, which is in part financed by the Cowboys, has acquired 12+ companies and has already moved some of them to Frisco.

In addition, Frisco can better monetize its own sports investments. One of the criticisms of public / private ventures involving sports is that they do not provide a significant enough ROI to the public. In particular, they do not directly provide new job growth politicians and citizens expected when the investments are made. Frisco may not have these problems to this extent or at all. Having a sports innovation hub means that teams in area have access to the exact type of innovative startups that will facilitate their own growth nearby. The startups have access to new clients that can provide the foundation for their growth, which will ultimately enable them to hire more people from the Frisco area. This ecosystem likely provides the best opportunity for the city to maximize its ROI from sports investments.

Frisco still has a long way to go to become the center of sports entrepreneurship. Hosting Stadia Ventures as the first step to building on its sports public / private partnerships puts Frisco in a good position to continue to be one of America’s fastest growing cities.