It took Ahron Cohen a few months to figure out his next move after leaving the Arizona Coyotes as its president and CEO in May. All he knew was that he “wanted to do interesting things with interesting people,” he said.
Becoming a venture partner at ADvantage Sports Tech Fund, a fund focused on growing sports-focused technology companies, fit the bill.
ADvantage is a joint venture between OurCrowd, billed as Israel’s most active venture investor, and LeAD, a startup accelerator initiated by the grandchildren of Adidas’ founder Adi Dassler.
As a partner, Cohen hopes “to provide meaningful operational support to a growing portfolio of highly innovative technology companies, side-by-side with some of the industry’s leading investors,” he said, via email.
Cohen also plans to take what he learned from running a professional hockey team and use it to help shape the future of sports and fitness. The 2018 repeal of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, which allowed states to legalize sports betting, combined with the pandemic’s devastating impact on sporting events, has created an opportune environment for innovation in the industry, he said.
Cohen sees “new ways to connect with fans beyond the standard viewing experience.” Instead of sports fans just watching a game on TV, he imagines different channels offering fans different viewing experiences. In-game sports betting or the ability to view play from different camera angles, such as from the perspective of the referee, are innovative options.
“Fans always want to see a peek behind that curtain,” he said. “They want to feel like they’re in the locker room, on the sidelines or in the huddle with their favorite team. And through social media, and through new technology, and through enhanced camera angles and 4K television, I think we’re further giving fans that opportunity to feel like they’re fully integrated into that team.”
In terms of fitness investments, Cohen said he’s searching for the next at-home fitness company. Peloton, best known for its stationary bikes that cost between $1,895 and $2,345, is his model. The company announced its second quarter results in February, boasting a sales growth of 128% and 1.67 million subscribers to its streaming fitness classes.
After the last year, Cohen said the pandemic has opened up some new paths in the fitness world.
“I can’t even begin to list all of the negatives associated with this horrible pandemic. But, you know, I tend to be a glass half-full type of person,” Cohen said. He likes that the pandemic has pushed forward technological trends, making people reimagine what they thought they knew about sports and fitness.
Jeremy Pressman, founding partner of ADvantage, said Cohen’s perspective from being a team operator adds value to the fund. While with the Coyotes, Cohen helped make record increases in TV ratings, merchandise, ticket sales and corporate sponsorships for the franchise. Pressman thinks he can bring that same skill to ADvantage.
“Adding a seasoned operator of Ahron’s caliber to the team is highly complementary to both us and our portfolio companies that do business with many of the largest leagues and media operators across the world,” he said, via email.
Cohen, winner of the 2019 ADL Arizona’s Torch of Liberty Award, was also drawn to the fund’s ties to Israel.
He is also keeping his eye out for local startups.
“It’d be wonderful if there was an opportunity to invest in a company right here in Phoenix and play a role in helping this community grow,” he said. JN