KB Partners’ Steven Ahern on How Tech Will Change Sports Fans’ Experience

Minnie Ingersoll
Minnie Ingersoll is a partner at TenOneTen and host of the LA Venture podcast. Prior to TenOneTen, Minnie was the COO and co-founder of $100M+ Shift.com, an online marketplace for used cars. Minnie started her career as an early product manager at Google. Minnie studied Computer Science at Stanford and has an MBA from HBS. She recently moved back to L.A. after 20+ years in the Bay Area and is excited to be a part of the growing tech ecosystem of Southern California. In her space time, Minnie surfs baby waves and raises baby people.
KB Partners' Steven Ahern
Photo courtesy of KB Partners
On this episode of LA Venture, KB Partners' Steve Ahern talks about how traditional sports are evolving to include fans in the game and create new ways for them to interact with their heroes.



While the venture capital firm had been around for about 25 years, KB Partners only recently began to focus on the intersection of sports and tech. For Ahern, that means everything from how athletes perform to how fans experience the game.

"I think people are looking for a much deeper level of engagement, much deeper level of interactivity that they're getting from other parts of their life," he said.

Just as Netflix now sees its biggest competition coming not from other streaming services, but from wildly popular global games like "Fortnite," Ahern said live sports has more to worry about than competing with other channels. One of the ways to turn fans’ passive experience into something more interactive is by allowing them to bet on games, he added.

But there are major hurdles, including establishing a framework for betting at the federal level and reducing video stream latency.

"There are some states that just won't do it because of its moral status in their eyes and others, where it's like, 'Why wouldn't we do this? This is the perfect way to generate more revenue, and people are doing it anyway’," said Ahern.

Outside of betting, Ahern does think there's other ways to gamify fans’ live sports experience. Social watch parties are another way technology can help create a social experience much like the one that exists for fans of video games.

Ahern thinks there's plenty to learn from esports, which has introduced audiences to a deeper level of engagement and interactivity. In the age of streamers and influencers, Ahern sees potential for athletes to interact directly with their fans–almost as influencers have done in the ecommerce world.

"People think, 'If it's right for LeBron James, it's right for me,'" said Ahern.

One-to-one fan interaction may be far off, but Ahern thinks fans are ready to have a deeper connection with their icons beyond watching them on a screen.

dot.LA Engagement Fellow Joshua Letona contributed to this post.

Hear the full episode by clicking on the playhead above, and listen to LA Venture on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

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