Wouldn’t it be cool to wear your ticket to the next Phillies game?
Wayne Kimmel thinks so. That’s exactly why his SeventySix Capital is investing in this and other ideas to revolutionize the fan experience.
It was a dream road trip few could ever make. This past February, Wayne Kimmel decided to take three weeks off from his position as managing partner of SeventySix Capital to experience some of the biggest events in sports. The itinerary began in Las Vegas and concluded in Salt Lake City. Somewhere in the middle, there was a return to the Nevada desert that had nothing to do with sports—three days with his wife, Kimby. “It was Valentine’s Day,” Kimmel explains.
It all started with the NFL Pro Bowl festivities in Vegas. Kimmel skipped the actual game and headed to Los Angeles for the NASCAR Clash at the Coliseum. From there, it was on to Arizona to take in his home team’s Super Bowl near-miss and the PGA’s annual bacchanalia, the Phoenix Open. After the intermission with his wife, Kimmel headed to Utah for the NBA All-Star Game, where commissioner Adam Silver invited him to the league’s Tech Summit, which was also in Salt Lake City. “It was a dream,” Kimmel says. “There were owners, top executives, players, people from technology companies. It went from 7:30 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. every day, and they had to throw me out at 3:30.”
Kimmel loves sports. He named his dog Lincoln, after the Eagles’ stadium. He loves to go to games, watch games, talk about games and think about their future. The only thing that outstrips his passion as a fan is his passion for working with companies involved in sports. SeventySix Capital, the King of Prussia-based company he cofounded in 1999, invests in entrepreneurs with ideas that help make the industry more technologically savvy, whether its creating singular experiences for sports bettors or developing wearable tickets to baseball games.
That’s why he stuck around for an extra hour at the conference in Salt Lake. It’s also why he and his team wade through as many as 180 business plans a month to discover those that can best transform the world of sports. When it comes to truly innovative fan experiences, the industry is in its nascent stages. Within the next decade, how people watch, bet on, attend and generally consume sports will change dramatically. “We’re in the lucky seat,” says Kimmel, who lives in Wayne with Kimby in the home where they raised their two college-age kids, Sabrina and Hunter. “We find companies and smart entrepreneurs with really game-changing ideas. When we have a match with them, we get involved.”
In 2013, SeventySix Capital invested in what’s now Team Whistle, a sports and entertainment company working in the media, technology and commerce spheres. By the end of 2015, it was all sports, all the time.
Kimmel doesn’t fit the classic executive mold. He majored in history at the University of Maryland, and he was expected to run his father’s Wilmington law firm. But he’s a relentless worker and an exceptional networker. “He’s a top-performing athlete at networking—and it is a sport,” says Chad Stender, also a managing partner at SeventySix Capital with Kimmel and Jon Powell. “He truly enjoys it. He loves to get to know people. He wants to hear what they’re saying. He pays attention. He listens.”
When Wayne Kimmel was in high school at Wilmington’s Tatnall School, his friends thought he might be the next Howard Cosell—and he did broadcast football and basketball games as a college student at Maryland. “I was either going to be a professional athlete or a lawyer,” he says.
Though Kimmel played basketball and baseball at Tatnall, it was pretty clear he wasn’t going to turn pro. When he was a high school senior, his aunt, uncle and two cousins died in a plane crash. A third cousin, Larry, survived, and Kimmel’s father, Morton, adopted him after the tragedy. “Wayne and I are as close as it gets,” Larry says. “We go to games together—Eagles games, Phillies games, Sixers games. I trust him with everything, and he trusts me with everything, too.”
The family trauma of the plane crash compelled Kimmel to stay close to home. In Maryland, he found a school that had Division I basketball and football and wasn’t too far away. During his three years at Widener University’s Law School, he worked for his father, a successful personal injury and workers’ compensation attorney. Upon graduation, Kimmel joined the firm full-time. “That’s what nice Jewish boys do—follow in their fathers’ footsteps,” he says.
But Kimmel didn’t love the law—he loved venture capitalism. At several key events in New York City, he marveled at the VC crowd, asking friends, “Who is that person?” The answer fueled his drive. “They’d say, ‘That’s a venture capitalist, an angel investor. They make people’s dreams come true,’” recalls Kimmel. “I wanted to be one of those guys.”
Larry, on the other hand, joined the firm his adoptive father started in 1972. Today, he’s managing partner of Kimmel, Carter, Roman, Peltz & O’Neill, the largest firm of its kind in Delaware.
Morton passed away five years ago. He didn’t push his sons, encouraging them to find their own paths. Like them, he loved sports, founding Delaware’s Blue-Gold High School Basketball All-Star Games, which will celebrate a 25th anniversary next winter. “My father cared about everybody,” Larry says. “He expected nothing in return—he didn’t want accolades. He knew everyone in Delaware. He started charities and went to charitable events. He was larger than life. I miss him every single day.”
In 1999, after six months of raising funds, Wayne took an office at Safeguard Scientifics in Radnor and launched SeventySix Capital. The goal was to work with technology entrepreneurs. His father approved of the career switch. “He said, ‘I can tell your heart is not in practicing law,’” Kimmel recalls.
Kimmel and his partners invested in the clinics located inside Walgreens stores, the first internet food-delivery company, a Conshohocken-based whole-health company, and others. Initially, there was no thought of making sports the driver. “We did some really great things in the consumer tech world,” Kimmel says.
SeventySix Capital was successful, and it was fulfilling—to a degree. Kimmel and his partners looked at the overall technology market and saw it nearing saturation. “Early-stage investment in technology was saturated, and Silicon Valley dominated,” Stender says. “It was hard to get investments with value. The three of us knew we had to move off that thesis.”
Was there an industry that still offered opportunities for growth? The answer was pretty obvious. Although the world of professional and college athletics was booming, it hadn’t developed a fully birthed ecosystem involving technology and businesses in other sectors. In 2013, SeventySix Capital invested in what’s now Team Whistle, a sports and entertainment company working in the media, technology and commerce spheres. That’s all it took. By the end of 2015, it was all sports, all the time. “Part of it seemed so obvious,” Stender says. “Everyone loved sports and played sports. Why not look at it from an investment standpoint?”
“Where we sit today with the sports betting apps that are available is like when Amazon was just selling you books.”
Chris Reynolds started Epoxy.ai in 2021 after a stint with a company that helped viewers navigate sports TV programing based on their viewing histories. He and his business partner, Jason Angelides, spend a ton of time making sure their own Berwyn-based venture is delivering on its promise to help sports-gambling companies create more personalized content for users. But when they do have a few hours free, Kimmel is their man. “He’s a great hang,” says Reynolds.
SeventySix Capital is also an investor, so Kimmel is more than a pal. “He’s not just a guy who throws money at companies,” says Larry. “He wants to help them become successful.”
Kimmel operates on the premise that successful companies benefit everyone involved, so he’s available to them—always. “When you hear Wayne talk at a conference or hear him on his podcast [the SeventySix Capital Sports Leadership Show], you can hear the joy,” says Katie Kohler, communications manager for BetMGM online gaming. “He has that passion in his voice. He really loves what he does and really cares about the people he’s working with.”
SeventySix is deeply involved in the betting industry, so it would make sense that it’s partnered with Eric Frank’s firm. Frank is the CEO and cofounder of Odds On Compliance, a two-year-old Florida-based company that provides compliance technology, services and consulting to sports betting and other regulated industries. At last count, there were 38 states offering opportunities for sports gambling—and 38 sets of regulations companies must follow to avoid legal trouble. “Wayne is an invaluable champion,” says Frank. “We’re just one of his portfolio companies, but it seems like he’s there 24/7 for us.”
Kimmel isn’t a big drinker. And when he goes to Vegas, he doesn’t hit the tables or spend hours betting on games. But he’ll still hang around until 3 a.m. “He loves the action,” says Stender. “He wants to meet people.”
“When you hear Wayne talk at a conference or hear him on his podcast, you can hear the joy. He really loves what he does and really cares about the people he’s working with.”
—BETMGM’S Katie Kohler
That ability to connect has helped convince Kimmel that the sports industry is growing in ways few can understand. “Where we sit today with the betting apps that are available is like when Amazon was just selling you books,” he says.
That vision of the future is what drives SeventySix Capital—what’s coming next, not what’s happening now. As long as there’s gambling, there will be regulation, so that makes Odds On Compliance a wise investment. Epoxy.ai’s allure is its promise of personalization. Algorithms push content social media apps know their users will like. Online gambling wants the same thing. And look out: In-game betting at stadiums and arenas is coming, especially as leagues and teams build stronger bonds.
And while the potential profits are astronomical, it’s not all about sports betting. SeventySix has also invested in the Switzerland-based collectID, which manufactures wearable technology that could contain tickets and concession cards for sports events—and there’s also the ability to connect with other fans around the world. “It comes back to the idea of overall convergence,” says Kimmel.
Within the next decade, Kimmel predicts, NFL and NBA teams will have European divisions, multiplying exponentially the opportunities for fan engagement. “Fans just love sports,” he says.
So does Kimmel.
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