Seiva’s Smart Workout Duds Highlight Mini-Accelerator Pitch Event

[Updated 12/17/15, 5:09 p.m. See below.] One of the biggest storylines of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia was the disappointing performance of the U.S. speedskating team, which some blamed not on the athletes themselves but on the suit many of them wore during races.

The so-called Mach 39 suit, touted as “the fastest speedskating suit in the world,” was co-designed by apparel maker Under Armour (NYSE: UA) and defense contractor Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT). Well before the U.S. team left for Sochi, each suit was tested in a wind tunnel for 300 hours. Suits even featured specially made zippers.

But the suit proved to be a flop. Following a string of dispiriting results, the team dropped the Mach 39 in favor of another Under Armour model.

While Under Armour had its contract extended until 2022, U.S. Speedskating appears not to have lost its zest for seeking the ultimate in high-tech attire, no matter what the source. According to an email from a U.S. Speedskating spokesman, the sporting body has had “initial discussions” with Milwaukee-based Seiva Technologies about using the startup’s sensor-equipped apparel during training for the 2018 Olympics. [Updated with comment from U.S. Speedskating—Eds.]

Seiva was one of four early-stage companies that presented to a crowd of investors, entrepreneurs, and others as part of a pitch event in Madison, WI, for gBETA, a free tri-annual accelerator for startups affiliated with colleges and universities in the Badger State that lasts six weeks. gBETA is managed by Gener8tor, whose core accelerator program lasts 12 weeks and alternates between Milwaukee and Madison.

Seiva makes high-tech garments that can provide athletes information, such as what muscles they’re using or the angle of their knee bend, in real time. The startup is marketing to speedskaters and hockey players for now, but co-founder and CEO Andrew Hampel says the technology, which involves an electromyograph and gyroscope, could be useful for athletes in other sports like cycling and cross country skiing.

Hampel and his colleagues were able to approach U.S. Speedskating thanks to John Coyle, a veteran of the sport who won a silver medal at the 1994 Winter Olympics. Seiva got an introduction to Coyle through one of its advisors, says Hampel.

“They’re almost as excited as we are with the technology,” Hampel says of U.S. Speedskating. [In an earlier version of this article, Hampel incorrectly stated that U.S. Speedskating had agreed to buy apparel from Seiva, and was Seiva’s first paying customer—Eds.]

Seiva will charge athletes a one-time fee for a garment—likely at least $100, Hampel says—as well as a monthly fee for using its software.

He says the startup expects to land $50,000 in pre-seed grant funding by the end … Next Page »

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