IT'S NOT LIKELY there's a bigger Tennessee Titans fan in the Bay Area than Sanzib "Sandy" Khaund, the founder of SportsTech startup UPGRADED Inc.
UPGRADED, which is now in full release, offers a mobile-web platform for converting traditional event tickets into fraud-free interactive "smart ticket" contracts that enable distribution, buyer/user identification, on-ticket promotions, rich analytics and more.
Khaund will arrive Nashville in a couple weeks to moderate a panel discussion on what the next few years hold for the SportsTech sector, during the June 5-6 36|86 Entrepreneurship and Technology Conference at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center.
During a Venture Nashville interview, much of Khaund's cheerful anticipation about the trip seemed to spring from the fact that he'll be back in town and just a Hail Mary away from the Titans homefield, Nissan Stadium.
Texas-born Khaund was only weeks-old when his family moved to the East Coast. However, when years later he faced that boyhood rite of passage known as picking your favorite football team, partly to commemorate his birthplace he chose the then-Houston Oilers and has remained seriously loyal through the team's relocation, rebranding and rebuilding as the Tennessee Titans.
On top of that, Khaund was clearly delighted that his "awesome" panel includes Derrick Morgan, who has not only been a Titans linebacker since the 2010 NFL Draft, but who also champions entrepreneurship diversity, investment and tech education for both under-served youth and entrepreneurs, through involvement with Nashville's Oasis Center, among other groups.
Khaund said he will have plenty of running-room in moderating the unscripted panel discussion, which also includes:
- Christina Chase, managing director for MIT Sports Technology Research Group and an advisor to multiple sports startup teams.
- Tim Hayden, co-founder and managing director of Stadia Ventures and director of the Center for Entrepreneurship at St. Louis University.
- Kevin Glidewell, assistant general counsel, Sports & Digital Entertainment, Turner Broadcasting System (TimeWarner), a Vanderbilt University Law School alumnus.
Khaund, whose UPGRADED team now totals 4 FTE, has accepted about $250K in outside financing and has additional commitments circled within a convertible pre-Seed round that remains open, with a $7MM cap.
However, he said he has also been approached by potential bidders for the company, and by would-be investors who'd prefer joining a priced round.
He attributes interest partly to the fact that the platform has been validated by deployment during a range of live sporting events, including The Dream Bowl and the HBCU Spirit of America Bowl.
Khaund said he continues to weigh his capital options and acknowledged that partnering with a strategic bidder currently seems to be his most likely exit scenario.
His advisors include attorneys with Wilson Sonsini and he banks with Silicon Valley Bank (SVB).
In addition to a robust entrepreneurial career, Khaund holds degrees, including two master's, in physics, electrical engineering, entrepreneurial management and finance, from The Wharton School at UPenn, Cornell University and Ithaca College, according to his Linkedin.
Technotes: UPGRADED's security is enhanced by the platform's private blockchain, which leverages Etherium Classic technology operating on UPGRADED's own servers, with some database mirroring to take some load off blockchain processing.
Khaund said personally wrote all the platform's initial code, then used the pre-seed funding partly to improve upon his work.
Khaund was introduced to the 36|86 opportunity by Jen Kay, a friend who is marketing director for 36|86 sponsor Launch Tennessee.
Khaund, Kay and panelist Glidewell are all Turner Broadcasting alumni. VNC