Washington investors score NFL software coup

February 28, 2013

Redskins owner Daniel Snyder may not be the only Washington area businessman making money off the National Football League.

D.C. entrepreneurs and filmmakers Christopher Tavlarides and Jimmy Lynn scored with the league this week when a Seattle software company called X2 Biosystems, in which they hold a significant investment, was selected by the NFL to play a critical role in the league’s battle against head injuries.

The NFL last week mandated that all 32 teams would be required to have sideline tests, administered from a league-approved tablet device, to help diagnose concussions among players. X2 makes the software for the tablets.

X2’s software involves a six-minute test and a series of questions in which players score themselves on confusion, reflexes, dizziness, balance and concentration, including reciting numbers backward to determine the extent of their injuries.

“There is no downside and the upside is exponential,” said Tavlarides, who is president of a Washington outdoor advertising company called Capitol Outdoor. “We’re looking for it to be an international business, supported not just by professional leagues, but by development leagues, youth leagues . . . the U.S. military to track concussions for soldiers in the field. The highest occurrence of concussions in all of sports is female, youth-league soccer.”

Sports industry experts say the emergence of athlete safety, especially involving head injuries, will make for a very competitive business environment.

“Player safety is the new frontier for those hoping to make money in the sports business industry,” said David Carter, executive director of the Sports Business Institute at the University of Southern California Marshall School of Business.

Carter said the NFL deal is a coup for X2 because it gives the company a leg up in the race to try to lock up contracts with leagues and sports governing bodies.

“These tech companies can use these relationships to build their businesses in other areas. It’s a great calling card,” Carter said.

X2 co-founder and chief marketing officer Rich Able, said the software is being used by college teams at Stanford, Purdue, Michigan, Princeton and the University of Washington.

Tavlarides and Lynn, an investor in sports-related businesses, are well known on the Washington entrepreneurial scene. They premiered their documentary, “The Good Son: The Life of Ray ‘Boom Boom’ Mancini,” at a high-profile event last fall at the Italian Embassy.

Lynn knows Able, a former employee of Abbott Laboratories, from their days together as students in Japan.

Able, who got the idea for the company after his son was knocked unconscious playing high school football, called his friend because of Lynn’s contacts in the sports and investing worlds.

Thomas Heath is a local business reporter and columnist, writing about entrepreneurs and various companies big and small in the Washington Metropolitan area. Previously, he wrote about the business of sports for The Post’s sports section for most of a decade.
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