Pacers partnering with sports-tech startup Edge Sound Research

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California-based tech startup Edge Sound Research has announced that it plans to establish an Indiana presence—which paves the way for the company to unlock an investment of up to $500,000 from Indiana-based Elevate Ventures.

Edge, whose technology allows users to both hear and feel sound, was one of five startups to win Elevate Ventures’ inaugural IN-Prize pitch contest in August. As winners, all five of the startups—three from California and one each from Kentucky and Massachusetts—became eligible for up to $500,000 in matching funds from Elevate Ventures.

The catch, according to contest rules: Each must agree to establish a “significant” presence in Indiana for at least a year. Edge is the first of the five winners to commit to doing so.

Edge is working with Pacers Sports & Entertainment and will install a demo center at Gainbridge Fieldhouse next month so potential customers can experience the technology.

“Not only are we excited to use this groundbreaking technology to enhance the fan experience, we are equally excited to assist this innovative startup as they establish a home in Indiana,” Pacers President and Chief Commercial Officer Todd Taylor said in a media release.

Edge co-founder and CEO Valtteri Salomaki said his company also plans to hire an Indiana-based executive, likely a chief sales officer or chief partnership officer, to help the company expand its presence.

Edge was founded in 2020 by Salomaki and Ethan Castro, who at the time were both students at the University of California Riverside. Castro, who has a hearing impairment, was a Ph.D. student working on the creation of a new form of audio reproduction that combines both hearing and tactile senses. Salomaki was studying for an MBA. Edge is based around the technology that Castro developed. The company currently has six employees, plus another four contractors.

Edge’s technology is meant for use in public venues like sporting arenas or theaters. It involves a device that attaches to the back of a seat and uses existing audio to create vibrations, allowing people to both hear and feel sounds with greater clarity than they otherwise could. Edge calls the experience “embodied sound.”

“We actually turn the physical seat into the source of sound,” Salomaki said.

As an example, Salomaki said, Edge technology can allow a basketball fan to hear the ball bouncing on the court or the swish of the basketball net—no matter where the fan is sitting or how noisy the arena.

Salomaki said Edge has done some demos and beta testing and expects to start generating revenue in the fall of next year, with an initial focus on sporting venues. As the company works to gain traction in the market, he said, Indianapolis stood out as a good place to do that.

“We’ve been looking for a hub where the majority of major sports teams are all in one central location, that we can start building partnerships and starting to commercialize our patent-pending audience technology,” Salomaki said. He noted that Indianapolis also has a presence in motorsports—something less common than other sports like baseball or basketball.

Indiana’s research universities were also a draw, Salomaki said, as was the state’s central location within the U.S. “Because we are a hardware and software company, moving our technology across the United States is very expensive. So what we want to be able to do is establish our logistics in Indiana, because from there we can easily get to the West Coast or the East Coast from one central spot.”

In establishing a physical presence and having at least one Indiana-based executive, Edge will fulfill the IN-Prize’s requirement that the company have a “significant” presence in Indiana for at least one year.

To date, Edge is the only one of the five winners to publicly make this commitment. In doing so, Edge will qualify for matching funding of up to $500,000 from Elevate Ventures.

Salomaki said his company is in the midst of a fundraising round that he expects to close in mid-January. Including the Elevate Ventures funding, he expects the company to bring in more than $1 million.

Elevate Ventures Marketing Manager Kevin Martin said Elevate Ventures is not yet ready to announce how much the other winners have raised so far, or whether they have committed to establishing an Indiana presence.

“Investment deals take time, and we are still working through details specific to each company,” Martin said via email.

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