This Black-Owned Tech Startup Is Trying to Get NCAA College Athletes Paid
Currently in beta, Athlytic, created by Jared Eummer and Ashton Keys is a marketplace that will allow college athletes the ability to use their name, image and likeness for endorsement deals. The platform will officially launch in July.
As March Madness kicked off, Jared Eummer and Ashton Keys unveiled a billboard in Indianapolis featuring the hashtag #NotNCAAProperty. The ad speaks to the millions of dollars the NCAA makes off of players each year. But, it also emphasized that their new startup Athlytic was created to dismantle norms and ruffle feathers in the college athlete industry.
Currently in beta, Athlytic, created by Eummer and Keys, a Detroit native, is a marketplace that will allow college athletes the ability to use their name, image and likeness for endorsement deals.
“I’m pretty sure you’ve seen a lot of guys who were very talented and had a lot of influence in the community,” Jared says over a Zoom call. “Athletes [will] get matched directly with brands based on their persona, their interests, and what their campaign goals are.”
Growing up in Brooklyn, Jared was inspired by local stars like Stephon Marbury and Sebastian Telfair. As the years stretched on, he continued his affinity for athletes. Fast forward to his time at Florida A&M University, he dabbled in entrepreneurship and created Dream Team, a nightlife company that brought DaBaby to Tallahassee during a heavily attended homecoming concert in 2019. In addition to his passion for sports, Jared, who graduated from FAMU’s School of Journalism and Graphic Communications in 2017 also has been interested in the business side of music and sports. He currently works for the Cleveland Cavaliers and focuses on corporate partnership development.
The duo announced their company a few weeks ago following a year of calling hundreds of athletes, coaches, brands, athletic companies to research the market. Eummer and Keys have entered the Mountain Dew Real Change Opportunity Fund pitch competition. For the competition, Black entrepreneurs who are current students or recent alumni of Historically Black Colleges and Universities pitched their current businesses and ideas. Each finalist will receive a portion of a $1 million fund.
Mountain Dew has pledged to provide resources, amplification, and funding for the winners. Athlytic made it through three rounds and is currently in the top five.
The startup arrives at a historic time for the amateur and college sports industry. In recent months, legislation has been moving forward that allows young athletes opportunities to use their name, image and likeness (NIL) to make money without negative consequences. According to ESPN, both Florida and New Mexico have passed NIL legislation.
Athletes have been deterred from accepting endorsement deals for years. But, this generation of players is seeking to alter the norms when it comes to financial compensation which normally could disqualify them from playing. In September 2019, California State Senator Nancy Skinner introduced legislation that would prohibit schools from punishing athletes who accept endorsement deals. The NCAA called the legislation an “existential threat” to college amateur sports. A month later, the NCAA’s board of governors unanimously agreed that modernizing its NIL rules was necessary.
At the moment, Georgia, Mississippi, and Maryland have bills waiting to be signed by their governors, these states’ legislative branches have already overwhelmingly approved the NIL bill. If signed, both Georgia and Mississippi are slated to go into effect in July. Each state reportedly has different terms that will be active within their state lines. California, Colorado, Michigan, Nebraska, and New Jersey have already passed their own NIL bills.
Federal lawmakers are aiming to have a bill approved that will impact all 50 states. “The NCAA indefinitely postponed plans to change its own rules in January. The association is likely to await the outcome of a Supreme Court case before revising or voting on its proposed changes,” reports ESPN.
Athlytic is powering forward full steam even amid the ongoing NIL legislation taking place in states like New York, North Carolina, Tennessee, and countless others.
So how does Athlytic work? According to Eummer, the platform uses data to align the athletes with specific brands. “The brands could request to connect with them, or they could request to connect with the brands. The payment and everything is all up for negotiation,” Eummer said. “Once they agree to work with each other, the payment is held in an escrow system until the athlete fulfills whatever the deal is, whether it’s a TikTok post, a few tweets, a few posts and then they get paid.”
Eummer says ultimately he and Keys want to give opportunities to athletes — especially those from poverty, and underrepresented communities — a chance to take care of their families and give back to their communities.
At the top of April, NCAA President Mark Emmert met with three men’s basketball players aiming to raise awareness about NIL legislation. They spoke about the #NotNCAAProperty movement, and also expressed the need for change in regards to how athletes make money off of endorsements.
The Athlytic app will go live in July for college athletes in Mississippi and Florida.