There won’t be any Minnesota startups competing in the NFL’s official sports-tech pitch competition, 1st & Future, at the Guthrie Theatre on Saturday, but that wasn’t the case last year in Houston. At 1st & Future in 2017, one Minnesota company took home the competition’s grand prize.

Rochester-based GoRout competed against sports-tech startups from across the country and walked away with $50,000 and two tickets to the Super Bowl.

“The whole event was awesome. It was so big, and to have a small part in all of that was huge for us,” GoRout CEO and founder Mike Rolih told Minne Inno.

Players look at their GoRout devices during practice. (Photo courtesy of GoRout)

GoRout aims to simplify communication between players and coaches at football practice using visual display technology. Coaches can send plays, notes or instructions from their tablet to devices players wear on the field. Rolih said that the goal is to make practices more efficient. In a time when teams are reducing the amount of contact and practice time during practice, “time efficiency is absolutely paramount,” Rolih said.

1st & Future, an event sponsored by the NFL, Mayo Clinic and NBCUniversal, focuses on startups that are developing products to improve athletes’ safety and performance. A four-minute pitch at this event gives companies like GoRout a chance to gain national exposure, and connect with big players in business.

Winning 1st & Future has been game-changing for the Rochester business. In the last year, Rolih said that GoRout’s customer base tripled and its revenue grew 300 percent. The business has also worked with football programs like the Minnesota Gophers, Tulane, Stanford and others.

“Once we left, the experience really opened a lot of doors that weren’t initially open,” Rolih said.

Rolih and other members of the GoRout team will be in attendance at 1st & Future on Saturday.

“It’s unfortunate that there isn’t a Minnesota company in the event considering that there’s so many great ones here,” Rolih said. “But the NFL vets all the applicants and makes great selections, so I’m excited to see what they have to say.”

To learn more about the startups pitching at this year’s 1st & Future event, read the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal’s story here