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Startups seek slam dunk in front of Sacramento Kings fans

The Kings and a local venture capital firm are sponsoring a contest in which fans will decide which startup should be backed.

The fate of your startup may rest in the hands of more than 17,000 basketball fans.

Four lucky companies will pitch themselves to Sacramento Kings fans next month as part of "Capitalize," a startup beauty contest sponsored by the NBA franchise and Velocity Venture Capital, a local investment firm. Fans will vote on the pitches via Twitter, when the Kings play the Portland Trail Blazers at Sleep Train Arena on April 5.

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The Sacramento Kings are teaming up with a local venture capital firm for a startup contest that allows Kings fans to choose which company gets funding.

Photo by Sacramento Kings

The contest is open to startups within 75 miles of Sacramento. Thirty-two companies will be selected to pitch to a panel of investors and tech execs at Velocity's Sacramento offices on March 22. They will be winnowed down to four. The winner will receive a cash prize, a consultation with Kings execs and lunch with a team owner.

Nearly 50 startups have applied as Wednesday's deadline approaches, Kings President Chris Granger said Tuesday.

"The response has been overwhelmingly positive and supportive," said Granger. The Kings say they're the first NBA team to host a "crowdsourced local technology startup competition."

The Kings, who have an outside shot at making the playoffs, are no strangers to technology. Two years ago, they became the first pro sports franchise to accept bitcoin, a digital currency, for ticket sales. The team is currently using drones to take photos and video to look for problems at the construction site of its new state-of-the art arena, the Golden 1 Center, which is scheduled to open in October.

The new arena located downtown is being touted as a "21st century coliseum." It is expected to feature the first-ever 4K HD video scoreboard.

The startup contest was conceived by Kings' majority owner Vivek Ranadive, a tech software magnate, who has vowed to make the franchise more competitive and forward-thinking since purchasing the club in 2013.

"Vivek is always looking for ways to to use technology to improve the fan experience, and his broader interest in entrepreneurship makes the contest a natural fit for us," Granger said.

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