When Tyrre Burks was 15, an injury on the football field left him momentarily paralyzed. Mercifully, his mobility came back and he was able to stand up and shake it off. But no one was notified of the incident, and it was never documented in any way. It didn’t appear to have any immediate consequences, but that injury led to others over the years, which eventually ended his professional football career with the Canadian Football League. “If that original injury had been managed better, I might still be playing today,” says Burks.
Instead, Burks is channeling his energy, talent, and ambition into Player’s Health, the business he founded in 2015 that aims to “provide athletic organizations with essential medical information and injury reporting to manage the health and care of youth athletes.” It’s an intuitive fit for Burks, springing from the same passion and drive that inspired his love of being on the field. And COCO was an intuitive fit for Player’s Health when they were looking for a home base that could help them launch and grow.
“Joining COCO in October 2015 was really the defining moment for the company,” says Burks. “Through the COCO network, I got connected with everyone in the Minnesota health and tech spheres. We were able to integrate with the community before we even started looking for money.”
Before moving Player’s Health to Minneapolis, Burks was based in Chicago, where he was a member of a couple of accelerators in both the Windy City and Madison. He was blown away by how supportive and accessible the COCO and Twin Cities startup communities turned out to be in comparison. “COCO allowed me to meet all the movers and shakers on the tech side here in Minnesota. It’s such a welcoming environment. People here say, ‘We love what you’re doing, and we want to help you figure it out.’ This place is second to none for that.”
At some accelerators, Burks observes, it’s easy to fall through the cracks. And they tend to be more hyper-focused on the tech side of things. “COCO has everything,” says Burks. “Within the first few months of joining, another member who specializes in marketing had sat down with us and done an hour-long strategy session for free, just because he believes in what we’re trying to do.”
That’s just one example of the kind of community Burks treasures at COCO. “There are so many shared resources that everyone can tap into here, regardless of what stage of business you’re in,” he says. “In some other places, you have to be at a certain stage before getting access to those resources. Here you can be sitting down with key players on day one. The amount of mentorship and feedback I’ve gotten has been invaluable–I’ve been to more kitchen tables of investors here than I’d ever see in Chicago.”
But the biggest example of COCO contributing to Player’s Health’s success came on May 4th, 2016, when they took home the winning trophy from Google Demo Day in Mountain View, CA. “I wouldn’t have even known about the application for the event if it hadn’t been for COCO,” says Burks, “let alone been as prepared as I was for the presentation. [COCO co-founder] Kyle Coolbroth helped me set up three mock pitches at COCO NE, with a bunch of members and staff coming to each one to give me feedback.” Each of the Twin Cities locations hosted watch parties on the Demo Day, livestreaming Burks’ presentation to crowds of members who gathered to watch and root for him. “It was so heart-warming and insane to know how many people were in our corner, rooting for us,” he says.
The next step in Player’s Health’s journey has taken them to the Pitch, a Minneapolis accelerator specifically for sports tech startups, but the Chicago-based part of Burks’ team will keep dedicated space at COCO’s Chicago office. COCO helped Players Health achieve lift-off in a spectacular fashion, and now their attention is focused on scaling and growing. “We want to be the next sports tech darling in Minneapolis,” says Burks. “There’s still so much up in the air for us, but we now have a fighting chance to make this real and be successful.”