Sporting experiences are more than adrenaline rushes, food stalls and Mexican waves. Today sporting fans want to know about what happens off the field just as much as on the field. What are the stats on each player, what predictions can be made by looking at big data and analytics? With analytics fuelling the increasingly popular and lucrative fantasy sports and live betting markets, these are questions that even the tech layman is asking themselves as they look to gain an edge.
iSport Genius is a big data platform for sport, empowering users around the world to find out things like how their team usually performs when they travel more than 300km for an away game played in the rain coming on the back of three straight losses. The site encourages users to search, engage, socialise and gamify analytical sports content in a way that is enjoyable to consume.
As it currently stands, users looking to find sporting results and statistics that look further into the player, the impact of weather conditions and the sporting arena must navigate and switch between multiple website to find all the data they need to investigate certain trends. Finding this data and applying it to live sports betting markets and fantasy sports can be difficult and confusing, lacking a social and gamified experience.
Cofounder of iSport Genius Jared Hopping identified this gap in the industry and created a beta group to help build a product that is first and foremost for punters. The platform evolved working closely with bookmakers to give fans and users the ability to engage with them more as a brand beyond the betting transaction and socialise with them through statistics and data.
“In terms of the initial niche we found that, by chance, the drive has largely come from bookmakers to actually get content onto the site. To be honest the reason for that largely has to do with both engagement and also the fact that it’s such a competitive industry that they need ways to innovate and be recognised differently,” explained Hopping.
“In the sporting space we basically found that finding sporting content around the world was actually hard to find in one place,” said Hopping. “You’d have to go to about ten or so different websites to actually get your sporting needs and nothing was in the one central area. It wasn’t just that the data was inaccurate & fragmented but the user experience was actually really unfriendly.”
iSport Genius allows users to search for and find complex sporting information in a way that even an analytics layman could understand. For example the platform can identify how AFL team Collingwood performs in wet conditions at the MCG, or coming off a win or playing as an underdog following a lengthy break. There are a multitude of combinations across different sports and iSport Genius allows sporting fans to dig deep into results, stats and predictions.
In terms of UX and UI design the site is trimmed down to make things easy to understand. The platform displays a match preview where users can see content and written data about an upcoming game. Users can then click through a stadium and check all the data about the games being played, including individual team statistics and past reviews. The site also has portals where the user can dig down to find any data across head to head, betting markets and also trending data. The trending data automates curated data for upcoming matches, meaning the site pulls information from a database with specific conditions related to an upcoming match.
“If we knew a match was being played at the Sydney Cricket Ground this weekend at night, information would be automatically sent to the user to say this is how this team goes at the SCG, at night, and they can refresh and find a new statistic within seconds,” explained Hopping.
iSport Genius was founded in Melbourne in 2014 and began by testing the market in Australia and the UK. The startup have created an audience of over a million fans to date with a team of 40 branching across five countries, showing they have the capability to further scale and grow globally.
The startup’s reach has come through enterprise customers. While many sports teams and leagues are hiring their own analytics teams, betting companies are crying out for more sophisticated data. Online betting platform Ladbrokes was the first company to take on iSport Genius in Australia and have since been pushing their company towards innovation and tech. Ladbrokes signed a three year contract with iSport Genius for a deal amount that can’t be disclosed but opens up a world of opportunities for the startup.
“We met with them and they said, to be honest, we’re yes a sports betting company but first and foremost we’re a tech company, a sports tech company. And we’re actually really happy to hear that they were at least similarly aligned to us in terms of technology and their focus on innovation so naturally we’re very selective on who we work with and they were a really good fit for us, especially to get our product out there which has subsequently been seen on TV ads around Australia,” said Hopping.
iSport Genius currently supplies data from all the core sports brands around the world, including AFL, NRL, Super Rugby, EPL, NBA and NFL. Content is available via an API so any client can use it and pull that information, while that info can also be pushed out to clients.
The startup has just secured a Series B funding through venture capital firm Regentbay Investments. While the details are being kept under wraps, Hopping assures that it was a substantial amount and has proved to be very significant for their business growth.
Hopping said that later this year the company will be pushing out new sports, with a focus on pushing deeper into European soccer.
“We’re also building technology to give sports fans curated content live in game. For example if someone scores a goal within a match of soccer within the first ten minutes, we can give you percentages of how often they go on to win based on scoring that goal in ten minutes.”
In Australia there are various platforms that look at sporting data and present it not only to fans but to athletes to help them get the most out of the game. Catapult Sports is an Australian startup that processes information and stats of athletes through wearable motion tracking technology. This technology tracks their movement and fitness and was successfully used as far back as the 2004 Olympic Games, becoming increasingly powerful since.
By creating data on fitness, Catapult allows coaches to manage a player’s strength, conditioning workout and their time on the field. While getting the best out of their athlete, coaches and teams can combine their very own data with predictions and stats of other teams that are offered by platforms such as iSport Genius. The game these days has more of a focus on crunching numbers and stats, that are crucial to determine a game’s outcome.
Besides commercial sport, other arenas like fantasy and eSports are increasingly growing in popularity and open up massive opportunities for punters, fans and bookmakers. Virtually every sport has at least one platform dedicated to fantasy leagues, but the biggest by far are those dedicated to North American leagues like NFL and the NBA, mostly due to the fact that Americans can’t actually bet on sports directly, as sports betting is illegal (which means they are spared from the countless betting ads Australian sports fans have to sit through during a sports broadcast) – fantasy sports is virtually the only way to do it.
With the rapid growth of fantasy sports platforms over the last few years, a new model has emerged: daily and weekly fantasy sports, meaning less commitment than a season-long league and more opportunities to win. The two biggest platforms in the space are huge: FanDuel raised a $275 million Series E round in June, while DraftKings raised $300 million in a Series D in July. While it’s been facing some regulatory issues as of late, the fantasy sports market is a $70 billion global industry, so it’s worthwhile taking a look at, and like regular sports, there are still gaping holes when it comes to data analytics.
This is an area that iSport Genius aims to push into as both areas are in the midst of a global boom.
Hopping said, “We are constructing highly innovative fantasy sports & eSports games that will hit the market shortly. Down the track we plan on applying our technology so that the average person has access to our infrastructure for any and every data project being sports, politics, entertainment, and finance. This includes the use of our unique stats on any social platform or website via our suite of integrated options including, APIs, widgets, iFrames, images and much more.”
Image: Jared Hopping. Source: Supplied