[Full Transcript] The Upside Talks With ShotTracker President about the future live sports experiences

This week, we had the pleasure of chatting with Davyeon Ross, the President of ShotTracker.

Throughout our conversation, we talked about how ShotTracker is at the forefront of connecting player data to basketball teams, from the ranks of college hoops all the way to the highest levels at the NBA. In addition, data from their product is also changing the way we watch the game at home. Understanding player performance adds a completely new dimension to the already fast-paced and exciting game of basketball. But, AR also has the ability to factor into changing the ever-changing world of sports gambling.

?Here’s the full transcript from our conversation with Davyeon:

Julien Blin – Sports Tech Advisors: So today on The Upside our weekly podcast, powered by the Sports Tech Advisors, we have the honor to have Davyeon Ross, CEO of ShotTracker, a sports tech startup that is transforming the sports fan experience. Davyeon, welcome to the show.

Davyeon Ross: Thank you very much for having me. Just to clarify, I am the President and Co-founder of ShotTracker.

Julien Blin: Right, thanks for clarifying. So, Davyeon, what I was hoping to do today was talk about how you started ShotTracker. Then, I wanted to get your thoughts on the future types of AR applications, combining players’ statistical data, and how that could change the fan experience. How does that sound?

Davyeon Ross: That sounds awesome. It’s a hot topic in today’s society and I’m happy to talk about what we’re doing in the space, and share some insight into what we see as the future.

Julien Blin: That makes sense, that’s great. For the audience that’s listening, Davyeon, could you tell us about how you got the idea of ShotTracker?

Davyeon Ross: I can’t take the full credit, the ShotTracker actually came about because my co-founder was in the backyard shooting with his son, and having some tech expertise and really having an analytics company and in the chemical industry, he started to figure out, “Wow, how can we put the two together?” Him knowing my background in sports, and tech and with a Computer Science Degree, he reached out and said, “Hey, how can we solve this?” For me, it was a problem that resonated. I played college basketball, got a Computer Science and Math degree. What I did during the summers was put up jumpers, 500 to 1,000 jumpers a day (..) you can’t improve what you don’t measure.

Davyeon Ross: So, him and I decided to stroke a check and start ShotTracker, but I think what ShotTracker is today, it takes a village. It took us delivering on our product, talking to customers, listening to customers and we just have an incredible team of people really understanding the market. Initially we started off as a consumer product, and now what we are is a B to B solution where we provide the ShotTracker system to leagues, and teams and provide that data. We’re really a data company, we automatically capture the data, utilizing a sensor on the player, sensor in the ball.

Today we have our sensors in most of the basketballs, if not all of the basketballs on the market; and sensors around the facility, which then, tracks the play in ball within two to five centimeters, all in sub second response times. We have algorithms that deliver statistical data within the box score and beyond the box score to coaches, players, fans, broadcasters.

That’s where we are today and that’s kind of a brief history into how ShotTracker came about.

Julien Blin: That’s awesome. You talk about the benefits from a team perspective, to use ShotTracker, could you give us some examples, or maybe case studies of how that really helped the teams to make better decisions in real time?

Davyeon Ross: Absolutely, there’s multiple examples, I’ll pick a few. One of the simple ones is, what we do on a weekly basis is, we send a breakdown of how our teams are shooting. We only provide you, your data. So, if you are Team 1, you would see ‘Hey your Team 1. You’re in the seventh position out of X number of teams and you shot 4,00 shots last week. The team who shot the most shot 25,000.’

So it kind of gets people concept into regards how the work they’re putting in comparing to others. Every time we saw that list go out, we saw different teams on our list increasing their shooting the next week, so that’s one way.

Davyeon Ross: The second thing I would say is that we’re providing real time, again sub second, response data to all of our teams.

ShotTracker has had several teams using our data to really understand where they’re being successful, whether that’s their optimal lineups, or whether it’s “How many passes do we get the highest points per possession?” Or, “what are the drivers? Is it ball reversals? Is it paint touches that really help us figure out what is the optimal thing we need to do in a game to get the highest points per possession?

Davyeon Ross: There are a lot of examples with some of our teams, and we’re very excited.

A lot of our teams had a ton of success this year, from making the NCAA tournament, to one team breaking a school record of, I think it was 27, 28 games in a row and ending up at 30 and 3. One team going from, I believe they were 4 and 20, to making a national tournament. We’ve had a lot of success with our teams and that’s based on the insights and the data we provided them.

Julien Blin: That’s awesome! That’s more on helping the team themselves. What has been the response from the fans? You also do some pretty big things on T.V., and I know you got this application, an AR application coming.

Davyeon Ross: Absolutely! For us, it’s been really exciting to be able to enhance the experience.

When we think about fans we think about enhancing the experience for your broadcast, and then in the stadium. We’ve done a few instances with the in-stadium experience where, with our data being so fast, before the ball actually can go through the net it actually goes to our system, up to the cloud and is updated on the fan app, and you can see that live. So watching the game, and watching in conjunction with our app, it’s just an unbelievable experience.

Davyeon Ross: Then, we also provide data to the teams, to the fans, sorry, that can really see what’s going on in the game, whether it’s optimal lineups, or whether it’s how teams are shooting, whether it’s analysis. We also have a 3-D gamecast that allows you to watch the game, whether in-stadium, outside the stadium. Then, we have our augmented experience, where we’re able to use our data to really enhance the experience.

A fan can pull out your phone, touch players on the screen via the camera integrated into the app, and have this augmented experience to supplement you watching the game. That’s mainly an in-stadium experience, but it’s been well received and we’re really excited about how we can take our raw data, with the speed and the accuracy that we’re providing, and enhance that fan experience to put more butts in the seat and to supplement some of the programing whether you’re sitting in your living room or in a bar.

Julien Blin: You sent a link to the video of the application, and I was pretty blown away. I’m a big believer in the intersection between AR, and then statistical data. So, when will the AR application be available to the fans?

Davyeon Ross: You’ll probably see some of that in the summer. We’ve got a couple videos that we’re looking at for some important, high profile, summer implementations. Then, of course, in the fall with all of our college relationships and college programming. So, it’s just a matter of time before you see it. We’re excited about it. We’re excited about enhancing that experience and we’re big fans of AR too. The beautiful thing about AR is that, everybody holds an AR device in their pockets, so any phone you could augment that experience, from a fan perspective, in-game to provide data that they’re not traditionally, getting in a very unique manner and an augmented manner. I think it’s a win.

Julien Blin: That makes sense. Last week I was talking to Adam Cheyer, who’s the founder of Siri, and sold it to Apple, and one of the key takeaways that I got was that there is gonna be this intersection between AI, AR, and potentially live betting.

Davyeon Ross: Yes.

Julien Blin: So, what is your take on how you think a future application could be using AI, AR, and live betting? You would be standing in a stadium, and then bet on the next play, you know, stuff like that. Do you think it’s gonna happen or not?

Davyeon Ross: I think that the betting market is, we’re having a pass by and everything that’s going on is very unique. At the professional level, I think we’re gonna see it, we’re already seeing it, in areas where they can allow betting we’re already seeing a significant increase in engagement.

From my perspective, I think we are going to see some of the money that was happening in an illegal manner transition to the legal environment. I think what’s going to happen is, I foresee, a large in game integration just like we’ve seen in Europe, of in-play betting. One of the things that we’ve seen, especially at the professional level, is the speed of the data is going to be critical, and I think that has to be solved,

Julien Blin: Yeah, 5G is already here and Trump is already talking about 6G which is kind of crazy.

Davyeon Ross: So yeah, 5G, and it’s not necessarily just 5G. I mean, the speed of the data that has to be delivered for what’s going on in the game is gonna be critical.

If you want to do in-play betting, you can’t necessarily have a 5 to 8 minute delay like we’ve seen with some of the solutions in the market. You have to be sub second, and that’s why we pride ourselves on what we do, because our data and the speed is truly sub second response time.

You don’t have to have it in a subsequent broadcast because you need to be 5 to 10 minutes delayed. I think that those are critical things for the betting market. I think we’re in the really nascent stages of what’s happening in that market, and I think the speed is gonna be very critical.

Julien Blin: Yeah, I agree. Years ago, I was talking to a big sports apparel company, I can’t say the name of the company, and they mentioned to me that they were talking to one of the biggest U.S. sports leagues in the country to build the types of experience combining AR and some sort of live statistical data. You were showcasing a second screen app, using AR overlay recently, right? You guys work with the NCAA and stuff like that, so when do you think we could see the first major U.S. sports league building the types of, like an AR application, that would be using those types of overlays. I mean, obviously you guys are key players in the market, so when do you think it’s gonna happen?

Davyeon Ross: Look, I mean I think that it’s already happening. We saw what the NHL did, we’re close friends of the NHL, and have been very interesting discussions with them. You saw what they in January. I remember being with them a year before, talking with them about some of the stuff and they did a great job of executing on it. I think what you’re gonna see is the other leagues are really try and push, because it’s a very competitive market and everybody’s trying to be the leader. I think the NBA does an incredible job of being the leader. They’ve done a great job, historically, of setting themselves apart. Even if you look at, just international, global presence, compared to the other leagues. If you look at social media presence, I think that the closest person, next to the NBA probably has less than or more than 10 million of a delta.

Julien Blin: Yes the second most popular league in the world is LaLiga the Spanish Soccer League.

Davyeon Ross: Yes.

Julien Blin: They use overlay on T.V., they’ve done a pretty good job there.

Davyeon Ross: Absolutely, I think that it’s gonna be a race. I think this is, again, a very nascent market so, people are going to be testing a ton of stuff in the next 12 to 18 months. We’re seeing broadcasters getting involved in how to integrate the data. We’re seeing the leagues try and do stuff in-stadium, outside of the stadium. I don’t know who’s going to be first, to be honest with you, or maybe the NHL is already first because they held that event back in January, but we’ll see. There’s going to be a lot of testing across all of the leagues and people are trying to figure this out so, it’s definitely a focus.

Julien Blin: That makes sense, I agree. One thing I didn’t ask you about was, I saw that David Stern, the former NBA commissioner, and Magic Johnson were one of your investors. What was it like to get them as investors, and how active, or how much involved are they in your company?

Davyeon Ross: I think, any time you can get the legends of the game to believe in what you’re doing, it’s powerful. As a entrepreneur, and knowing the path, if you think about it, David Stern, is probably the godfather of basketball because he’s been the one who’s really turned the NBA into the financial monster that it is today. He’s played a critical role and Adam has done an incredible job taking after, following, and taking his path and taking the things that he believes are important, and that he’s tryna mandate or leave his mark on the world also. Just having David involved, there’s a few people who can see around corners and he’s one of them. Then, Magic has been an amazing asset, a good partner. If you think about what he’s done from, I mean if you think about it, he made less in the NBA in his career than some people are getting paid on a yearly basis. If you think about what he’s done with his business decisions, for us it’s great validation. They see what the future holds, and they believe that ShotTracker could play a role in the future. It’s very flattering, and very encouraging. David and I’ve become close friends, I talk to that dude, I’d like to say, three to five times a week. I had a call with him this morning. He’s been helpful, he keeps you on your toes, nothing is ever good enough, so he always keeps pushing you, and striving for us to be the best that we can be, and that’s not good enough, so we have to be even better. I just feel very fortunate. Quick story, so I grew up in Trinidad and Tobago. I actually started to play basketball because of watching Magic Johnson on the Lakers. When I think about him being one of my investors, several years later, I’m not going to tell you how many, but it’s a ton. That’s just a real blessing for me, and I feel fortunate. We work hard to make those guys proud.

Julien Blin: That’s pretty cool. Obviously, you’re a successful entrepreneur and this is, I think, not your first product. What do you hope to accomplish in the next two years with ShotTracker? What is your big dream?

Davyeon Ross: The big dream is, we believe that ShotTracker is to gyms as wifi is to coffee shops. When we think about what we want to accomplish, that’s our mandate (..) we’re looking to revolutionize the sport, revolutionize the game of basketball, make it an even more data driven sport than baseball, and we all know baseball’s reputation as it relates to analytics. Our goal is really to proliferate this, and make ShotTracker a data company that plays a critical role in the sports landscape, then to deliver that data to all the folks that can use that data to help make the game better and move the needle.

Julien Blin: I wish you all the best. We are at the end of the interview, but it’s been a pleasure talking to you and we’ll be in touch soon.

Davyeon Ross: Alright, sounds good man. Thank you for having me. It’s really a privilege. Love what you guys are doing, and it’s really a pleasure to be on the podcast. Thank you.

Julien Blin: Thank you, bye.

What do you think about ShotTracker? How do you think it will change the game of basketball? Share your comments below.