This week we had the honor to interview Mohammad Ali Abbaspour, CEO of Sponixtech, a leading sports-tech startup that build technologies for clubs, leagues and broadcasters, to enhance the fan experience and monetize content for right-holders.
Here is a video illustrating Sponixtech’s immersive replay and virtual advertising technologies.
📝Show Notes: Through this interview, we touched on his background and how he got the idea of his company. We also discussed his role at Sponixtech, his product and the benefits for the teams, the leagues and the broadcasters. And then we touched on his plans for the next 12 months.
🚀Best Quotes: Here’s some of the key discussion points and best quotes from our conversation with Mohammad:
- On his background: “I started in IT management and an IT engineering field. I was also a professional football player. So there, the technology and sport, especially football, met each other. I love Football (Soccer) since I was a kid. So sport tech and especially football is the main point in my life. So this is why I founded a sport-tech startup like Sponixtech”.
- On how he got the idea of Spnixtech: “About 10 years ago, I was involved in a sport tech project and I had another startup. Back then we developed some other sports technologies. But around 2019, I decided to do something unique, not just in the region but worldwide. So the initial idea of Sponixtech started back then. And then, I brought on some other great team members and ended up founding Sponixtech in 2019 and officially, we started in 2020. Back then, we had five employee but right now, we are a team of 35 people. We are based in Qatar, Doha”.
- On his immersive replay technology product: “We have developed two technologies which we believe are unique. The first one is an immersive replay technology. With this technology, we can show the most important moments of the match through the eyes of the players. Both technologies that we have are just using the broadcast feed of the match. We don’t need any specific cameras. We are just using the program feed and directed feed. So we are doing totally in down stream. And so, using AI, machine learning, computer vision and based on cloud computing, we are producing these kind of outputs. So the fans can feel the moment from the point of view of their favorite player. So this kind of contents are very interesting for fans and therefore, for the sponsors.
- On the benefits for teams and broadcasters to use his immersive replay technology product: “With our replay technology, they can increase their fan engagement and they can enhance their fan experience. And at the same time, they can have very good revenue from the sponsors (..) For example, we implemented our solution in the Super Cup of the UAE, and they use our technology during the live feed of the match. And after the match, they put our content on their Twitter account. And usually they have 5000 to 7,000 views but our post on their Twitter account had 110,000 views. So the awareness of this content are very high because usually, even after the live match, these kind of contents will be viral millions of times in social media. So the sponsors love to be there”.
- On some of the sports organizations using their replay technology today: “We implemented our solution in many top tier competitions, like the UEFA Champions League and right now we are working with the FIFA Arab Cup with beIN Sport. And also, we are starting some new cooperation and contracts with some top leagues in Europe”.
- On his virtual advertising product: “The second product is a virtual advertising solution, which allows to change any elements of the sports feed. We can change that in real time. We can replace the billboards all around the field for different sports and it is real time. And the main point here is that virtual advertising is not new. Some leagues and competitions have been using virtual advertising solutions for five, six years now. So this is not a new concept, but how we are doing this is very unique”.
- On how his virtual advertising product is unique: “The advantage that we have is that we don’t need anything in the stadium to do that because for example, in the MLS right now, they are using virtual advertising, they are installing some specific billboards to be able to have the virtual advertising for different region and different distributing channels. But what we can do here is that we don’t need anything in the stadium at all, so we can replace any normal and regular billboards. And the main point is that we can even do this in the broadcast layer. It’s very, very unique. For example, the MLS or any league, are distributing one feed for all of the board, So based on the agreement that the broadcasters have with the league, they can now, with our virtual advertising solution, change the advertisement on their side. So it’s very unique because until now, the leagues and clubs could only do this from the stadium. For example, in LaLiga right now, they are producing 8, 9, 10 different feeds for the important match of LaLiga and they are sending each feed to each region. One feed will come to the Middle East with Arabic sponsors. One feed will go to US with US sponsors and one will come to the East of Asia with Chinese sponsors. But with our solution, what LaLiga can do now with our technology is to have one feed for all of the boards. And based on the commercial agreement, all the broadcasters in all of the board can change the advertisement on their side. So it means even in one country, it can be different broadcasters for one competition. So it will make huge new revenue stream for the right-holders. They can now have a specific feeds with a specific sponsors, and they can have more local sponsors for different regions and also, the clubs and the leagues can send different message, if they want during the match (..) But for example, for our virtual advertising, in details, we can say how many seconds each brands was visible during the match. But the number of the user and viewers is not in our hand”.
- On their targeted customers: “Our preference is to work with the biggest brands, broadcasters and league in the sports industry because both of our technologies are high quality products but obviously, we like to work with any potential prospects and clients. So we plan to approach the top tier leagues and tournaments, and we are working with some of them right now. And also, we plan to collaborate with smaller leagues and clubs as well. Right now, regarding the broadcasters, we are working with beIN Sport in the region, in the Middle East. And also, we are working with RMC Sport in France and regarding the leagues. We are also working with Benfica Lisbon and regarding the leagues, we are working with UAE Pro League and just yesterday, we started our official cooperation with the Italian Serie A. Lastly we are working with the UEFA Champions League as well. That’s the biggest brand, from my point of view in the football world”.
- On their competition: “The majority of the big names in sports are using at least one of these technologies from our competitors, virtual advertising or immersive replay. So they need these kind of technologies but the main point is, because we are purely software based solutions, our costs could be lower than our competitors. It doesn’t mean that our quality is lower as well, not at all because we can show in both technologies that our quality is even better than our competitors. But because we haven’t many logistics and operational costs and also hardware installation our cost is lower. And so, it’s a very good core competency which enables us to penetrate the market”.
- On their business model: “Our customers have to pay for both a licensing fee and/or a monthly fee, based on the number of games. Generally, it could be based on per match revenue or per season revenue or as you mentioned, monthly licensing could be another option but right now, we are more working on per season or per match deals with our clients (..) I can’t mention a specific price range because it depends on many factors”.
- On his opinion on the Metaverse space: “I think it is a very big game changer in the sport industry. From a Sponixtech point of view and what we are doing, there is a huge potential for us as well because with the metaverse we will see new experiences for fans and new opportunities for the technologies to create value for right-holders. And both of our technologies could be useful for those new upcoming sports experiences.”
- On his plans for the next 12 months: “First off, we are working on customizing both of our solutions for other sports as well. Right now, both of our technologies are ready for football (soccer), as well as for handball and tennis. We are also getting contacted by some of the biggest brands in other sports like cricket, basketball, Formula E, so we trying to customizing our solutions for those other sports as well. We are also entering the NFT space. So imagine a unique video highlight based on NFTs. For example, with what the NBA is doing with Top Shot in the US right now, they are selling the regular highlights to the fans based on the NFT. But imagine if they could have unique moments from one of the slam dunks of Michael Jordan, for example. So it could help them have even more value for their NFT as well. So this is what we are exploring with some of the leagues right now to, to enter the NFT space as well. We are also raising our new round of funding and we have received many different proposals from investors as part of our Series A from the region and from Europe and the US. In our pre-seed and seed rounds so far we have raised around $1 million. And right now, we are raising about $4.4 million for our Series A”.
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