Hands On With Three Startups In The Paris Sports Accelerator Program
Incubators have been crucial in the role of developing tech’s leading companies and leading individuals over the past several years. Most recently, incubators have begun to make a name for themselves in the sports community, most notably with the LA Dodgers/RGA Accelerator program.
As the focus often pinpoints these kinds of efforts going on in the United States, we wanted to explore where else in the world similar initiatives are occurring. This two-part series highlights a sports incubator based in Paris, called Le Tremplin.
In yesterday’s piece we covered Le Tremplin and how it got its start and what it does for the startups in their domain. Today, we deep dive into three of the startups in Le Tremplin’s first class of companies looking to become France and Europe’s change leaders in the sports industry.
The first startup in Le Tremplin that hosted me was Footovision. The creation of Footovision is something out of the Silicon Valley founder playbook.
Three friends, Medhi Ennaciri, Pierre Miralles and Erwan Curien attended the highly regarded Polytechnique School in Paris together. They continued on to study statistics at the prestigious ENSAE, and each spent the next ten years working in finance.
Fanatical sports fans, soccer in particular, the trio decided to get into something “that excited us” according to Medhi, and began looking at the viability of starting a sports data company. Last summer, their business plan was strong enough for them to quit their high-paying jobs in finance and start Footovision.
The three of them now spend all of their working hours in the modest workspace they have at Le Tremplin. When I walked in Erwan was at work on their newest server, Pierre, donning headphones, was tweaking a player recognition formula, and Medhi at his desk amidst strewn energy drink cans and a couple of computer monitors.
Make no mistake, these three gentleman are above the ground floor level of developing a big data soccer service that is most akin to Pro Football Focus’ in the States.
Using video of soccer matches, Footovision uses a proprietary and in-house developed software tool they call Footoanalysis to take feeds of soccer matches and create the most tailored data. One of the unique facets about what they do is that it requires no hardware in stadium. Through live and taped broadcasts, fixed cameras in arenas, and piped footage from production trucks, Footovision extracts all the media they need.
Through visual identification via facial recognition, jersey numbers, hair, and skin color, Footovision’s tracking software currently has a “90% success rate” on identifying players according to Medhi.
From there, their third tool, Footoanalysis hones in on each player identified and delivers real-time statistics about them. This data includes the simplest metrics of distance covered and shots taken to the most minute details of pass trajectory and speed. Each of these individual data points are recorded and displayed for individual analysis, but also aggregated into the macro level of the match at hand. At the end of the match, Footovision then translates the several gigabytes of data into a presentation that can be filtered into highlights generated by their software. Users of the data can also break the matches down into all passing plays, shooting plays, scoring opportunities, etc.
There is also an individual highlight feature where the user can focus on one player during the match to see all of their stats and data as it all unfolds.
Their plan to monetize Footovision is three-tiered and is already well into action. Their first phase is selling their service to the media. Similar to how Cris Collinsworth uses (and invests in) Pro Football Focus to deliver commentary on Sunday Nights, soccer commentators can do the same with Footovision.
Their second phase is to sell this data to betting companies. Gaming in Europe is legal at best, and less grey at worst in most places throughout Europe so being transparent about this isn’t as looked down upon as it would be in the US. The ways in which betting companies could use this data are obvious in helping to set better lines for the industry.
The third and final phase is for clubs to employ Footovision as a scouting database. There are countless ways teams can use Footovision’s services to analyze games, track opponents, and scout players.
Medhi detailed the ways in which joining Le Tremplin has accelerated their growth. The first thing he mentions is the “workspace provided to them allowed us for the first time to work together in an office environment on Footovision.”
The advertising and publicity Le Tremplin founder Benjamin Carlier trumped is also providing huge dividends for Footovision. “Interacting with other startups and partnering with networks has been easier now that we’re part of this known entity” touted Medhi.
Still working on their first round of funding, Medhi hopes to stay with Le Tremplin “as long as we can, and definitely plan on moving into the Jean-Bouis Stadium” which will be the new home of Le Tremplin come this summer.
I spent the first part of my last day at Le Tremplin with Tech4Team business development director Aurelein Artaud and founder Kevin Vitoz who dialed in from southern France. Also an alum of ENSAE, Kevin founded Tech4Team two years ago, and brought Aurelein on this past summer. In addition to Aurelein and Kevin, Tech4Team employs seven other members in the company’s mission to become price optimizers for sports, theatre and festival events.
Another Le Tremplin company who developed all their software in house, Tech4Team’s technology takes into effect weather, traffic, strikes, and competitor prices to set prices for different tiers of seating at venues. They currently have 20 clients, but are working most closely with Paris’ famed Musee Grevin (think Madame Tussauds) to test their software. Kevin and Aurelein said the ultimate goal for each venue event is to “satisfy customers and maximize demand.” Venue operators can use the software to update prices as often as they want, whether that be by the hour or the month.
They are ahead of many others in Le Tremplin as far as funding goes, raising $250,000 from some of the biggest CEO’s in the French sport and ticket scene. With this funding they are looking to expand in another French speaking market, Belgium, after their current Beta test ends in December. After that, 2016 looks to be a big year for Tech4Team as they are looking to work with France’s version of Ticketmaster and Eventbrite to use their software to set event prices.
As far as their participation in Le Tremplin goes, Kevin and Aurelein told me that it has helped them get in front of the partners they need to be working hand in hand with to model their software. And based on their crowded working space, the current team of 9 is looking forward to the larger office space Le Tremplin will provide for them in Jean-Bouis Stadium.
Similar to Footovision’s founders, our next two makers had a long-standing relationship prior to starting their own company. In Guillaume Gibon and Charles Mahe’s case, they actually knew each other from early childhood. After school, Guillaume worked in finance, and Charles had experience in startups by working for a Skype-like company in France. Together, the two have built on their experience and relationship to found Fosburit, a crowdfunding platform designed specifically for athletes and sport.
The first thing you notice when walking into Fosburit’s headquarters at Le Tremplin is a smattering of sports photos on the wall. And they’re not of athletes or teams Fosburit employees are fans of, but rather clients Fosburit has assisted in reaching their goal. They call this “The Wall” and the adornments grow by the month.
In fact, Fosburit has helped run 206 campaigns at the time I met them, with a 95% success rate and over $1M Euros raised. This success rate is especially impressive when you look at US counterparts like Kickstarter who have a less than 50% success rate.
The unique part about Fosburit though is the work it takes to actually get a campaign on their site. Whether it is sailing the Atlantic, running a race for charity, attending a soccer academy or hiking a trail, athletes from all over the country have come to Fosburit to help achieve their dream. Once a candidate applies to have Fosburit list their campaign, there is a stringent background check on the applicant, a scan of their social media footprint, number-crunching, and time management questions that are asked.
Of the 30 to 40 applications Fosburit gets per week, they end up accepting about one in every four to go live on their site.
There is a reason they do their due diligence in their process, as their success rate indicates above, they get results. Depending on what percent the athlete decides on giving Fosburit (they can choose from 5, 10, or 15% of campaign funds raised) they get use of the platform at the lowest level, to presentation and animation help at the middle level, all the way to help with PR and social media at the highest level. Guillaume said that “about 70% go for the middle option and 15% each opt for the highest and lowest options.”
To put an average campaign in perspective, they run for about 5 weeks, with an average of 5 to 6 thousand Euros in funds raised with 70 to 80 backers. The campaigns are run by Fosburit’s small team of eleven, which is actually on the larger end of Le Tremplin’s startups.
Their success in raising funds isn’t limited to their clients either, as Fosburit raised $350,000 in their first round of funding this past June, and hope to raise another $2 million in 2016. The growth trajectory they’ve laid out probably will make them successful enough on their own to graduate from Le Tremplin.
Guillaume is careful to say, however, how much Le Tremplin is responsible for their quick catapulting growth. “They’ve increased our ability to network and it has opened doors for us that wouldn’t have been open otherwise” he told me over coffee in their hectic workspace. In the rest of their time with Le Tremplin, Fosburit is aiming to translate their services into five more languages, as they now use only French.
No matter the next place they call home, Fosburit is most certainly going to place a premium on wall space, because they’re on pace to outgrow their current one very soon.
By Joseph Solosky, SportTechie