SIQ Basketball CEO: ‘We See a Future Where Every Basketball Is a Smart Basketball’ – SportTechie - Techy Hunters

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Tuesday, July 20, 2021

SIQ Basketball CEO: ‘We See a Future Where Every Basketball Is a Smart Basketball’ – SportTechie

By Matt Ehalt

 

Our Startups series looks at companies and founders who are innovating in the fields of athlete performance, fan engagement, team/league operations and other high-impact areas in sports. If you’d like to be considered for this series, tell us about your mission.

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World’s shortest elevator pitch: SIQ is a FIBA-approved smart basketball that tracks shots and provides advanced analytics on any basketball court in the world.”

Company: SIQ Basketball

Location: Los Angeles

Year founded: 2012. “But as a current basketball company that we are today, that would be 2019. We’ve pivoted to a direct-to-consumer brand from a B2B brand.”

Website: siqbasketball.com 

Funding round to date: “We’ve raised a pre-seed round and that was in Europe. That was where I invested previously. We’re currently in the beginning to middle of raising our seed round.”

Who are your investors? “We have Terra Venture, who led the pre-seed round. That is the firm I used to work at. That was the lead investor for the previous round. There’s also a strategic investor. We’re in the process of raising a $3 million round.”

Are you looking for more investment? “Yes.”

Tell us about yourself, CEO Erik Anderson: “I was born and raised in Los Angeles. I grew up playing basketball. There are few things in my life that I’ve loved as much as basketball growing up. I finished college, and my first job was in London. I got into venture capital, primarily in Europe. And I focused on Scandinavia as the investment region. I found this company, invested into this company and a year later after COVID, I was asked as a member of the board to take over as CEO. To this day, I still play rec league basketball.”

Who are your co-founders/partners? “Harri Hohteri, our founder and chief product officer. He is a Finnish pro basketball player. He was on the Finnish national team. He started the company by duct-taping hardware to the outside of a basketball, shooting that basketball and collecting data, just as a very simple proof of concept to see what information we could collect. He’s done an amazing job of building this product to where it is today and protecting it with IP. The other person I would mention in this would be Josh Gotthelf, our CMO. He was a co-founder and former CEO of Dime Magazine. We just wanted to add some more basketball power in the U.S., and Josh is well-connected.”

How does your product work? “The most important thing about our product is that it’s a world-class basketball. You can pick up our basketball and compare it to any other comparable premium game basketball on the market today, and not know that there’s hardware inside of it. When you step onto the court, you open up the app, and you spin your ball to connect via Bluetooth and you start shooting. It’s as simple as that. When you are done with your session, it’ll tell you how many shots you’ve attempted, how many shots you’ve made, along with features such as what was the trajectory of your shot or angle of your release, distance of all of your shots. We can also create a heat map at the end of your session of where you shot all the shots from through the app.”

What problem is your company solving? “Youth and amateur basketball doesn’t have those analytics that are tracked in real time. There are very expensive camera systems that get installed on indoor courts, and they can’t be moved, they’re on one court, they’re looking down at players and providing really significant insight, but it takes a professional team or a very wealthy college or high school to set up. On the consumer end of the spectrum, there is just a really clunky hardware or camera experience that you need. What we’re doing is we fit into the market perfectly where in an easy consumer application we provide advanced analytics for youth and amateur basketball.”

What does your product cost and who is your target customer? “The SIQ basketball, right now, is in the same price target as a premium game basketball at $99. And then we charge $7 a month for the app subscription. Our target customer is core basketball players and clusters of basketball players, like teams and AAU clubs. Eventually, we want every basketball to be a smart basketball. We see a future where every basketball is a smart basketball. Right now, we’re at the stage where we’re working with core basketball players, coaches, trainers and parents.”

How are you marketing your product? “We’re going direct to consumer with the product. We’re also putting an emphasis on basketball tournaments and events this summer. During COVID, we focused on direct to consumer. Post-COVID, we’re actually going in-person to coaches and trainers at tournaments.”

How do you scale, and what is your targeted level of growth? “Our targeted level of growth is that every basketball should be a smart basketball in the future. And we scale by onboarding teams and players around the world who want to compete and track against all the other basketball players in the world. Regarding hardware, we need to focus on making basketballs and being able to make up to 20,000 basketballs per month.”

Who are your competitors, and what makes you different? “There’s two categories here. General, normal basketballs. And we’re different because we have hardware and technology inside of ours. We are working to compete against basketballs. We have the analytics focus and the data focus. We have really lightweight consumer competitors and we have really advanced, technical, expensive competitors. And we fit perfectly by being that advanced analytics tool at a consumer price.”

What’s the unfair advantage that separates your company? “We have over 25 patents, a really high level that cover all recreational projectiles that track events via Bluetooth.”

What milestone have you recently hit or will soon hit? “We will, since our soft launch in January, surpass one million shots taken on our platform by U.S. users.”

In what ways have you adapted to the COVID-19 pandemic? “COVID was really rough for all youth sports in general. We took the opportunity to focus on lining the business up so that we can succeed post-pandemic. We’re actually launching where we’ll be at 10 tournaments, starting the weekend of June 25, through the end of the summer. But we took the opportunity to focus on the business, focus on the fundraise, get us to a place where we can actually start to grow.”

Beyond the pandemic, what obstacles has your company had to overcome? “Hardware is hard. And that’s a common phrase in venture capital. A lot of hardware companies don’t have to be bounced, either. So, we’re designing hardware that needs to be very lightweight and needs to be able to be bounced 10,000 times so that we can still have power from the battery to the hardware, that we still have Bluetooth connectivity, so that the ball can actually still communicate with the app. And it needs to be lightweight enough so that it doesn’t impact the gameplay at all.”

What are the values that are core to your brand? “Basketball is for everyone. Whether you’re male or female, we think everyone should be able to play basketball. That’s why our price point is on the lower side. We actually did launch the women’s outdoor basketball before we launched the men’s outdoor basketball. We signed an NBA player, we signed a WNBA player. So, we’re not just building a sports company for just men. And we’re not taking the women’s side of the game insignificantly. We’re putting equal priority both on men and women because basketball is for everyone.”

What does success ultimately look like for your company? “Every basketball is a smart basketball.”

What should investors or customers know about you—the person, your life experiences—that shows they can believe in you? “Coming from the investment side, I would say that what I would look for in a founder has to be passion, grit, integrity. What we have as a team is many professionals whom people enjoy working with. So, we have an IP-protected technology, we have a huge market, and we’ve shown the ability to execute thus far.”

How does a smart basketball help younger players? “We’re working with a Sports Academy called The International Sports Academy (Willoughby, Ohio) right now. What they love about the basketball is they can quantify things that were previously left to just the eye test. And one of those key features is the release speed of the shot, and by actually working on how to improve that release speed and quantifying that they’re having players advance to the next level at a higher rate than they did previously. And they’re improving their shooting percentage.

“We have two professional players, Duncan Robinson of the Miami Heat and Kayla McBride of the Minnesota Lynx, that are partners in our business that tested the basketball. They fell in love with the product, it passed their authenticity and performance tests. When we first talked to Duncan about the product, he told us—if you know his story, he was sort of unrecruited out of high school, played Division III at Williams College, then transferred to Michigan, was undrafted, and then started in the NBA Finals with the Heat. He’s obviously a tremendous shooter. He was telling us that growing up, he’d take a spiral notebook and a pen into the gym and write down, as best as he could remember, the results of what he did. Which, if you take 500 shots, you’re not going to even be 100% accurate. At best, you learn how many makes and misses you had, but you don’t know much about location or the arc of your shot, the spin rate, how long was it in your hands before you shot it? Our ball knows if you dribble before you shoot it. Duncan said, ‘I wish I’d had this. Because I would have been able to go to college coaches and say, ‘Look what I can do. Here it all is right here in this app, you can see exactly what I can do.’

“That shows what this could do for recruiting basketball players from all over the world, just showing how many people are shooting, how many times a day, here’s their percentages, here’s their core analytics on their shot. So, you can identify top prospects from shooting on any court in the world without having to leave your laptop.”

What’s your favorite quote about leadership? “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” — Wayne Gretzky — Michael Scott.

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