Startup spotlight: The future of data collection
SkillCorner believes that within five years, football data collection will be fully automated. Co-founder Charles Montmaneix (pictured, left) explains how the Paris-based startup aims to capitalise on this development.
What does SkillCorner do?
SkillCorner collects football data automatically and in real-time from any television broadcast or professional stadium feed. We use computer vision techniques and artificial intelligence, more precisely deep learning algorithms to collect a large amount of data, in particular data that was previously unavailable, such as tracking data. We sell this data directly or through different products that we develop with it.
How did you come up with the idea?
It all started when my partner Hugo, learned that football data was collected manually. I met with him shortly after and we thought it could be fun to do something about it. Our passion for football, technology and innovation took us on this crazy adventure to revolutionise sports data collection.
Do you see the product has being designed for betting, or do you feel it has a broader use?
Our first product, a live football match visualisation, was designed for betting but it has been used by media too (in China, Spain, Norway, South America and Africa, among others). More recently we have been discussing with European football clubs how it could be deployed for fan engagement purposes.
Our technology itself and all the data we collect from it has a lot of product applications.
One example is helping football clubs making more data-driven decisions for player recruitment, using previously unavailable tracking data. This is what we do with a leading English Premier League club. And there are more exciting projects we are working on a the moment with various actors from different football-related industries, including betting.
Which betting operators do you work with currently? How do you plan to build on these relationships?
It was an English bookmaker, Sam Sadi, the CEO of sports at Gamesys, who recommended us and encouraged us to embark on this adventure of live betting animation. It made us realise we could become the best alternative to live streamings.
Winamax was our first client and we have been working with them closely since we launched the first version of our product (Tristan Guiglini, head of sportsbook, and chief executive Alex Roos are our big fans and supporters since the very beginning). We can say that they helped us build the sexiest alternative to streaming, which will launch in August. In addition to Winamax, we are currently working on several proof of concepts with various operators across Europe.
It is also worth to mention that even though they were not betting operators per se, some of our first clients for our visualisation product or our live raw data feeds were Chinese companies. Partnerships that will be extended for this new football season. We strongly believe we will keep on developing our business in this region (China and South-East Asia) for the upcoming football season.
On a side note – We must say that all those early adopters are the unsung heroes of the startup scene. They’re the ones who take a chance on the new guys and expose themselves to some risk, knowing that true innovation doesn’t happen without it. Like all start-ups, we have massive respect for those operators who are stepping up in the early days and say “We’re in!”. And we plan to build on from this trust by keeping on innovating to bring their customer's experience to the next level with an unprecedented granularity of data.
All in all, the feedback from operators regarding our product have been very positive so far. Not only it is considered as a true innovation compared to the current trackers on the market by revolutionising the user's experience but it can also be a cost-effective solution compared to live streamings.
We are also very excited about the results of early surveys and testings which seem to show that the new features we are launching this August will bring our product to the next level, and without a doubt upgrade it to the must-have category!
Do you see sports betting as a way to prove the quality of the product before expanding it into other areas?
Not really. By wanting to work for the sports betting industry, we didn’t choose the easiest path. It meant early on to focus on two crucial aspects: accuracy and speed. Even though this has raised interest from media or football clubs along the way, sports betting is in our DNA and we are here to stay.
Are you looking to work with – or replace – traditional data suppliers?
We were part of Sportradar startup accelerator program last football season and we maintain a close relationship with them. We are also discussing the best ways to work with several other data suppliers. Since May, we have also benefitted from Microsoft’s support via a partnership that gives us visibility and relevant connections which have already a positive impact on the business side of things.
Computer vision and artificial intelligence will definitely change the way data suppliers work in the next few years. Similar to other sectors, there will be less and less manual work and we believe there will be no one collecting sports data manually from the television broadcast within the next five years. The data suppliers not shifting early enough will lose a competitive advantage. Whether they work with us now or try to catch up on the heavy R&D we have behind us, is yet to be seen.
What sort of funding have you raised?
We have recently closed a large funding deal with Business Angels and are also discussing with specialist VCs ways to further accelerate our growth and give us the means to achieve our ambition, which is to become a leader in sports data collection.
How have you found the fundraising process? Has it been hard work or have you found that the quality of your product has attracted investors?
To be frank, for our first round, we had little knowledge of what to expect. We went to see some of the largest VCs in France who were interested at first, as AI and Deep Tech makes everybody dream. But they didn’t know much about the betting industry and it was difficult to make them understand the particularities of this market and our true potential.
That's the reason why we started with Business Angels, people with a true passion for sports, successful entrepreneurs and experienced professionals from the finance sector. In the meantime, we focused on our R&D, our product roadmap and our business development. It is starting to pay off as it is now the VCs calling us. Dedicated, solid and reputable funds with whom we will be able to build a long-term relationship as we are aiming for a five-year horizon to achieve our goals.
Do you have much interaction with other startups? How has this helped the development of SkillCorner?
We do have many interactions with the startup scene in France, but not specifically with startups involved in sports and betting. Therefore we really like the opportunities created by Nilesh Mistry and Jonny Robb from Bettor Faster and their GamingStartup.Ventures network. They have been really helpful with tips and contacts since we met them about a year ago – it’s rare to see people helping and asking nothing in return.
SkillCorner at a glance:
Product: A live match visualization widget/tracker
Founders: Hugo Bordigoni and Charles Montmaneix
Launch date: 2018 for the World Cup in Russia (Europe, China)