About 8 years ago software entrepreneur Gregg Jacobs was watching his youngest son try out for club lacrosse and soccer teams in California. What he noticed back then was that coaches for both sports were feverishly keeping notes on clip boards, turning pages, and scribbling things down wherever they could. Jacobs knew from his software background that there had to be a better way, however smartphones were just on the cusp and tablets hadn’t even been invented.
FastForward to 2011. With smartphones growing increasingly fast and iPads taking a firm place in the home and in enterprise, Jacobs decided to revisit that idea, and started California startup SportsBoard.
SportsBoard, in it’s simplest form is a player relationship management system for coaches. Think SalesForce or ACT for coaches to manage players. The platform has a cloud based component and a mobile component which allows coaches to quickly make entries for later analysis from their iPhones or iPads. When they get home, back to the office, or the gym they can quickly sync to the cloud and manage their teams on a desktop or laptop computer.
SportsBoard is now optimized for ten different sports; Soccer, Basketball, Baseball, Lacrosse, Football, Ice Hockey, Field Hockey, Tennis, Volleyball and Rugby. Jacobs tells us that Softball is in the pipeline as well.
We got a chance to interview Jacobs about SportsBoard and growing his startup just far enough outside the valley, to be considered “everywhere else”
What is SportsBoard?
SportsBoard is a mobile player assessment system for recruiting, season and camp activities. SportsBoard is available for 10 different sports including Soccer, Basketball, Lacrosse, Baseball, Football, Ice Hockey, Field Hockey, Tennis, Volleyball and Rugby – and soon Softball.
In layman’s terms, how does it work? (In other words how would you explain it to your grandmother)
SportsBoard consists of two components – the SportsBoard mobile Apps that currently run on iPads and iPhones, and the SportsBoard cloud that runs on the Internet.
The cloud is used for all of the data setup and configuration before coaches go out to courts/fields/rinks to assess players. Coaches then use the App while mobile, where they can enter data without being online such as text notes, skills ratings, stats, shot/goal charts, hitting/pitching charts, status information and more. After assessments are complete, coaches then sync their mobile devices to our cloud to aggregate, organize and synthesize their data for review and analysis. This entire process leads to a more streamlined, efficient system with improved and faster decision-making.
I started SportsBoard about 18 months ago. Prior to SportsBoard, I had accumulated 18 years of experience starting and building enterprise software companies, which had a server and mobile devices.
Where are you based?
San Rafael, CA, in Marin County, 20 miles north of San Francisco.
What’s the startup scene/culture like where you’re based?
San Rafael is a bit off the radar in terms of where Bay Area software start-ups start. San Rafael’s most famous software company though is Autodesk, which is a very large, publicly-owned company We’re located in an eclectic, urban setting with coffee shops, restaurants, and micro-breweries nearby.
How did you come up with the idea for SportsBoard?
I first thought of SportsBoard seven years ago as I was watching my youngest son try out for his club lacrosse and soccer club teams. The coaches were feverishly taking notes on clipboards, and I immediately thought that software running on a clipboard-like device would be so much easier. I figured why wouldn’t coaches want to get rid of the paper and streamline their workflow if they could work more efficiently and have the ability to make better, more informed, data-driven decisions?
But seven years ago, there was no iPad. In fact, tablet computing didn’t become a viable business platform until about 2 years ago.
Seventeen months ago, we started this crusade and, oh, what a ride it’s been. Over the last eight months, more than 100 colleges, ranging from Div. 3 to the largest Div.1, have adopted SportsBoard. And, in these eight months, oh, how the product has grown. We started by addressing on-field, on-court player assessment specifically for college coaches to use when watching athletes at recruiting events. And now SportsBoard is so much more than our initial concept…
How did you come up with the name?
The term SportsBoard means digital clipboard for sports – “clipboard” where clip is replaced by sports.
What problem does SportsBoard solve?
There are many professional processes are anchored to paper. Paper introduces all kinds of problems, especially if you need to be nimble, make decisions, and act quickly. In 10 different sports, we’ve enabled coaches at all levels of the game to streamline their processes and make better and faster decisions, and that improves their chances of winning.
What’s your secret sauce?
SportsBoard is the blend of domain expertise of sports with the domain expertise of cloud and mobile computing.
Are you bootstrapped or funded?
We are funded and always entertain additional funding.
What is your go-to-market strategy?
Our initial go-to-market strategy was to establish credibility and gain traction with college coaches and then let that credibility give us the ability to easily sell down at the high school and club levels.
What’s one challenge you’ve overcome in the startup process?
The first challenge we faced was market acceptance. After all, we were attempting to change a process that was hundreds of years old. Will the market want SportsBoard? Will the market pay for it and, if so, how much? Does SportsBoard address and solve a real problem in the market?
SportsBoard has been accepted in men’s and women’s soccer, lacrosse, and basketball, as well as women’s ice hockey, baseball, and tennis.
Who are some of your mentors and business role models?
At the beginning, I knew I needed domain expertise in how coaches assess skills in sports, so I assembled advisory councils of college coaches who would provide the data models I needed in order to build credible, useful products.
What’s next for SportsBoard?
To become the most widely-used player assessment system available today and in the future.
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