Team photo, courtesy of ShotTracker
With March Madness in full swing, it seemed like no better time than to check in with Davyeon Ross, who, in 2013, co-founded ShotTracker – a sensor-based system that captures real-time basketball statistics and performance analytics during games and practice.
What does it take to build a championship team? After years of playing basketball, to now building strong teams in business, have you found certain traits or qualities that are most necessary for team success? How did you build your team at ShotTracker?
Davyeon Ross: The building of a basketball team and business team aren't as different as you would think. There are many things I have learned from my basketball experience that's been helpful in building the ShotTracker organization:
Leadership: First of all, leadership matters. On a basketball team, it's the coach and the captains. You have to be a good leader and know how to get your team ready to play. In an organization, the founders are leaders and impact the culture, atmosphere, energy, and everything in your startup. I'm very fortunate to have an exceptional leader by my side in my co-founder, Bruce Ianni. At ShotTracker, we have several founding tenants that we live by as we continue to build and engage with our teams: "The best idea should always win," and "no stone unturned" are two of my favorites.
Chemistry: Similarly, on the court or in the office, team chemistry is critical. When we explore hiring someone, the first thing we think about is how would they impact our culture in a negative or positive manner. Chemistry is everything. Working together and being around people you enjoy is important. Startups are hard, and you want people in the trenches with you who are going to want to ride the emotional roller coaster with you – embrace the good days and the bad. You are not going to win every day and some days downright suck. It's important to have folks on your team who are going to pick you up when you fall.
Diversity: Most of the first 20 or so people in the organization came from folks we worked with in the past and we knew were team players. As we started to grow as an organization, we needed to search out others for different roles. As we go through that process, we make sure that they meet with our team, come to our office, see how we work, and experience the hard-working family environment we try to create. If after that we feel that this person would be a fit, we move forward. For my co-founder and I, diversity is a big strength in our organization. We harp on that and continue to strive for a diverse team.
We want and embrace people from different backgrounds, different experiences. It's been one of our strengths and will continue to be something Bruce and I keep at the top of our requirements.
With a one-way ticket to a place he’d never been, to play basketball at a college he’d never seen, Davyeon Ross emigrated from the West Indies island of Trinidad and Tobago to Kansas when he was 17.
Majoring in computer science, Ross became a basketball star at Benedictine College where he led the team in scoring, rebounding, and percentages and was named first team all-conference. His senior year, he led the nation in field goal percentage.
And while he decided to forego a career in basketball for computer science and an American visa, it was at the intersection of his talents where ShotTracker was born.
Founded in 2013 by Ross and Bruce Ianni, also a former collegiate athlete, ShotTracker employs 30 people who work in Merriam, Kansas, just 9 miles from the heart of Kansas City where the NCAA Men’s Midwest Regional games are played. ShotTracker has steadily gained momentum with investments from Magic Johnson, David Stern, Ryan Howard, Seventy-Six Capital, The L.A. Dodgers, and KCRise Fund, Mid America Angels – raising $26.5 million to date.
ShotTracker is a sensor-based system that automatically captures statistical and performance analytics for an entire team in real-time (sub-second) in practice and games.
Sports are often games of inches, seconds, and stats. With ShotTracker, you help clients use stats to view gaps as opportunities – how do you apply that idea as an entrepreneur?
DR: We live by the mantra, "You cannot improve what you don't measure." So, we also use analytics to help us understand what features people are using – what's working and what's not? Who is using the system, and how are they using the system. On a weekly basis, we provide our teams with how many shots they put up and where they rank against the rest of the ShotTracker community. This is not public, and they only receive their numbers and where they rank, no team names. This has been very motivating for our teams. One team went from shooting 4,000 shots per week to shooting 18,000 shots in one week, and let's just say they crushed it this season and broke numerous records.
Why did you decide to build ShotTracker in the Kansas City region, and what advantages, or disadvantages, does building a tech company in the middle of the country bring?
DR: I came to Kansas City out of college for a software engineering job and stayed. After being here, and building a company in KC, I can say that there are many advantages to being in KC, including, but not limited to: the cost of living, incredible hidden talent, ability to be on either coast within three hours via plane, and a very supportive and genuine community. Additionally, Kansas City is the heart of basketball country. KC is rich in basketball tradition and is a great place to build a company and a family.
At Kauffman, we talk a lot about how only three of every 1,000 people start a business in a given month. For the 997 who don’t start a business, what can they do to support the three? Who has helped you, in ways big and small, along the way?
DR: Lots of hugs and support is necessary. :) Startups are hard and it's an emotional roller coaster. If someone on the sidelines can in any way make a connection or introduction for a startup, please make it. If there is anything you can do to help entrepreneurs and start-ups move the needle, please do it. If you can use their product, do it, and also give honest feedback on what you like and don't like because it only makes us better. It takes a village and successful startups lead to successful communities.
Check out this raw cut of ShotTracker's broadcast capabilities.
Courtesy of ShotTracker