The Sultan of Stats

In three short years, GameChanger has become the go-to digital solution for over 60,000 youth, high school and college teams. A mobile app and website intended for scorekeeping, stats and live game updates, GameChanger has been used to score more than 1.7 million games since its inception, accumulating a colossal amount of data that is more than three times the history of professional sports.

“We didn’t invent digital scorekeeping,” CEO Ted Sullivan noted. “There were many products before GameChanger, but we’ve gotten a lot of traction because our product is so easy and intuitive. When we first founded the company, my co-founder Kiril Savino and I set out to achieve this goal- create an app so easy that a youth league parent with no scorekeeping experience- I mean doesn’t know what ‘4-6-3’ means- could flawlessly create stat data that even a D1 coach would find intriguing.”

Sullivan attributes a rich background in sports to GameChanger’s origin. Having pitched at Duke University and in the Cleveland Indians organization during his playing days, he helped create Headfirst Sports Camps with his brother Brendan (who pitched at Stanford and reached AAA in the San Diego Padres organization). Today, Headfirst is the largest youth sports camp organization in the Washington, D.C. area and also runs camps for the New York Yankees, the Boston Red Sox and the Chicago Cubs.

“That was my start as an entrepreneur in amateur sports,” said Sullivan, who attended Harvard Business School after his playing days, eventually settling into a position with a mobile apps company in 2006, where “through luck,” he had a “front row seat to watching the ‘mobile’ and ‘real-time’ web tidal wave crash on every industry on the planet.”

Sullivan’s love for amateur baseball combined with his realization that “amateur sports had yet to be revolutionized or disrupted by technology” led to his ‘aha!’ moment and the birth of GameChanger. The company is now the chosen partner of Perfect Game, Little League, Babe Ruth Baseball, Cal Ripken Baseball and USA Baseball.

“Our focus, first and foremost, was on coaches, who at the time were using archaic paper and pencil and maybe spreadsheets for managing, calculating, and using statistics,” he said. “If we solved that problem, we also knew we could solve a second problem in the market: parents and fans of amateur teams have so much passion for their favorite team and ballplayers, but no way to follow those teams in the same way they follow their favorite pro teams. Our goal was to simply and easily collect enormous amounts of data through scorekeeping, and magically turn that data into ‘real time’ game content and a ‘pro-level’ experience.

GameChanger allows parents, family and fans to follow a live ‘GameStream’ of plays and stats from the web, phone or tablet. Parents can see schedules, rosters, and live scores for free. They subscribe to premium team content. The product, which is free for coaches and scorekeepers, features an intuitive interface for scorekeeping and enough statistical analysis metrics to make Billy Beane dizzy.

“We have all the basic stats,” Sullivan noted, “but we really built this product to focus on the amateur market where players are developing. We created a set of ‘developmental metrics’ to provide coaches with a deeper level of insight into execution and the process- instead of just the results.”

“The numbers are fascinating,” said Sullivan, who cited an example of a GameChanger study (which spanned millions of innings of amateur baseball across the country) that focused on the results of an at-bat after a first pitch strike had been delivered. What he found? “The chances of an at-bat starting with a strike and resulting in a walk is less than 10% at almost every level of the game.”

“It just speaks to the amount of data we’re scoring,” he continued. “On any given Saturday in the spring, we’re recording more than twenty years’ worth of MLB games- simultaneously. We’ve got more than ten times the entire history of the MLB [in terms of statistics] in just three years.”

What’s equally as impressive is that after each game is completed, GameChanger churns out automatic game recap stories that are written instantly. Sullivan explained that the pitch-by-pitch and stat data is delivered to a Chicago-based company called Narrative Science, which immediately generates a newspaper-quality story written by a computer-algorithm that can be shared with fans or local media. More than 1.2 million stories were ‘written’ and posted to GameChanger in 2012.

“The game recaps are also tailored for the amateur game,” he explained. “We know that fans of one particular team are going to read the article, so even if they lost 10-0 most of the content will be about the positive achievements of that team.”

“Little by little”

Sullivan admitted that in the beginning, not every coach was receptive to ditching their tattered scorebooks. “It was a challenge at first, just like anything that’s different. The number one thing that drove the coaches was the real value GameChanger provided. We provide valuable stats, instantly for zero cost.” It’s 100% free for coaches and scorekeepers to use; three coaches or scorekeepers for each team have full “Admin” access to their team. GameChanger revenue comes from parents and fans that subscribe to follow Premium Content for $8 per month or $40 for a year.

GameChanger has created a product that with little time and effort (and zero cost) gives coaches a view of their team that is positively incomparable to anything they’ve seen before. Perhaps the most appropriately-named entity in all of sports, Sullivan had to admit that he didn’t come up with the name himself. “My wife Margaret thought of it,” he said. “We were brainstorming names one night and when she suggested it, the discussion was over.”

“We launched our product at the January 2010 ABCA Convention, at a tiny little table in the very back corner during record cold temperatures in Dallas,” he added. “I remember being bundled up next to a garage door in the corner.”

Changing the future

“If we talk a year from now, our product is going to be totally different,” notes Sullivan. GameChanger intends to provide additional features to save coaches time and give them better insight into their team’s progress. They will also be improving the fan and parent experience through an enhanced “GameStream” and better social media sharing tools.

GameChanger has also added basketball scorekeeping to its app for Apple devices. “We are really excited about 2013,” Sullivan said. “We have big plans for the product that is just scratching the surface right now,” he added, noting that he expects the number of baseball and softball teams using GameChanger to eclipse 100,000.