MBAs team up for sports management website
January 11, 2012 in Startup
My two sons are at that age now where they understand sports statistics … goal difference, points, shots per game. To them, itâ€™s enjoyable math. To my former MBA student Gihan Fonseka, itâ€™s a thriving new business venture (see www.athelink.com).
I still love playing and coaching soccer. When I step onto the field I can pretend that I am Ronaldo or Sir Alex. But when I leave to go home, reality kicks in. So Iâ€™ll just watch highlights of professional soccer on TSN, Gol TV and Setanta Sports and then I will follow my favourite players and teams on Twitter and Facebook. I will then check up on some statistics through ScoreMobile on my BlackBerry and then review more data on Yahoo Fantasy Sports. Itâ€™s a passion, or as my wife says, a sickness. But what if all of that was also available for the local amateur athlete? Could I even follow the statistics of my two sonsâ€™ athletic exploits?
Prior to his MBA studies at the DeGroote School of Business, Gihan Fonseka was always thinking about the next big idea. Motivated by the successes (and learning from the failures) of companies coming out of Silicon Valley, he started documenting every single thing that came to mind. A fellow classmate, Jason Brenzel, was also contemplating his next big move as he watched his friends successfully launch their own ventures. They were both hungry.
Although they sat right beside each other on the first day of welcome week in September 2008, the two did not end up brainstorming together until the following fall. By this time, Jason realized that Gihan had qualities that complemented his own. Gihan was a web design and marketing specialist while Jason had a finance and computer engineering background … a formidable pair would be created if they could find an opportunity to work together.
After going through an initial list of ideas that Gihan had (including the idea of a sports-based social network), Jason was not satisfied with any of them. But the sports idea would continue to linger. Gihan would later enrol in an entrepreneurship class where he further developed the business plan. Eventually, Athelink was born and Gihan and Jason were now ready to dive into programming and database development.
Fast-forward a year and half later and Gihan and Jason are now experts in the entire process of organized sports. They have developed an elegant solution for the thousands of volunteer sports conveners all over the world. Their first official client was the Toronto Private School Board and they have since made waves in various hockey and lacrosse leagues.
This is just the beginning for the duo. Their unique approach to sports league management is quite compelling. Their pricing model is quite attractive to league administrators and the resulting services to coaches and players is extremely attractive. Imagine a website that stores all of the playersâ€™ statistics in perpetuity with video highlights and comments that are all integrated with social networking. My two boys will essentially have their own â€śbaseball cardâ€ť for the rest of their playing days regardless of what sport or league they play in.
Athelink continues to add new features, including the rollout of more recognition tools for all players. One of the main challenges for amateur athletes is the ability to benchmark performance across various teams (even divisions or leagues). Athelink makes it possible to benchmark performance by providing standard statistics so that scouts can easily identify differences among various players.
One of the predominant reasons Athelink has been impressing conveners, coaches, athletes and even soccer moms and hockey dads is its intuitive usability. The
system has been built from the ground up in such a way that it reduces workload for the convener while adding more value to end users. You can forget all the confusing web interfaces, arduous manual data entry and Excel spreadsheets that are currently used by most leagues. Athelink empowers conveners, coaches, and score keepers to provide easy live updates, right from the field of play.
Gihan and Jason plan to expand into soccer, football and golf by next spring. Current clients are delighted with the service so far and the duo has big dreams for expansion moving forward. They want to become the standard solution for all sports conveners worldwide. Thatâ€™s a gigantic goal … I wouldnâ€™t expect anything less from two DeGroote MBA graduates.