The story of Amsterdam-based startup Metrica Sports reads like a fairytale: three students become friends over their shared love for football, and while watching their favourite sport together they realize they can use the science they apply in university to create usable data that football clubs need. Next thing you know their favourite team FC Barcelona becomes one of their favourite clients. It sounds too good to be true, but it all really happened to Metrica Sports in less than three years time. Founder Rubén Saavedra tells us how they did it when we visit their office at Ace Venture Lab’s Startup Village.
Football friends becoming founders
When Barcelona-born Saavedra came to Amsterdam as a neuro science exchange student, he became friends with Argentinian Bruno Dagnino: “With me being from Barcelona and Bruno being from Argentina, Messi was an easy link. We were also the only guys in the faculty who loved football”. Through playing football they met Enzo Angiletta, who had his own video production company. While watching matches together the three friends realized that all the data about distances crossed thrown at you during halftime are usually only interesting for the commentators, but not useful for the teams themselves. “I was researching tracking data with mice & rats, Bruno was doing that with eye movements, and then we saw this was available with football as well”. The three friends saw a niche. The neuroscience students decided to apply their movement tracking technique to football and Metrica Sports was born.
Analyzing the market
From 2013 they started to analyze the market for a year and a half by speaking with lots of football teams: “When we asked sports teams how they analyzed their matches, each of them said it was all video”. As Metrica’s software was going to reduce the time an analyst spends going back and forth through video footage drastically, the founders knew they were up to something good. They also made sure no one else was already doing what they had in mind: “There were two types of software already, but neither provided the insights & visualization we offer”.
A Footmapp full of possibilities
So Metrica Sports decided to develop an MVP for their program called Footmapp. It offers Identification, Analysis as well as Communication. “Identification used to be time-consuming and error-prone “, Rubén explains. “Footmapp gives the option for personalised pattern detection”. Coaches that know what they want to look for, can find any match information though Footmapp. Analysis is more precise, plus the analyst can now actually focus on his job instead of rewinding and fast forwarding video tapes for most of the week. Communication improves as through Footmapp, coaches can provide players then receive detailed reports explaining exactly what they did right and wrong, and what they need to focus on.
How does it work?
To properly analyse the game, Footmapp uses the so-called ‘scouting feed’ that teams themselves use, not the footage you see on tv. This way you can see what the other players that are nowhere near the ball are doing, as this is important for coaches as well. Footmapp then analyses the tracking data of the 22 players and the ball, and can figure things out like the exact speed of any player at any given moment in the match, exact distances between defenders, number of ball recoveries and number of passes it takes to get a ball back in a lane, number of times in a match one team has more players near the ball than the other team. It sounds incredibly detailed and in-depth, and it is. In the below video clip the coach and staff from Villareal explain how they use Footmapp:
Ace Venture Lab’s Star Player
In order to put together an MVP, the founders organised a match with friends in April 2014. They analysed the match and put the results together as their MVP. A tweet to an analyst from Spanish football Team Villareal got the ball rolling. The analyst was enthusiastic, Villareal bought the MVP, and became their first client. Only then the guys officially founded their startup. The same year Metrica Sports joined Ace Venture Lab and now the Spanish-Argentinian startup is the incubator’s star player. Speaking about Spanish-Argentinian star players it’s a short pass to Metrica’s second major client: FC Barcelona. In the summer of 2016 the startup approached Barca’s methodology department, and soon the legendary club that brought these founders together in the first place became their second client. With this story coming full circle it sounds like a happy end, but for Metrica it’s just the start.
Open for business
The best thing about this startup fairytale, is that Metrica Sports is still open for business. So far the sports startup only received an investment from an angel investor in 2014. Metrica Sports is looking for funding to keep up with its rapid growth. The startup currently employs five fulltimers and 27 parttimers, and will need to at least double that number. Specifically they need more developers, and a sales team. The Footmapp model should also work for other sports, (we enthusiastically suggested the fast-paced sport of Australian AFL Football as a perfect market for Metrica Sports) which will also require lots of additional development work. The company is in early talks with investors, but any angel or VC keen to invest in the Champions League of startups (pun intended) should be excited to know that Metrica Sports will require one million €uro in funding between now and summer 2018.