Made In Israel

How PlaySight is Using Advanced Analytics For the Next Generation of Athletes- Innovate by Hashtag Sports

The Israeli Defense Force is arguably the most unique and technologically advanced military in the world.

From the mandatory enlistment of all citizens, both men and women, to the cutting-edge technologies, its sophistication is fueled by our nation’s unique defense needs and fostered by a culture of creativity and innovation.

As a young technology company originally born out of this innovative nation, we’ve always been laser-focused on our product — namely it’s technological sophistication and defensibility. Tweaks, improvements, upgrades — since day one, PlaySight’s SmartCourt video and analytics platform has demanded an all-consuming focus.

As a result, we’ve been playing a bit of catch up with our brand building. And of course one very important part of any brand is a compelling mission statement — to define who we are as a company and what we intend to accomplish. So last year we set out to finalize our mission.

If you aren’t familiar with PlaySight, we are a global company in every sense of the word. Our technology itself has its roots in the Israeli military, and we have offices in Tel Aviv, New Jersey, Los Angeles and Germany, and SmartCourts in over 20 countries.

A few years ago, one of my fellow co-founders was watching his daughter practice tennis in Israel when he had the “light bulb” moment — why were there no technologies available for amateur tennis players or coaches to measure progress and track improvement? We are all tech guys through and through, but had never really thought about the sports applications for our technology before. That quickly changed.

Since none of us had extensive backgrounds in tennis, we knew we needed to consult with athletes and coaches first to validate our idea. So we spent the next few years talking with top tennis and sports coaches.

Once we started to dig in to our research a bit more, we discovered that tennis was second to last among sports in terms of adopting technology, especially at the recreational and collegiate level. We found this particularly puzzling considering the big tech players at the high levels of the sport. Armed with this information, we decided to focus all of our energy on courts of the hard, clay, and grass variety before expanding out into other sports.

It has been hard work, but three years later we have now positioned ourselves as a leading company in the tennis space. We’ve been lucky to attract amazing investors and partners who share our vision, including Novak Djokovic, Billie Jean King and Pete Sampras.

Late last year we signed a partnership deal with the United States Tennis Association to completely outfit their new National Campus with PlaySight technology, and we’ve been working with the Intercollegiate Tennis Association to bring SmartCourts to all levels of college tennis.

The sports tech space changes at an extremely fast pace (even for technology). Having a clearly defined North Star is really important for any company, and particularly in an industry with such constant change and disruption.

So when we sat down to formally draft a mission statement, we asked ourselves a simple, guiding question: What is PlaySight?

Answer 1: We are a cloud-based hardware and software platform with proprietary camera technology and algorithms. But that isn’t exactly the most compelling or inspiring sentence. Onward.

Answer 2: We provide analytics and video to all athletes at an affordable price point. A bit better…but still not great. To really lock in something that captured who we are, we needed to shine a light on our two focuses from day one.

For starters, we are focused on the athlete. Every new innovation we come up with puts the athlete at the center — from a social online experience to easy-to-use on-court software. And secondly, the word connection is an important one for us, both literally (by connecting courts to the internet and our cloud) and figuratively (combining the physical and digital world of athletes).

The Final Answer: We are connecting the next generation of athletes.

And today, we’re excited to share news that is going to help us take that connection to the next level — a significant investment from Verizon Ventures and legendary golfer Greg Norman.

As our mission statement says, we’re focused on connecting athletes — not just tennis players.

Last year we officially launched our multi-sport SmartCourt, and we were lucky enough to partner with the Golden State Warriors early on. We’re also working with other top teams, including the 2017 NCAA Champs from North Carolina, the Purdue Boilermakers basketball program, the Phoenix Suns and several top international pro teams in Israel and Europe. Beyond tennis and basketball, we have SmartCourts powering wrestlers, dancers, martial artists, swimmers, and handball, futsal, football, soccer, and volleyball players.

PlaySight has been a valuable tool for our coaches and basketball operations staff. The device has the ability to automatically record practices from many different angles, which enables our entire staff to assist with on-court practices and other court related activities. It simply allows for better efficiency in this area and that is critical for our staff.

Bob Myers — GM, Golden State Warriors

With the investment from Verizon Ventures and Greg Norman, we’re going to continue to bring SmartCourts to more athletes, further disrupting how sports are played and consumed across all levels.

With connection at the crux of our mission, it is imperative that we recognize our dual role as a technology startup and a media company.

Chen Shachar, CEO of PlaySight

Consumption is a key for us. With connection at the crux of our mission, it is imperative that we recognize our dual role as a technology startup and a media company. Young athletes today grew up with technology in their hands, and the dependence on technology is increasing each day. But with that comes great responsibility — there are less kids playing sports than ever and most nations are facing a significant youth obesity problem.

By giving athletes the tools to create their own highlight videos, get analytics, stream their games and matches, and connect with a global sports community, we’re trying to harness the power of technology for good (and along the way bringing video and streaming to athletes, coaches and teams across all levels of sport, all over the world).

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Whether it’s the 15-year-old hoping to secure a college scholarship, the NBA video coach searching for better technology, or the weekend warrior looking for an edge over his or her competition, we hope that when they next step onto a court, it’s a Smart one.

Chen Shachar is the CEO of PlaySight. He brings years of extensive experience in state-of-the-art 3D based simulation, visualization and training systems. Before establishing PlaySight, Chen was the CTO at Rontal Applications, a startup in the homeland security market.

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