SFIA Member Spotlight – United States Rugby Players Association

With the growing the sport of Rugby, the USRPA takes measures to support and protect their athletes.
Member: United States Rugby Players Association (USRPA)
Spotlight On:

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Blaine Scully, Co-Founder and Athlete
What is the USRPA?

Scully: We are the professional association and collective representation for all USA Rugby National Team players. Rugby is one of the fastest growing team sports in the U.S. and going through an exciting period of growth. As such, we are keen to establish consistent dialogue with our partner USA Rugby as well as other rugby stakeholders on issues related to player welfare. This is imperative to establishing a solid foundation for future growth based on shared values.

Why was USRPA founded?

Scully: The purpose of the USRPA is to create the highest quality experience for high performance rugby players in the United States. The aim is to protect and promote their welfare in addition to growing the game in the US. The association will serve as the the collective bargaining unit representing all athletes, both female and male, on USAR’s Senior National Teams and as a membership organization for former National Team athletes. Rugby has moved into the era of full-time rugby environments. As such, Players need an organization exclusively for them. This organization should allow representatives to advocate exclusively on their behalf.

How large is your organization?

Scully: We represent all National Team athletes across all four of our teams, which includes both disciplines of Rugby, Fifteens and Sevens. There are roughly 20 to 40 members in each National Team playing pool so that gives us 100 plus members.

Why do you think players associations are important?

Scully: It is important for the success of the game in the United States that the elite players have a collective voice. The relationship between USAR and the USRPA is fundamentally founded on a strong sense of partnership and shared purpose. Both parties are committed to dialogue and collaboration which will allow the players to have input in key issues, but also take ownership in the development of the game. The best “Unions” and leagues around the world are supported by vibrant and engaged player associations.

What brought you to the sport of rugby?

Scully: Originally, I was introduced to rugby by a high school friend during my freshman year at university (UCLA). I finished my final three years and degree at the University of California, Berkeley (Cal). At Cal, I played for two individuals who have greatly influenced my rugby career and life – Coach Tom Billups and Coach Jack Clark. Grateful to the personal contribution of these two men and their continued support and mentorship.

Do you have any initiatives to help rugby grow as a sport?

Scully: Fundamental to our responsibility as an organization is providing relevant resources and functions specific to the needs of all athletes. On and off the field support, player development programs, access to sponsors and partners, career transition support, networking events, medical and financial advice, advice on player agents, insurance. These services will be provided in addition to the negotiation of a Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Rugby has become a very popular sport in College, do you see that translate to a professional level?

Scully: As rugby in the United States continues to become more visible and our audience grows, the appetite for professional rugby will build as well. There is momentum gathering for a professional league launch in 2018. This is of course fantastic, as it offers high level opportunities for athletes, coaches and fans.

How do you ensure that the players’ “voices are heard” and how would you support them?

Scully: The organization must be engaged on a partner level to provide meaningful dialogue with the Union, Third Parties, leagues, etc. while protecting players welfare and promoting best practice. Communication to various USRPA stakeholders will also be vital to the success of the Association. With the help of our partners, the Association will have the ability to keep our members informed, updated and involved. A comprehensive internal and external strategy is crucial. A structured and consistent communication cadence is vital to ensuring the primary stakeholders (current athletes, USA Rugby and alum) are up to date on all association information and informed to engage in dialogue.

What overall trends are you seeing in Rugby?

Scully: It’s a very exciting time – we are trending as one of the fastest growing team sports in the United States and, globally, the game is taking off. With Rugby Sevens in the Olympics and our Women’s game going from strength to strength, the sport of Rugby is well positioned to do fantastic things. Domestically, we hope we can continue to grow participation by driving exposure and playing opportunities.

Where do you see USRPA in 5 years?

Scully: Rugby is in the midst of a defining period where we have exciting growth potential and have experienced some momentum. Now it will be about channeling that growth in an aligned direction. There are a lot of good people working very hard to make this happen. The USRPA’s objective is to support this growth. Through supporting and growing our players, we believe we can grow the game.

SFIA Member Spotlight – ScoreStream

Collecting thousands of scores from high school games, ScoreStream discusses their Game Plan.
Member: ScoreStream
Spotlight On:

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Derrick Oien, Founder and CEO
What is ScoreStream?

Oien: ScoreStream is a social network for local and high school sports teams and the fans that power them

When was your company founded?

Oien: We were founded in April 2012 and we originally started as an experiment over a 2-year period. After the 2 years, we started raising venture capital and have been running for a solid 3 years.

What did you do during this 2-year experiment?

Oien: We had an early there that there was strong interest in local sports that was not being entirely served by the local media companies which were under siege by consolidation primarily in print and also financially pressured by the Internet. We made a simple application and had some early media partners that were interested like local radio stations, internet startup companies, yahoo rivals. For the first year, we scored 2,000 games and the second year, we scored 20,000 games. This last year we have scored 420,000 games.

What inspired you to come up with such an app?

Oien: When I grew up, I went to a high school where there were several future pro sports players. People would wake up on a Saturday morning and see six pages of recaps of all the high school games. I realized that those people in the communities still get really excited about their local sports teams, but newspapers just don’t have the resources to cover every High School game. While there is interest with companies like Rivals around recruiting and stats we felt that there was an even bigger and underserved market around capturing and sharing local media across the entire community and their sports teams.

What made you target high school sports?

Oien: If you think about it there are so many high school sports games versus the few pro sport games. Anyone can get those scores and data from those pro and D1 college games, but nobody was very successful capturing the real-time data for high school games. We felt that crowdsourcing that would be a way to make that happen. By comparison in the fall there are 16 pro football games each week, 100 D1 college football games each week and 7,000 high school football games each week.

Do you think this platform can be expanded to youth sports or college sports?

Oien: We already cover all of those, including semi-pro, pro and more. We even cover many sports all over the world. During the summer, about half our mobile traffic is European based. The same idea we used to capture high school sports in the US can be used to cover anything. We are currently working with the NFL on some of their flag football projects and are live on their Play Football as well.

Where do you see areas of growth?

Oien: We started in the US, but in the international market like Germany and UK, our success is based around American Football. So, from an international perspective, we are trying to find those “beachheads” in foreign market and try to dive into their traditional sports. We realized that we could engage fans in these markets around niche sports and then use that audience to capture the more popular sports in those markets in the same way that our fans started using us for high school sports and are now using us for college, pro and club sports coverage today.

What is the most popular sport on the app?

Oien: American Football, but we have had a strong basketball season. Last week, we had over 13,000 games, 7,000 of them were football and the others were a combination of volleyball, soccer, field hockey and softball.

Who uses the platform the most (fans, media, schools)?

Oien: It’s a big cross-section. If you look at our media partners, we have a strong media component with mass distribution. We also have a lot of schools, alumni, students, and fans using the platform.

How many high schools are currently using your app?

Oien: We have every high school in the system and get scores from most of them. Directly, we have about 15% of all high schools that have a general manager. A general manager manages the team page for the schools. It can be any staff, someone in journalism, or even just a fan. By the end of the year, we expect to get a general manager for about 20% of all schools in the country.

Do you have any partnerships?

Oien: We now work with USA Today, Sinclair Broadcasting, Tegna, and a lot of major broadcasting groups. Snapchat is also working with us, where there are 5,000 football games every Friday night and they have snapchat geofilters to show the scores. We are really excited about that partnership. We are also an official partner with the Associated Press where fans can report scores to the AP using our smartphone application.

Where do you see ScoreStream in 5 years?

Oien: We believe that if you can create a sports property that is targeted towards the millennial generation that is mobile, creates personalized content, and creates content that is digestible then this is what a next generation sports media company looks like.

Client Testimonials:

“We think ScoreStream’s crowdsourced solution for high-school sports scores is unmatched and we can break new ground together for the benefit of AP’s member news organizations and customers across the U.S.” – Jim Kennedy, Senior vice president for strategy and enterprise development for the Associative Press

SFIA Member Spotlight – Xborders

“Gamifying” the world of fitness, Xborders chats about their upcoming product to launch in 2018.
Member: Xborders
Spotlight on: 

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Glenn Levin, Founder and CEO
What Is Xborders?

Levin: A casual game platform for sports and fitness enthusiasts who are using activity tracking devices and sensors. We are gamifying the fitness data in a unique way. A lot of these wearables and fitness app companies have some gamification – leader boards and badges you can earn, but we are incorporating a compelling mobile game experience.

How are you gamifying fitness data?

Levin: Data is accessible through Application Programming Interfaces (APIS) and members of our Playmatics engineering team are using that data to create the game.

Who does your development team compose of?

Levin: I feel very fortunate to be working with the mobile game development company Playmatics. The CEO of Playmatics, Margaret Wallace, along and Chief Creative Officer, Nick Fortugno, have been very helpful in the process. We have been working with the Chief Technology Officer, John Szeder, who is a brilliant engineer and has been doing a great job so far. We currently have an MVP – a minimum viable product, which we developed for starters.

Where does the name Xborders come from?

Levin: The genesis of this venture came from a couple of years ago when I was watching the closing ceremony of the Olympic games. Some of the athletes are from countries which are enemies, but everyone was singing and dancing in the spirit of sportsmanship and good will. I wanted to capture that virtually – so Xborders meaning no borders or crossborders.  If you can envision a Pangaea, where there are no borders between countries, but one true global community – that’s what I was hoping to achieve with this venture while using fitness and sports as a vehicle to connect people globally.

When is your target launch date and when was your company founded?

Levin: It was founded about two years ago and we are planning to launch in 2018.

Is your product stationary or on the go (mobile)?

Levin: It’s a casual mobile game experience, as opposed to a hardcore game. You interact with Xborders after you are done with your exercise and data has been collected by the sensors.

Who is your target audience and where do you see your product being used?

Levin: Our target demographic age is somewhere in the 20s and up into the 40s. We are looking at people who are both committed athletes and fitness enthusiasts who monitor their activity and are also eager to motivate people to get off the couch. We have a product that will make exercise fun, enjoyable and keep them engaged. One of our goals is to help fitness device companies cut churn and keep the users engaged because many people who use fitness devices lose interest in their device. We are also currently exploring a product for a younger demographic, which will have a slightly different business model, but we are very excited.

What inspired you to create Xborders?

Levin: I was a competitive swimmer and water polo player in college at Brown University so sports have always been a passion of mine. After I graduated and started working, I was intrigued by the concept of social networking and connecting people globally, through the shared interests in sports and fitness.

What are some overall trends that you are seeing in the sports and app market?

Levin: Sensors are really big right now because people are starting to keep track of all sorts of things – not just the steps taken per day, but calories, blood pressure, and even sleep. Casual, professional and weekend athletes are starting to monitor their fitness and health. So, our job is to take this data and combine it with the exploding game market.

Are you working on any partnerships right now?

Levin: We are currently exploring strategic partnerships and are actively seeking partners in that fitness app space. We feel like we can enhance what they already have.

Where do you see your company in 5 years?

Levin: We would like to be partnered with some of the major players in the digital fitness space, as well as international sports organizations and events. We hope to have viable partnerships to positively impact people globally and help make people healthier – especially with the rise in global obesity.