Reel Analytics is Co-winner of Eighth Startup Showdown

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Startup Showdown
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We're pleased to announce that Reel Analytics (formerly Recruiting Analytics) is one of the two winners of our eighth Startup Showdown pitch competition designed to showcase and fund early-stage tech companies.    

Startup Showdown 2022 kicked off with an in-person event at Atlanta Buckhead Theatre on March 2nd. It was a full house for the pitch competition, which had the feel of an exciting, exclusive party — only a party that is meant for everyone.    

A Conversation with Reel Analytics

Reel Analytics, a sports tech and data company reinventing how colleges identify and evaluate football talent. To learn more about Reel Analytics and its experience in the pitch competition, we interviewed its CEO, Cory Yates.

Congratulations on winning our pitch competition, Cory. Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I come from a collegiate football background myself. I was a walk-on at Texas A&M University-Commerce where I earned an athletics scholarship. I ended up starting at Texas A&M-Commerce as a defensive back for three years. Once I graduated and my playing days were over, I went directly into coaching as a graduate assistant — until I got an offer from corporate America I couldn't refuse. I "chased the money," working as a merchandising executive for 20 years before deciding to return to my passion for athletics.    

I co-founded Reel Analytics along with Alfonzo Thurman in 2019 to leverage the business analytics skills we'd gained in the corporate world to improve how colleges discover and assess football talent.    

Can you tell us about Reel Analytics' technology and how it works?

The technology was inspired by watching my own son go through the college football recruiting process. I realized not a lot had changed since I was recruited in the early 1990s. College football coaches have traditionally assessed player skills subjectively, by watching live games and taking notes or reviewing game footage. This also meant a lot of players with talent were being unintentionally overlooked.    

Technology advancements, specifically around computer vision, a form of AI that trains computers how to interpret and understand visual images, had the potential to change that by unlocking objective athleticism data from game video that hadn't been available before. We knew that in turn, this would allow coaches to increase their accuracy in terms of assessing the athletic ability of players.    

Alfonzo and I put together a development team that could bring this vision to fruition. That led to our MVP that launched in January 2020. Reel Analytics' patent-pending algorithm can identify a player on video, track how fast they're running, how quickly they change direction and accelerate to maximum speed, along with other key athleticism metrics. It then uses a proprietary scoring model that considers all this data to provide a grade for the player.    

Does Reel Analytics have competitors?

There is similar technology in use by teams in the NFL. The difference is the technology utilizes RFID, wearable devices on players, and the installation of sensors in stadiums to gather data. Such systems can cost up to $1 million. There are also some GPS-based systems in use at the collegiate and high school levels, but they still require wearables. While they're more affordable than what's being used in the NFL, they're still only accessible to programs with larger budgets.    

In comparison, Reel Analytics relies on computer vision to interpret game footage, and does not require wearables or sensors, which means we offer a more affordable solution that can democratize player tracking data across all programs. We have several other key differentiators, but at a high level, accessibility is a big one.

You already have some notable users of the technology, correct?

Reel Analytics has worked with the University of Georgia, winner of the 2022 College Football Playoff National Championship, as well as the University of South Carolina, University of Michigan, Jackson State University, Texas Christian University, Southern Methodist University, and others. These programs have used our technology to verify game speed and athletic ability of high school prospects, as well as to gauge the athleticism of players already on their roster.

Besides winning of course, what aspects of the competition were most beneficial to you?

I'm a first-time founder and Startup Showdown is the first time I've taken part in a pitch competition. Everything was phenomenal — the mentorship, the in-person audience, the venue, and the buzz buildup prior to the big night. In the finalist round, we went up against four other startups that were also solving meaningful problems, so the competition was intense.    

I especially liked that the judges were extremely engaged. You could tell from their questions during the Q&A that they had done their due diligence. Overall, it was a great experience.    

What does Reel Analytics plan to do with the investment prize?

From a technology standpoint, we want to continue to optimize our algorithms so we can analyze players faster for scale and always keep several steps ahead of the competition. We also want to apply some funds toward building out our sales team so we can accelerate our footprint in the college football space. Finally, we want to put some toward marketing since the traction we've generated to date has all been organic, primarily word of mouth and social media. As a growing company, there're always a lot of needs.    

What advice might you have for other founders who are considering applying for Startup Showdown?

It takes boldness to start a company, and you should use that same boldness and tenacity when getting in front of people who want to invest in and support the next big thing — it could be you. Embrace the process wholeheartedly and be bold in telling your story on stage.  

Thanks, Cory, and congratulations again! Startup Showdown is held monthly, with five finalists competing to win $120,000 investment prize. Apply to pitch at an upcoming Startup Showdown.

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