“Did you see that game last night?” “Turn on ESPN – Lakers making a comeback.” “The 49ers are driving down the field, 1 minute left.” Statements like these happen between sports fans on a daily basis. It seems like every day in the world of sports, there is a can’t-miss game that everyone is talking about. The problem that many sports fans have is there is no easy way to get notified when a game is on TV that is “can’t miss.”
Launched in September 2010, Thuuz aims to change the way people dedicate their time to sports. The companies mission is to help sports fans find the most exciting games to watch on TV. With a simple 0-100 rating, the product helps users determine which games are most exciting before they happen and while they are currently being played. Their product is a free iPhone, Android and Google TV application that allows users to follow the excitement of sporting events on the go. In addition to the live game alerts, the apps provide aggregated news and fantasy updates as well for sports enthusiasts.
Thuuz wants to help sports fans with “real time, personal discovery for the wide world of sports” said Thuuz CEO Warren Packard. “You can think of us as the Pandora for sports. The company’s mission is to help sports fans find the most exciting games to watch as they’re taking place (on TV, mobile phone, tablet, PC etc.) ... and not just be relegated to watching their local teams in real-time…although that’s certainly fun to do as well.”
As the founder of the company, and a former Venture Capitalist for Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Packard describes himself as an accidental entrepreneur. The idea for the company was created when “I was sitting back one day and had a brainstorm around sports, and found that I was not watching as much sports as I was in the past. I just did not have three hours to sit down and watch sports, and I did not want to just watch SportsCenter highlights”, Packard said.
Thuuz was created as something to help fill Packard’s personal pain point as a consumer of sports on TV. He knew at that moment that he wanted a service that would tell him what games are most exciting, and started looking into what it would take to make it happen. After some research, Packard found that many people shared his needs for information as to what games they should watch.
The company has a very impressive job, and set the bar in the sports space, in raising capital. In their recent round of capital, Thuuz raised just over $4 Million. According to Packard Thuuz leveraged their relationships with service providers and received funding from Liberty Global, the largest cable provider in Central Europe and Itochu Technology Ventures, a strategic investment firm in Japan. Packard said the company raised as little capital as needed, at a reasonable valuation, in order to allow his investors to make money.
In addition to raising capital, Thuuz has partnered up with quite a few major television service providers. Packard has worked very hard to get Thuuz cobranded with other companies like Dish Network so that “They can help enhance peoples sports viewing experiences.” With their technology, companies like Dish help users “automatically record games that match their preferences and change the channel for them if an exciting game is on.”
While Thuuz has been in business for two years, they are still considered “a pretty tight team” with only ten employees on staff. Even though Thuuz just raised a significant amount of capital they are only looking to expand their staff by just a few people. Packard believes “We still have a lot to prove to people before we scale our business.” Over half the staff is in engineering and development, while the remaining work in marketing and business development.
One of the areas of Thuuz I was most intrigued about is their proprietary “excitement rating” that tells their users how entertaining any major sporting event is in real time. Additionally the excitement rating is personalized for each user, so for example if their team is winning big their excitement rating will be much higher than the fan of the team that is getting blow out. According to Packard the excitement rating is “built on a set of numerical models that is modeled on each individual sport we cover. We are able to look at each game based on certain impulses.”
In order to find how exciting these games are Thuuz looks to play-by-play feeds, Twitter, Facebook and user input. To gauge how intense each game is on a higher level Thuuz looks for and measures the following five traits in each game to help create their excitement rating: how close the game is, how fast paced the game is, the novelty of plays during that game, the momentum of the game and how that shifts, and the context of the game (rivalry games, playoffs games etc.).
Right now the company relies mostly on word of mouth marketing to acquire users. Through their corporate partnerships, Thuuz has not had to spend much of their capital on a marketing strategy. They have found that having their name paired with big companies like Dish and Liberty Global has had a major impact on their ability to acquire users.
When it comes to growth Thuuz knows that they are playing to the mass sports market. Their ultimate goal is to acquire millions of users. According to Packard “We currently have hundreds of thousands, which is great for word-of-mouth spread, but we need to be at millions of users globally.” Packard is very pleased with their current partnerships and the large user base they have already, but there are many improvements that he wants to see to help the company scale. Packard asserts that Thuuz will be successful when “Our alerts are responsible from bringing hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people into watching great games.”
Thuuz screenshots below: