Ever dreamed of a website that watches every game for you, and tells you precisely the right time to tune in for the most exciting gameplay? Well, Are You Watching This?! (RUWT) does just that.
In an interview with Chat Sports, RUWT CEO, Mark Phillip, described the risks he took to start this company that is owned, operated and managed all on his own. The company started when Phillip moved to Austin in 2000 from his home in Brooklyn. Phillip vividly describes, “One night I was feeling a little homesick, and the Dolphins and Jets were on TV and I decided to make a night of it. I got some pizza and beer and tried to comfort myself a little bit. At half time, the Jets were getting blown out at half, so I decided to go to bed and call it a night. Lo and behold, the Jets had one of the greatest comebacks of all time. And I could not feel like I wish there was somebody over my shoulder to get me out of bed and tell me to keep watching the game.”
Upset that he missed such an amazing game, Phillip decided that he wanted to create a product that fulfilled this pain point by giving users alerts when a game becomes more exciting. While he knew he had a good idea, he stated, “I always had big ideas but I could never get them done.” He knew he had the credentials and ability to start the project; he was fortunate enough to work for companies like Trilogy Software and creative advertising agency T3, yet he never felt like he had the opportunity to push the envelope and innovate.
Phillip thought, “Why don’t I take my tech background and advertising background and create a product that creates that digital tap on the shoulder that lets you know when to run to the couch.” Later in 2006, the first ever RUWT alert was sent during the infamous Boise State vs. Oklahoma Sugar Bowl upset, telling users to immediately drop everything and run to the TV!
RUWT has now powered live game updates for six years and counting, as well as created an incredibly simple interface that is easy to navigate, mobile push notification capabilities and a tight 25,000-person social community. But after six years of waiting to take the plunge, Phillip describes that “it really took six-months of development back in 2006 to get the product live.”
The RUWT interface is extremely simple, which makes it quite an enjoyable product to use. In four simple colors (green, yellow, orange and red) which then correlate to ok, good, hot and epic telling the user exactly how exciting a game is in real-time. Unlike other sites that have a similar product, RUWT does not rate games on a 0-100 scale in terms of how exciting the game is, but uses an infinite scale.
Given how many games are on every day, Phillip had to create a system that would watch every game for him and rate how exciting they are. He created the RUWTbot that uses an infinite scale to measure how exciting games are because who is to say a 100 rated game on one night is better than an 100 rated game on another night. Once you get to the epic level, Phillip associates this to, as he stated, a “No hitter in the bottom of the ninth or triple over time game, you still need to separate those games out because those games are different” and therefore do not fit on a simple 0-100 scale. He notes the RUWTbot understands the components of an exciting game as well as it “Understands Duke vs UNC and rivalries like that, but also understands that some rivalries are not as exciting as they used to be.” The RUWTbot was created to, as Phillip said, “ Not only rate games in real-time, but can also predict what is going to happen in the future.”
A very unique guerilla marketing tactic RUWT employed this past winter was to take over a skyscraper in downtown Austin and light up the skyscraper with the corresponding color to match the RUWT excitement rating of the bowl game being played. Austin residents could see if the building was dark red and knew then that it was time to run to the nearest TV and start watching the game.
Even though he launched in 2006, Phillip says that “RUWT is bootstrapping, and is bootstrapping fiercely so.” Unlike their key competitor, Thuuz, RUWT has yet to raise capital and has not expanded to a larger staff than just Phillip. He stated, “I think in 10 years it is going to be a great Harvard MBA case study to read the side-by-side comparison of RUWT and Thuuz because we are so similar and yet so different.”
On the surface these two companies are very similar in that they both provide in-game excitement ratings. However, their differences are extreme as given that Thuuz is a well-funded team; while RUWT is a cash-strapped, one man show. But according to Phillip, what really separates the two products is that “After talking to lots of people, I can safely say that RUWT is by far the most accurate product.”
When asked what he thinks is the most impressive thing he has accomplished since the launch of his product, Phillip asserted that “In a small way I am able to change the way people watch sports.” With his color coating scheme he hopes to use it not only on skyscrapers, but also on score tickers on the bottom of your TV, helping color coat them so that you know which games are most exciting. He is confident that in the system he has developed because as Phillip states, “It really helps people know what games they should actually be watching.”
Things are getting exciting for Phillip as companies are starting to use his technology to push sports notifications in their mobile apps. While he could not tell us whom is he working with, he assured us “A top five sports property will be using the RUWTbot to launch push notifications for their mobile app very soon.” Additionally he is working with an unnamed $25 billion company to, as Phillip said, “Help provide them with data as well as help them create their mobile application.”
When asked about acquiring new users to try his site, he said that all of his users are acquired via word of mouth. “I really only need 25,000 people to make the engine run,” he noted, which he feels helps create a really tight community. Given the company is still relatively in beta mode, Phillip wants to keep this tight community aspect of the website and will delete accounts if users have not been active for a while.
Another interesting thing that Phillip noted was that he has received some unique feedback from his users. He commented, “One of the most interesting things is the debates the users will have over my algorithm. They will go back and forth with me about the excitement curve, saying this game got fast way too quickly or too slowly.” He has found that his users not only like sports, but are very interested in the rating aspect of each sport and how do you define which triple over time game is more exciting than the other.
If you haven’t visited Are You Watching This?! you really need to check them out now to see the way they are changing the sports technology community.
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