A tennis bracelet that keeps score and finds same-level players nearby has hit its $75,000 Indiegogo goal and is set to ship by October – and Grand Slam champion Andy Ram is the company’s CEO
If you’re an amateur tennis player, you have likely experienced two pain points that interfere with your enjoyment of the game. First, there’s the pesky score keeping (40-love anybody?) which can force you to put down your racket and reach for a pen and paper.
And then there’s the fact that it’s not much fun to play with someone who’s not at your level, explains Andy Ram, three-time Grand Slam champion and the CEO and Co-Founder of Pulse Play, a wearable watch and app designed for racket sports that just reached its $75,000 goal on Indiegogo.
“If you’re playing with someone much better or worse, neither player enjoys themselves,” he tells Geektime.
The app performs four main functions: Live scorekeeping and score announcements that don’t interrupt gameplay; match history and statistics; player ranking among friends, clubs, leagues, cities, and even the world. Finally, and most importantly, Pulse Play intends to develop a worldwide social network that connects players with new opponents in their area who play at the same level.
The tennis industry annually brings in about $25-30 billion worldwide – $6B from the U.S. alone – and the racket sports market around the world accounts for approximately 275 million people who play tennis, badminton, ping pong, and squash. Pulse Play’s vision is to become a fixture at courts around the world and this Indiegogo campaign will allow the company to make their first push into the market.
Here, you can watch Andy Ram amusingly receive the news that Pulse Play hit its goal:
Ram said there are many apps for tennis players that help them hone their backhand or serve. There are even apps out there that keep track of matches. But what Pulse Play does is keep track of scoring and helps you find players at your level.
“We offer score keeping and community together in one app. It doesn’t exist on the market.”
The app also adds a humorous touch by announcing the score in your choice of famous voices: Elvis Presley, Bart Simpson, Barack Obama, and others.
“As a professional player, I had someone announcing the score. Now we’re bringing that to amateurs.”
The app will also track the amount of steps you took on the court, but the score keeping itself will require input from players.
“You press a button any time a point is scored.”
Ram said the company’s secret sauce lies in its player matching algorithm, which was developed in consultation with the Technion and matches players in the same vicinity who are at approximately the same level.
Built by formula
Ram retired from tennis last year and played his last professional match in September 2014. Around that time, he was approached by Enon Landenberg, the founder of sFBI (Small Factory, Big Ideas), a venture-focused startup studio that in its own words “have packaged all the stages of launching a startup into a repeatable process.”
“I wanted to be near my family, I got many offers to do coaching. Enon came up with the idea of a wearable for squash,” says Ram, “I said let’s extend it to all racket sports.”
sFBI combined their business development and marketing expertise with Ram’s celebrity and intuitive feel for the sport to devise this product.
The 35-year-old CEO of Pulse Play does not have any formal business training, aside from managing his own professional sports career.
But he has proven to be an apt pupil, uttering lines such as “A lot of startups give up too quickly, I didn’t give up. I started playing at the age of 5 and it took me 21 years to win Wimbledon.”
When asked why users will come to him as opposed to his competitors, he says, “Because I am offering a better experience.” When questioned about the company’s revenue model, Ram replies that they will become self sufficient through selling the wearables, which cost $100 each, and by creating a community around the product.
It all sounds good, although one gets the feeling these sound bites were possibly scripted by sFBI and not the brainchild of Ram himself. There’s nothing wrong with that, and Ram may yet prove to be a formidable CEO. It’s like the difference between Jane Eyre and a mass market romance novel. Both serve a purpose, but the first is a work of creative genius, while the second is created by formula in order to sell. Maybe this pre-fab startup building model will prove its mettle in time. But, for now, when you “package all the stages of launching a startup into a repeatable process” as SFBI claims to do, the artificiality of the process can tend to show through.