Local investors back seasoned tech entrepreneur with $1.4m for ‘next big thing’

“There’s something about startups,” begins veteran tech entrepreneur Rob Phythian from the comfort of a local coffee shop that sits within a stones throw of his alma mater.

30 minutes have passed, our beverages near empty, and we’ve managed to digress into everything but the coming out of his latest stealth startup, SportsData. “The mechanics of what we’re doing and how it’s done need to stay below the radar for obvious reasons, but there’s a few things I can tell you about why I’m back,” he eventually teases.

It’s true that we’ve raised over a million so far…$1.4m to be exact. While I can’t say specifically who has invested in us, I can say that it’s locally sourced,” he says with an emphasis, alluding to our earlier reflections on the local investment community. “Our vision is to serve the changing marketplace for real time sports data and content to match today’s need for quick and consumable information,” says the founding CEO in true 20,000 foot fashion.

Zooming in, he explains how it all starts on the ground level where specially trained analysts armed with data entry interfaces capture “critical sports data” in real-time from live NCAA and professional sporting events “with unprecedented speed and accuracy.” The second half of the model revolves around data syndication through a “ubiquitous distribution platform” that meets customer demands on their terms. “Whether it’s play-by-play, depth charts and player profiles, historical stats, standings, schedules and rosters — the types of data we can collect, analyze and distribute becomes very granular very quickly. Steals, catches, birdies, goals, you name it, we’ll have it on demand.” Above and beyond, the service plans to up the ante by hooking in relevant editorial rumors and fantasy tools to power a more lively market for the 30 million plus fantasy sports players in the US alone.

I learn that the money has funded an initial build and early implementation of the startups core technology: the sports data entry center, a new content delivery platform and scoreboard hosting solutions that will take the core data and deliver to the end users device. “The trick is tailoring it all for immediate broadcast to various digital devices,” he says with a pause before telling me more about business partner and CTO Dave Abbott.

SportData’s success will rely on selling its services to major media companies, fantasy sports companies, newspapers and other outlets that have needs for rich sports information. “In the end, we’re talking about a $100m/year US industry that is currently controlled by one big player, STATS Inc. . Our solution is poised to offer greater flexibility and delivery speed with higher quality. Most importantly, at a more affordable rate than currently exists. This is sports, technology and disruption,” he grins, “and I’m all about that.”

SportsData Rob Phythian Dave Abbott

Prior to SportData, Phythian (left) was the president of OPEN Sports, a company that began by developing unique web-based fantasy sports applications. OPEN Sports had raised $14m and eventually became Fox Sports’ provider of fantasy games in 2009, enabling the network to compete with the likes of ESPN.com, YahooSports.com, and CBSSports.com. Earlier in his career, Rob established Fanball.com with Paul Charchian, which “became the largest pure play fantasy sports website on the web” by the late 90’s. In 2005, Fanball was sold to FUN Technologies, where he remained President of the sports division until the Company was sold to Liberty Media in 2007. From 94-98, Rob was the founder and owner of the first weekly fantasy sports magazine, Fantasy Football Weekly.

CTO Dave Abbott has more than two decades of global technology experience building and scaling high volume SaaS applications. Most recently, he was the Vice President of Technology for Irdeto, Inc., a $250 million global leader in digital asset security and monetization solutions where he was responsible for Product Development and Network Operations. His emphasis was in monetization and online security of high profile sporting events on broadcast, broadband and mobile platforms for leading broadcasters world wide. Prior to Irdeto, Dave spent 11 years with Internet Broadcasting (IB) as founding CTO, where he oversaw all technical operations including product development, professional services, IT and network operations. IB hosted and operated 80+ local broadcast news properties making it the largest local news provider in the world serving more than 50 million visitors 750 million page views/month. Dave is a graduate of the University of Minnesota, Institute of Technology with degrees in Computer Science and Business. Like Phythian, he is also a ‘Tommy’, having received his MBA from the University of St. Thomas.

SportsData is aiming for a launch date sometime late summer, going to market with NCAA Football and NFL. “…and we’ve got interest from various major players who are very happy to see an alternative source of sports information entering the marketplace,” he says — simultaneously checking his mobile, sipping the last drop and running out into the wet streets of St.Paul.


  • Edward Smith

    This is a company to watch!  Dave and Rob have assembled an amazing team.