How a SAAS Startup Is Revolutionizing the Sports Industry
- Dec 15, 2023
Darryl Haberman, Chief Operating Officer of Rikodi, talks with EisnerAmper's TechTalk host Fritz Spencer about the strategic decision to remain laser focused on one particular use case—sports entertainment. In this episode, Darryl discusses how the company is leveraging its SAAS platform to maximize user engagement and create ROI for both professional sports fans and teams/brands.
Hello and welcome to TechTalk, where you'll hear the latest in technology and investment trends directly from the trendsetters. I'm your host, Fritz Spencer, member of EisnerAmper's Technology and Life Sciences Practice, and with me today is Darryl Haberman, Chief Operations Officer of Rikodi, a startup in the entertainment software sector that's laser-focused on maximizing fan engagement. Darryl, thanks so much for joining me today.
Yo, thanks for having me. Glad to be here.
Awesome. So in two to three sentences, can you explain Rikodi for myself and the audience?
Yeah, so Rikodi is a high-margin SaaS platform that is really going to benefit teams. Teams really are looking all the time to have their audience, their core customers, really attached to the brand and create more of a sticky environment. The problem that exists in this day and age is there's so much noise and confusion. So what we're really building is an ecosystem that teams and athletes and sports venues themselves can better connect and collaborate with the users. Everyone has their own content, their own cell phones. There's a better way to really monetize experiences and get fans to create the actual content on behalf of a team, on behalf of a brand. And that's a little bit of Rikodi, obviously, in two to three sentences.
We'll dive right into it. I mean, you mentioned a little bit about the problem, and I'd want to know, how did you come across that problem? What is the core problem that Rikodi is seeking to solve?
Well, it's all about ROI and lack thereof on traditional marketing right now and how teams go about that. Most teams are looking to create viral campaigns and make that really penetrate deeper and wider beyond their initial customers because they're always looking to grow their reach and exposure. What we've discovered, because we are a team of sports media marketing executives, is the teams have so much that they're trying to do, and they're trying to catch lightning in a bottle. Customer success within leagues and sports teams is to figure out more emotional data about fans that will really open up new doors, new collaboration opportunities with consumers, and have them really breathe more life into the team and generate sponsor dollars, momentum, things that are happening in the midst of maybe a poor season. Not everyone can always win. Teams have injuries. Teams go through lots of different turmoil.
So if there's a sticky, gated experience where there's not much noise, confusion, trolls, you're not dependent on an algorithm or what else is happening in the world... I recall you're a Devil's fan. If you and I knew that and explored that, it can open up tons of ideas. We don't have to worry about a lot of other factors on social media, people that are trying to poison and sully the waters. What teams have are engaged fans. They engage across all different experience, several different platforms, in-venue or on the couch. So the more that you actually get to know about the journey of the fan and how they really take in their game, their favorite players... Do they play on their own? Did they grow up in the venue?
There's lots of new opportunities as we get closer to Web3 to collaborate better and create fun, meaningful programs, better activations in-venue. As we always are focused on streaming and people that eat, sleep and breathe sports, that's really where we're able to solve the problem. The more that we can explore and tie people together and do some community-building and gamify the experience, I think the teams will instantly start seeing better ROI, better stickiness in their community, and people will get to really share in their love and joy and passion of being a sports fan.
Wow, that's awesome. Thanks for that explanation. And I guess a crude explanation to me as I understand it is you're kind of deafening the noise that is social media to kind of hone in on a unique detail of a fan base or engagement.
Yes. I mean, it's all about engagement, and engagement, several different meanings, of course. And what the Milwaukee Brewers are doing might be different than what the Kansas City Chiefs are doing, or F1 just raced in Las Vegas. There's so many different sports types and personalities, people that work for a brand, people that consume these products, these sports, their favorite athletes. What we've found is there's so much happening, and we are agnostic, but we'd love to have marketing teams leverage their CRMs and their analytics tableaus to really personally invite fans in to tell their story.
So now the teams are getting content from their wide amount of fans, and the teams themselves now have insights that they could glean from a lot of the content that's shared. So now the teams are starting to work smarter, not harder to produce good content. They actually can just tap Fritz and Darryl on the shoulder and say, "Hey guys, we have an interesting program. We'd love to hear your thoughts and see your experiences from game day or at the tailgate party or one of our legends was at a book signing." So there's a lot there.
So speaking of tapping on the shoulder and how that kind of happens, let's circle back to Rikodi. Can you tell me about your technology and how that's kind of accelerating the solution you're building?
Yeah, so the technology is great because we're in a day and age where everyone's thinking about AI and how to use it in their business. What we have is a nice platform that's really sales and marketing-centric. So if we're using a text messaging campaign or a platform that has a QR code, people can opt in via their cell phone, and everyone has a cell phone, whether it's in-venue or on their couch at home. They're scanning, and really being told, "Hey, there's an opportunity for you to contribute content, essentially," that the technology essentially will now have the fan onboarding into our Rikodi platform. They create a simple fan profile in a couple of steps, and from that standpoint, what they can do is now find the photos, the videos, share their story in a simple text box to create a nice moment or a whole story on what that campaign was looking for, whether it's a walk-off home run, or whether it's our connection to the sport or a favorite athlete. That's really a little bit about the technology.
It's a cloud platform that is a content management system essentially, and in a couple of clicks you can be sharing content. The team itself can recognize that content and start utilizing it for their other platforms, even on social media. This is augmenting social media, but it is its own individual agnostic platform where you can grab some assets and really do some digital scrapbooks together, share a photo on a Jumbotron. That's really a little bit about our tech stack.
That's awesome. Giving the fan an opportunity to engage in the media presence of a national sports team is a huge plus, I'm sure, for both sides. I could imagine myself being a party to using that.
I think that's really it. I mean, there's so much of your own story, your authentic voice that if the team knew that and one could invite you in, but now there's incentives tied to you contributing content. And you're seeing a little bit of a sneak peek at what the world of possibilities is, is like you as a host of a podcast and the work that you do. And now you think about your own, whether it's playing sanctioned sport or pickup games with your friends, sport takes on lots of different meanings. And if you are actually now able to be a proud fan and share the fact that you contributed to a campaign and that your favorite team was promoting you and your story, there's a real win-win-win, yeah. Beyond the bottom line for the team having you as a super-engaged fan, you are actually now sharing that win with your community, and that makes it a little bit more fun and engaging for everybody, and that's really why it's an attractive platform and why fans should be part of that story.
100%. So one thing I've noticed in a lot of different startups and companies is that there's normally a pivotal moment or conversation that occurs in one's life, and I would like to know what's one pivotal conversation that you've had that kind of influences you to this day?
Well, so I do a ton of networking in the sports community. Since working at the NHL for 22 years. The founder of the company and our sales partners and all the people that are connected take their own sort of pivotal moments, aha moments that they hear when they're talking about the Rikodi platform. We've also had one use case in particular that this was going to be more around healthcare and memories. And then when we found out that this can play really nice and work into our backgrounds as sports executives and be really front and center for engaging fans and having fans contribute content on behalf of their favorite teams and players, that was more of a "let's start honing in this. This is where we should launch first and do our paid pilots around that use case in particular."
But there are others. We know that we have a very, very interesting product that can help revolutionize not only the sports space, but a lot of the things that happen around hospitality or even healthcare on things that have resonance with not only the brands, but their core customers, their consumers on how to work together. And that's really a little bit of where that pivot has been. But what we take is a lot of the feedback that we hear and put it into our first beta product. We're finishing out our MVP. There's a little bit of things that we'd like to have when people first open the door and are onboarded into our platform. So that's really making sure that we're doing it right and we have a solid foundation to build off.
Well, that's certainly a big pivot from healthcare to sports entertainment, but it sounds like it made the most sense for sure.
Yeah. And again, we keep on bringing on key pieces, key advisors, folks that work not only in the blockchain, but in management consulting and understand the use here and the power of utilizing AI, machine learning, getting the right picture, the right data set delivered to the teams, and really growing from there. So that's really an ongoing pivot. It wasn't one moment in time that we're like, "You know what? Let's rip up all the other plans and go." We just knew that we wanted to do a deeper dive on one particular use case and take those learnings and a live product, have some case studies, some analysis, and now we could start exploring in some of the other areas that we were already considering.
Great. Well, Darryl, thank you for taking the time to have this conversation with me today. It's been an absolute pleasure. I'd also like to thank our listeners for tuning into TechTalk today, the entrepreneurs and innovators who turn to EisnerAmper for accounting, tax, and advisory solutions to help propel their success. I ask you to subscribe to EisnerAmper's podcast to listen to more TechTalk episodes, or visit EisnerAmper.com for more tech news that you can use.
Transcribed by Rev.com
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Fritz Spencer is a Audit Senior with audit and accounting experience serving both public and private entities.
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