A local startup is looking to introduce high-tech when it’s time to place bets on the next sporting event.
Dallas-based nVenue, a real-time B2B sports prediction platform, announced raising a $3.5 million seed round co-led by KB Partners and Corazon Capital as it looks to get its platform in the hands of more broadcasters and sportsbooks. The news comes after it made one of its first major public debuts—providing a live feed of its tech to a NBC Sports broadcast of a game between the Chicago White Sox and the Oakland A’s last season, along with other MLB games after that.
“The only thing that sports fans really want is to engage in real-time,” Kelly Pracht, nVenue’s co-founder and CEO told Dallas Innovates. “I don’t want to see what a player did last year, I want to see what’s about to happen.”
Predicting the play
The company’s tech takes real-time data about what’s happening on the ground, offering users graphs and stats. Then, running the data through its “millions of models,” it’s able to show predictive percentages of what might happen next.
Using baseball as an example—it’s the sport Pracht is most passionate about—nVenue’s platform could show the likelihood of a batter striking the ball, then adjust that percentage based on the outcome of the next move, as well as a variety of other factors about other players on the field.
“The data feeds of the field, much like your video feeds from the field, come in and show you what happened. And it’s lightning fast,” Pracht said. “Then…we turn around and say, here’s what should happen next.”
15,000 betting opportunities in one baseball game, 8K for NFL
The predictive sports analytics startup is already working with MLB and the NFL, providing game broadcasters with analytics and data-driven content. And Pracht sees big opportunities ahead in the “micro bets” space, allowing sportsbooks to take small-sized bets on individual moments of a game. She said the technology has the ability to deliver around 15,000 betting opportunities in any given baseball game and about 8,000 opportunities during a football game.
“That world of fan engagement, watching and betting is all just crashing together, and we have the perfect product for that,” Pracht said.
The ‘aha moment’
nVenue was formed in 2018, after Pracht—a former senior engineering manager and program management office lead at Hewlett Packard—was attending a supercomputing conference in Germany. While sitting in a machine learning seminar, she found herself checking her phone for scores and updates on a Houston Astros game. That’s when her two passions combined—and that night she began writing the first line of code that would become nVenue’s platform.
“It was just that ‘aha moment’ of let’s do this,” Pracht said. “And that just blossomed into millions of lines of code.”
Comcast NBCUniversal SportTech Accelerator
Initially, the company was focused on building an engagement app for sports fans, but found it was hard getting the recognition in the splintered world of other betting and engagement apps. Then the pandemic hit the U.S. and many sporting events were canceled. With work drying up, Pracht said nVenue put its app aside, pivoted to a B2B model, and applied to the Comcast NBCUniversal SportTech Accelerator program as a “last desperation” move. As the company was preparing to close up shop, it was accepted into the program, which Pracht says “changed everything.” She added that the original app is now used to pitch new clients on the tech’s capabilities.
“(The accelerator) helped us refine our story, our business, our angle,” Pracht said. “They gave us a voice. They gave us credibility.”
Expanding to the NBA and other sports
The new seed funding adds to the previous $600,000 nVenue has raised internally and from outside investors, bringing the company’s total to about $4.1 million. With the funding round, the company aims to grow its team from nine to 20 by the end of the year, in addition to scaling the platform and making it more secure. Pracht said the company will also look to expand into more sports, focusing first on the NBA, then adding around six other leagues in the coming months.
“Once we get past the mechanics of scale and speed, (sportsbooks are) going to need something that’s attractive and interesting,” Pracht said. “And our technology is doing that.”
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