Ethan Smith sat down for a chat with Blake Roberts, the founder and CEO of Sporting IQ, an entertainment technology company from Australia, working to develop engaging mobile games to bring sports fans together from all across the globe.
So, Blake, what is Sporting IQ?
“At Sporting IQ, we develop fan entertainment technology. Our core product is Call It Live® – mobile gaming for live sport. We’re all about engaging with the fans as they watch live, whether at home, out with friends, or at the stadium. Using some of the elements that make gambling exciting, we mold them into family friendly forms of entertainment – all while connecting the fans with their favorite teams. Some of our fans call it the ‘Clash of Clans for live sport.’
How did you come up with the idea for Call It Live®?
“A few years ago, I was involved in stadium experiential activations, and I would always be thinking of new ways to engage with the fans. The original Call It Live® concept was all about the stadium experience – and then it evolved into something much more scalable and commercial.
The other issue that drove the concept, is a concern I have around gambling and fantasy sports. This entertainment dominates the sporting landscape, especially here in Australia, and does little for each team’s brand. Not only does gambling damage the emotional connection between the team and fan, it misses the mark with younger fans, females and families.“
Why did you decide to become an entrepreneur?
“I’d been working in a corporate role for many years, for a large multi-national company, and over time I started to get bored. I wanted to immerse myself in a project that I’m passionate about, and something that I could build on for years to come. I’ve always had decent ideas, I’m a sports nut, and I’m a bit of a gamer – so I came up with a unique idea that I truly believed in, and decided to take a chance – it all made sense at the time.”
Do you play sports, or are you more of a spectator?
“Australia is a sporting nation and kids grow up playing many sports. Mostly I played Rugby and Cricket, but tried everything else that was available, including baseball and basketball. I still play sports like golf and tennis, and next year we have an over 35’s Aussie Rules Football team starting up in the area, so I may give that a go.”
Is baseball actually popular in Australia?
“Down here we love our sports, and thanks to the live broadcasts, US teams from the MLB and the NFL are very popular. Baseball is played everywhere, and has a large fan base already. Our major baseball league is growing in popularity, and our national team is always competitive.
The live games are normally on in the mornings, so it’s a great time for most sports fans, as there is nothing else on. We’d much rather watch the Yankees v Red Sox – than morning television.”
Is it your love of sports that keeps you going, or is it more than that?
“Good question, motivation is key and it’s not always easy to find. I exercise regularly and try to get a good night’s sleep – give the brain a reset. It’s 24/7 so you need to reset sometimes. The next day is always a fresh start. If I hit a major wall, I try to evolve the idea and add to its excitement or commercial value.
More importantly, I talk about Call It Live® whenever I can. I find myself burning the ears off just about anyone who’ll listen. 99% of the time I get a positive response, so that helps the motivation. On top of that, it gives me the chance to practice my pitch, which is always important.”
I personally think it’s good to be passionate about a project, and to always practice and improve. What’s next for you and your venture?
“There’s exciting times ahead for Sporting IQ. We’ve already completed two ‘live’ trial seasons for Australia’s premier football (soccer) league, so we’re excited to see how it goes for other audiences around the world. We have our new version of Call It Live® Football (Soccer) launching In October, and we already have a lot of interest from teams around the world.
On the development front, we’ve started work on Baseball and Cricket, which we intend to release early next year – and we have a number of other concepts ready to roll out when the time is right. The other exciting side to our business is the data we collate. Call It Live® is all about live interaction, so we’re learning stuff about fans that has never before been possible.”
That all sounds like great news. Is there anything you would tell an aspiring entrepreneur, or maybe a struggling entrepreneur?
“Have patience. Most of the time start-ups will move slower than you plan. You need to factor this in to all aspects of your business and manage expectations – especially your own. Being realistic is a huge part of success, you need to have thick skin and not let the small things, or negative news affect you. Always keep evolving. Your best ideas may not have been discovered yet, but you have to stay organized, it’s easy to get lost out there.