THERE WASN’T A BIG-DATA SOURCE FOR ALL THE NATION’S BIGGEST PASTIMES. UNTIL THESE GUYS CAME ALONG
Angela Ruggiero, a four-time Olympic medalist for the U.S. national hockey team, adored the heart-rate monitors she used during her strength and conditioning practices. They helped her fall in love with data and analytics as well, which led her to get an MBA at Harvard when her hockey days ended. Afterward, while at a coffee shop in Boston in late 2016, she lamented to serial entrepreneur Josh Walker that the sports industry rarely used data to justify or inform huge decisions. Walker, in turn, was astounded that no central platform for such data existed—after all, practically every other industry had one. That December, they founded Sports Innovation Lab, seeking to be that data aggregator—and quickly built an enviable list of clients that includes the NBA, the NFL Players Association, Google, Verizon, Intel, Gatorade, and the Canadian Olympic Committee.
One league came to Ruggiero and Walker seeking info on the best tech wearables that could monitor strength and conditioning, mental training, and post-workout recovery, and help with injury prevention. After intensive analysis, the company told the league: Wearables can’t yet provide the advanced biometrics you want, but we’ll update you when someone has a viable option. (One well-known company, interested in tracking the energy levels, mental performance, and heart rates of its employees, received the same response.) By the end of 2019, Ruggiero and Walker expect that an automated system will provide the company’s platform clients with such personalized insights and updates directly. “This is the exciting part,” says Ruggiero. “To help the leaders in sports envision the future of sports.”