On this episode, the founder and CEO of Data Sports Group, Sowbhagya Shetty joins Ryan to talk about what else? Sports Data!

Show notes from Sowbhagya Shetty Interview

Ryan Knuppel:

All right. Welcome back to another episode of the Knup Sports Show. I’m your host, Ryan Knuppel here with you each and every time. Thank you so much for giving a little bit of your time out of your busy day to listen to what we have going on in iGaming, in sports betting, in sports business. We have a lot of fun on this show and we get to talk to some amazing people. And today that happens once again. We have Sowbhagya Shetty, the founder, CEO of Data Sports Group with us today. So are you with me?

Sowbhagya Shetty:

I am, Ryan. Thank you for having me.

Ryan Knuppel:

I’m so honored that you joined me here and I’m excited to hear your story a little bit and hear what you guys have going on. So thank you once again for giving me a little bit of time out of your day.

Sowbhagya Shetty:

Sure.

Ryan Knuppel:

So what’s new? What’s new with you? First of all, have you managed business and life through this COVID period where we’re all trying to adjust to what’s going on? How have you adjusted and how have things been going personally for you through all of this?

Sowbhagya Shetty:

Well, to be honest, it was a bit challenging to juggle around the personal and the professional ones as well, but it’s all been good. Initially, I guess when the pandemic hit probably in March, it was bad, as you know that there was no sports running, so that was pretty bad for us as well. So the two months of pandemic was somewhere we had to rework a lot of strategies and figure out how things were going because nobody knew when the sports would start in. But then luckily for us, we just did have, just a few sports. We have around 40 sports. So e-sports came in the picture then when none of the other sports were playing. And so we were one of the luckiest ones, I guess, if I would call it, where we had a lot of inquiries for e-sports then, and we had a lot of our clients wanting to work on e-sports and take more trials. So it’s been good and I’m pretty happy and lucky to have really good paying clients as well. So we didn’t have much problems there and everyone has been supportive as well. So just the two months, and after that things were back to normal, to be honest. I think we are in a very good sector, to be honest. Sports never dies, so that’s also pretty good. So all’s good.

Ryan Knuppel:

Yeah, that’s an interesting point you make being in sports and especially iGaming in the digital side of sports that we’re in. Working from home and people being home and having a lot more time has really benefited that industry quite a bit, as long as sports are going. So that’s an interesting point you make, and I want to hear a lot more about Data Sports Group. But first I’m interested in you. I’m interested in how you got into this space and maybe a little bit about your career path leading up to founding and being a CEO of Data Sports Group. What led you here? How did you begin down this path?

Sowbhagya Shetty:

Sure. I’ve been in the sports media and content industry for almost now 20 years, working with several leading media companies. So I started on my career with PS Sports and after a few years, I moved to Global Sports Media and then it was acquired by Perform Group, which is now Stats Perform. So working there for several years with Perform and I’ve seen the business through with several acquisitions, like Opta Sports, Running Ball. So seven years back, I just saw there was a need in providing a structured data service from several sports and having a flexible solutions. And that’s where DSG was created.

Sowbhagya Shetty:

So our mission was to be like a single provider to offer the widest catalog of content from every possible sport. So that’s always been the mission. And when you call yourself a sports data provider, I don’t want to restrict myself in having just five sports or 10 sports. Why not everything? So that’s where I taught this and that’s how I started off DSG. And now we have around 40 sports already in our portfolio where we track game status checks from around 5,000 more competitions. We cover every Olympic sports in a granular detail. So in addition to that, we also do esports with several gaming publishers.

Ryan Knuppel:

That’s amazing. That’s an amazing journey you’ve been on. And I’m curious because being the founder of this business and kind of starting from scratch, you know the progression of business is not always like, “Oh, all of a sudden we have 50 sports.” It’s a progression to get there. I’m curious, was it just you when you started this business or did you start with a team around you? And then my second question around that is how quickly have you grown? How big is your team now? I can only imagine you have to have a big tech team and people helping you with this journey now. So tell us a little bit about the Data Sports Group team beginning, and now.

Sowbhagya Shetty:

Sure. I mean, like I said, I’m definitely not a newbie in this industry. Initially when I got in, I knew nobody. I just knew there was an industry and it was niche. So anytime I used to talk about what I do, like maybe just one person out of 20 would understand what I’m doing. So it was definitely niche back then. And having 20 years of experience now, you meet quite interesting people having different conversations. So I built a lot of network around it. So when I started this off, so my CTO who’s Daniel Grohl, that’s how Berlin happened to us, so he’s also been in the industry for almost similar time. So we built, we talked through this. So I pitched him this idea of having a lot of different sports and having a structured data service and a flexible solution, which was so important for me because every client is different. So rather than having the same solution being offered and bundled up to every single client, why not make it more flexible and customized?

Sowbhagya Shetty:

So I was thinking about having customized API solutions, customized widgets, customized hosting solution. So I had a lot of things in mind. So I sat with him and I spoke about it. And he’s like, “Yes, we can do this. We can definitely do it.” So when you are with the group of people who understand the industry and they understand your vision, that’s where good things happen and the best innovations happen, too. So my team as well, not just with a few years experience. They are more in this industry or have been there and around that, so they’ve seen this market grow. So that’s how actually, I think within seven years we’ve been able to grow our business so well, with having just one sport and now to 40 sports.

Sowbhagya Shetty:

So even as the pandemic hit us, we wouldn’t, although we were obviously thinking about different streams, we were just looking into growing our sports because it just gave us more time to think through what we lack and then we started working on those. I think the things which we wanted to procrastinate or we kept procrastinating, I think that was more became a priority for us. So we started growing from there. So my team’s growing and we have a lot of correspondents and freelancers working with us around the globe as well. So we do have an office, our office is headquartered in Berlin, in Germany. But also we have a lot of different presences around more than 15, 20 countries. And also we have correspondents working with us in literally every single country, so that’s how we work.

Ryan Knuppel:

That was going to be my next question, and I’m glad you touched on that, is that sports is truly global and there’s data needs everywhere across the globe. And so I was curious what countries you really were operating heavily in. And then of course, naturally with me being in the United States, I’m curious if you guys are doing much in the United States currently, and if not, what your future plans are for US expansion or US operations.

Sowbhagya Shetty:

Sure, definitely. So I think one of the thing which I had in mind, which I always wanted to do was keep a decentralized location rather than having hundreds of people working in one location covering from different parts of the globe. So I always believed in that and that’s how we operated. So even for example, we have US sports. So we have around almost every US sport possible is what we cover. So we do have a small team in US, so they are based in Texas. And also we have, again, different correspondence working with us. So how the sports work is generally you don’t need to have so many full-timers. You need to have people operating your system during the time of the game. So that’s when I think we have so many people working with us, more than 200, 300 people working with us. And then later on, the full-timers are mainly the ones who look into the post-game and pre-game and are doing all the QA checks and making sure everything is set right.

Ryan Knuppel:

Totally makes sense, totally. So, operating a business this large, I always like to ask this question because it’s not easy. There’s always challenges. There’s always things going on. What’s one of the challenges or maybe one of the biggest challenges you’re experiencing maybe currently, I don’t know, or just have over the years that you’ve noticed running a business or running more specifically a sports data business? What’s one of the biggest challenges you guys face or run into?

Sowbhagya Shetty:

I think the challenge for me, if I would say in particular, is trying to gather or collate data from these countries where nobody else operates. So for example just basically, if I would just give an example of we cover data from African regions. So if you would just look at it, there’s nobody who covers Nigeria or Ghana or Ethiopia. So it’s very difficult to get data from exotic countries like that. So it’s a challenge. And that’s how I love working with these people because the people who we work with are more like bloggers or people who work in the clubs or federations or someone who wants to digitalize those for the fans. So they don’t just work for a company, but they just have a vision themselves because they fans. So everybody who works with us are sports fans. So they themselves know what they want to achieve from what they are generating. So that’s something I think sometimes is challenging trying to find these kinds of data and curate it that I think as a data provider, that’s one of the biggest challenge to find the right people.

Sowbhagya Shetty:

Secondly, the content is the king, so you have a lot of content, so what do you do with it? So that’s also one of the other things we keep trying to keep thinking about that what would be the best way to curate the data and bring some analytics out of it. So we try to work on a lot of different metrics and we created some proprietary tools as well later on. So where we curating the data now and with the tool we have generating, we have sports predictions, for example, and match analysis for betters and tipsters. This is what we generate now. We’re generating facts, for example, with all the historical data, what we collected. And when I say historical data, I’m not talking about one season or five seasons. I’m talking about 20, 50 hundreds of seasons. So that’s a way valuable data. And that’s the facts we are generating to make some informed bets, for example.

Sowbhagya Shetty:

And then analysis of teams and innovation performances to determine let’s say like a marginal productivities as well as team efficiencies and achieving outcomes. These are the things where we work with a lot of data scientists and analytics company, AI companies, we work with a lot. So getting to a point of challenges, one thing is one of the team challenge and the other one is also how do we work with? So when I got into the market, it was more of a traditional sector of media and then it was like sports clubs. There was federations. Now it’s literally everybody. So we have positioned ourself in such way that we can be a data provider for anybody who requires sports data. So we have like fantasy providers. We have like analytics. We have betting sectors where they take this pre-match analysis or odds comparisons or performance metrics. So the use cases keep expanding. So I think initially it was a little challenging to just trying to gauge around these unconventional sectors, but now it just became part of it. It just all became a use case. So initially we started being these first data providers to get into blockchains, to get into AIS, and then automatically these all became the sectors for us. So our clients have been pushing us to go into more markets.

Ryan Knuppel:

Yeah. Well, that’s interesting. That was going to be kind of my next question is what’s next for you guys? I know this space is always progressing and it’s always new markets and new everything coming out, new data points that are needed to be gathered and just all sorts of stuff coming out. So what’s next for you guys? What are you looking to do in the future to continue to grow? Or are you happy with where you’re at and just getting more clients and continuing to grow that way?

Sowbhagya Shetty:

I mean, as a founder, you just have to keep going.

Ryan Knuppel:

Never happy.

Sowbhagya Shetty:

I’m just not an entrepreneur. I’m also a passionate sports person. So for me, whatever I build, I’m building out of passion, so it’s never stress for me. So what we see is we just don’t want to be a data provider, but we also want to be a solution provider. So I’m looking into solving a few problems here, what we see with our current clients. So what we see is trying to solve two problems in particular, one is provide an advanced data solution for all types of use cases.

Sowbhagya Shetty:

And the second one is we want to build more content solutions on top of our data. So the data is something which we are generating now. So be it in a raw data file or in some cases, if a client requires, then we curate it. So now where are we going as we’re going one step ahead where we are trying to ingest more of a social media graphic, for example. We are already doing this for a few of our clients where we have already developed a graphic processing engine that can automatically overlay our data with graphics, which are set up and deliver the content to our clients. So this is an automated solution which takes away a lot of design work for clubs and media organizations. We are already working with quite a few media organizations on this front, and this kind of helps to push a lot of content on their social channels to drive engagements.

Sowbhagya Shetty:

And the second one which we are already working on is video content. So using our AI and defined storytelling, we are now generating video content using the data what we have to tell if a pre-match or post-match review from a game, and this all doesn’t require a video creator, but just R2. So this saves a lot of time and effort at our client’s end and everything is generated at our end, and we’re just giving them the end solution. So simply, it’s an automated system where we follow Q on metrics defined in advance to produce such content.

Sowbhagya Shetty:

And then lastly I told you about curating the data right on sports predictions and facts. So I think this is our future. I see more of curating the data and showing more finalized end product, if that’s the future now than just providing or being a data provider. Just providing raw data I think is great, but now what do we do with the raw data? That’s something as a visionary you want to think about. And that’s how we try to build a lot of proprietary tools at our end. And we are trying to work on that, too.

Sowbhagya Shetty:

So for example, if I have to bring it out, Olympics is coming in very soon. And what we are actually doing with the Olympics is also apart from having a plug and play solution with, of course, API as well, we’re also going to be adding some kind of want to be on this action where the records are brokered or mashed at the Olympics. So our team will have recorded all records so we can announce world records, Olympics records and individual best at the sporting events. So this is something which we will be applying to do for Olympics. And we will continue doing that for more sports, more competitions. So this is something where I see more benefits and would be more beneficial for the federations or even, for example, betting.

Ryan Knuppel:

Yeah. super cool, super cool. Well, man, I could listen to you all day long. You are clearly one of the brightest in this industry, Sow, and I really appreciate you being here, but I don’t want to keep you all day. I could keep you all day and really listen to what you have to say. So before we go, what else do you have to say to the audience? The audience listening here is probably a bunch of iGaming professionals, people in the sports betting space, maybe some people out here that are needing data services, but they don’t even know sometimes what that means. What would you say to them? Is there a way to get ahold of you? Should they contact your team? If they’re looking for data services, what do you have to say to the audience here before we get off here?

Sowbhagya Shetty:

So one thing about Data Sports Group or how we call it DSG, one of the differentiator that we see is our approach has always been flexible in understanding the client’s requirement, rather than providing a bundled default solution. This has always made us different and always made us stand out in the market. So in respect to whether you are a startup, you’re an individual, you are a punter, you are a data analytics, or you’re a data scientist or an established company, we have a solution for everyone. So you can reach out to us on our company website that is datasportsgroup.com and we’ll surely help you out. Or you can also reach out to us at [email protected] because I’m sure that my name is too lengthy to be put on, so that’s much more easier to say [email protected] where our solution experts are very responsive over email. And we will be providing free trials and integration kits, technical documentations to test the services. We could easily do that right away on our website, but then because of the wide catalog what we have, first we like to hear what you require and then we like to provide a free trial just based on your requirement. Because we have bundled a lot of solutions and a more enhanced at one solution. So we don’t want to have a lot of APIs going on for people who probably doesn’t require it.

Ryan Knuppel:

Sure. Sure. Awesome. Awesome. Well, Sowbhagya Shetty, the founder CEO of Data Sports Group, so I really appreciate you being here. I love this industry and I can tell you have probably more passion than I do and I don’t find many people that have that same level of love for this area. And so I just want to thank you for everything you’ve done for this industry and you continue to progress it and keep moving it forward. So keep that up and keep being a great leader in this space. So thank you.

Sowbhagya Shetty:

Thanks so much, Ryan. Thanks for having me again.

Ryan Knuppel:

No worries. No worries. And hopefully in the future, we’ll continue to see Data Sports Group grow and progress. And if there’s anything I can do on my end, I’m happy to help. So again, appreciate you being here. So for all of you listeners, we appreciate you tuning in to another episode here. And please go out, check out Datasportsgroup.com. I know sometimes data can be intimidating to some. So please ask the questions, just take a look and get started in this space and I’m sure Sow can help you get going and her fabulous team that she has at Data Sports Group. So thank you, everyone. Sow, until next time, have a great day. Everybody stay safe. All right, bye-bye everybody.

Sowbhagya Shetty:

Cheers, bye.

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