It is the entrepreneur’s dream, a version of the story most of us are familiar with by now. Working in a basement, dorm room, or garage building a solution for a market in desperate need of innovation, but with only a small few finding the right product market fit. In Jaime Tatsubana’s case, the market was the world of football (soccer) scores and other data, and the launch of FootyStats.org. What started out in 2016 as harmless sports wagers between friends has now turned into the world’s largest website for football statistics.
The Entrepreneurial Mindset
What does one usually do after finishing a degree? Find a job and start a career, which is what Jaime expected to do within the video game industry.
Jaime is an alumnus of SFU’s Faculty of Communications, Arts and Technology, having studied design at the School of Interactive Arts and Technology from 2011 to 2016. During that time he first worked for a short time at Bandai Namco, and then at Electronic Arts (EA) where he started as a part-time quality assurance (QA) tester but quickly found himself moving up to full-time website manager under the FIFA umbrella. While acknowledging the value of both these work experiences, Jamie slowly affirmed a personal key driver: he only wanted to work for himself.
In 2017, Jamie started exploring startup support and his own entrepreneurial mindset with the help of Mentor Meet, a program open to staff, students, faculty and recent alumni through SFU’s Charles Chang Institute for Entrepreneurship.
Dr Iain Begg, at that time a Mentor-in-Residence with SFU, recalls his first meeting with the young founder, “Jaime sat down, and made a reference to funding a web site. At the time, everyone wanted to have a site for food delivery or e-commerce, etc. The first question is always – do you have customers? To my evident surprise and delight, Jaime said his Footystats site had signed up over 1,000 sign ups in the last month. We knew at that point that Jaime had identified a real market need.”
As a single webpage in its first year of operation FootyStats generated revenue and did well. Jaime’s solution addressed a market gap, but whether it could provide a sustainable living wage was still in question. With the World Cup coming in 2018 he decided to give it another year or two, but needed office space and other resources to grow the venture.
Fortunately, Jaime was able to gain entry into SFU’s Coast Capital Venture Connection incubator program, along with its open co-working space. Jaime notes this was invaluable in the early days of Footystats as having a home base created efficiencies that could not be offered in a virtual world. It was more than just an office, though, providing comradery as well. The incubator program also offered dedicated mentorship, guided by mentors like Begg, workshops and other training opportunities, and a network of peer founders facing similarly challenging business problems. From there, things really took off.
A Pinch of Luck
When asked about what has contributed to his success so far, Jaime listed many factors but summarized them into three themes: luck, education, and skill. Furthermore, Jamie explains that luck offers an opening when you are in the right place, at the right time, and with the right people.
For Jamie, he stumbled into the right market before anyone else had created a strong football statistics website, and seized that opportunity prior to the 2018 World Cup. He also recognized early on the value of working with others across disciplines, reflecting that “in the early stages, it can make or break” a startup’s future. Jamie feels strongly that every coder should understand design basics, and every designer should comprehend coding foundations. It is this ability to communicate across jargon lines that the true power of interdisciplinary solutions begins to shine through.
For education and skill, Jaime nods his head to employers EA and Bandai Namco for expecting top-tier quality in all deliverables, enhancing his fundamental eye for quality. The young entrepreneur also mentions that professors Dr. Halil Erhan and Dr. Matt Lockyer from the School of Interactive Arts and Technology taught him the coding and design skills that eventually became the foundations for FootyStats.
When asked what the future of FootyStats holds, Jaime hopes the website will continue to be the world’s number one statistics website for football (soccer). In the coming years, FootyStats aims to expand beyond football and into basketball, hockey, tennis, and even cricket. He closes the list of sports by saying that eventually, every single sport will be available on the platform.
Footystats.org is garnering attention from unexpected audiences. The world has already begun to see real societal implications through analysis of this data. A study from an American military college used the website to highlight how “tie games” might be perceived differently based on culture. Another academic paper from researchers at the University of Toronto and the University of Washington referred to FootyStats data to illuminate racial biases in sports.
Helping organizations uncover value from their data is a key service SFU’s Big Data Hub provides to the community. As noted by Dr Fred Popowich, Scientific Director of SFU’s Big Data Hub, “there’s an opportunity for this data to provide further insights when it is integrated with other data sources as well, which could help us uncover novel solutions to challenging goals of our society.”
At the Charles Chang Institute for Entrepreneurship, we encourage SFU entrepreneurs, changemakers, and innovators to reimagine challenges as opportunities for a better future. Jaime sees the potential now for real-world impact of his site’s data and looks forward to exploring those possibilities once he and his team emerge from the other end of the expected surge of Footystats web traffic leading up to the World Cup in November.
The Charles Chang Institute for Entrepreneurship is the academic and interdisciplinary hub for entrepreneurship and innovation at SFU. The Institute is creating Canada’s most comprehensive and inclusive continuum of interdisciplinary, experiential programming to develop the entrepreneurial mindset, working closely with all SFU faculties and innovation partners within one of Canada’s most supportive university ecosystems.
In January of 2017, FootyStats started out on reddit with just a couple hundred users. Now it’s a globally used product with millions of pageviews a month from 166 countries. Its goal is to provide insightful and actionable football/soccer stats to everyday users, websites, and companies. For more of Jaime’s reflections as an entrepreneur, read his 2018 interview, “9 Things Nobody Told Me When I Started a Mini Web Startup”.
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