Business and basketball

Business and basketball

A website tracking basketball statistics is a slam dunk in Silicon Valley.

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The Openball team, from left, Tse Yuk, Warren Chan, Kit Chu and Ken Chu
The Openball team, from left, Tse Yuk, Warren Chan, Kit Chu and Ken Chu

Frustrated by the lack of reliable basketball statistics, two former local league players have set up a website which is becoming big news in the United States.

Ken Chu Sai-fung, 31, and Tse Yuk, 32, founded Openball in 2009 after realising there was no website to track their individual records on the court.

Now the site has attracted investment from a US company, and there are plans to expand globally into new sports. Chu and his team have even relocated to Silicon Valley in San Francisco, US, home of Google, Facebook and Apple.

"I had an idea to build software [that would] record match statistics from league competitions my friends and I [were competing in]," says Chu. "The Hong Kong Basketball Association and other organisers of local basketball tournaments didn't provide a full record of matches. As players, we don't know how we performed as statistics were not always available."

Openball allows users to track basketball competitions - anything from major to inter-school tournaments - by inputting results either through the website or via an app.

Last year, more than HK$100,000 were spent to hire part-timers in Hong Kong to watch matches and collect reliable statistics. Many of them are secondary or university students who are also basketball players.

But Chu and Tse have their eyes set on goals bigger than Hong Kong's local basketball leagues. When they won funding from the US and relocated to Silicon Valley, the team began rebuilding the software to serve a global audience.

"We could actually carry out the development of our software in Hong Kong. But it's clear that we can move faster in the States, because we can seek help from others and gain inspiration which is missing in the Hong Kong office," says Chu.

As well as Chu and Tse, the Openball team also includes Chu's younger brother Kit Chu Sai-kit and Warren Chan Ka-lun.

The four men work six days a week, 10am to 12am, at their office which doubles up as a home in America.

They have white boards hung on the wall to write down ideas. Sometimes they play basketball, football or go biking to relax. They don't need to worry about the Hong Kong operation as they have a team back home to deal with that. Instead, they are focused on taking Openball global.

"We mainly work, cook and eat in the house to save money. Sometimes we go out to interview users. We recently hired someone to rebuild the whole system to meet the demand in the future," says Chu.

"In a year, we aim to have 100,000 users in the States. Our ultimate goal is for our system to evolve into a platform for millions of users taking part in different sports around the world."

Openball began with an initial investment of just HK$200,000. Further support from the Cyberport Creative Micro Fund provided training and funding for the team to pitch their idea to investors in Silicon Valley. Now the team are already thinking about what they need to take the site to the next level.

Openball has appeal beyond sport statistics nerds. The site allows anybody to organise a tournament, create a website for it, and allow participants to keep up with the latest results.

"Our motivation comes from our love for the sport. We want to provide better service for amateur sports. We do think that we will be successful," says Chu.

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
Business and basketball

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