How AI in Sports Can Take Athletes’ Games to the Next Level

How Sparrow’s founders built on years of serial entrepreneurship and several successful exits to develop their latest game-changing idea: technology that helps athletes exponentially improve their games.

Written by Joe Chin
Published on Sep. 24, 2020
How AI in Sports Can Take Athletes’ Games to the Next Level
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One thing all athletes have in common — from amateurs to seasoned pros — is the insatiable desire to take their game to the next level.

As a former Division I college football player and now the coach of a youth soccer team, I know how constant the drive is to become a better athlete. As a coach, I’ve found that one of the most effective techniques is to use video technology to pinpoint players’ areas for improvement.

At Sparrow, we set out to prove that a tool that pairs video with AI instruction will be more effective than traditional forms of improvement. To do this, we developed proprietary technology that provides real-time analysis of athletic movements with instructional feedback. Our technology can be adapted for a range of sports so that all athletes will have access to real-time instruction. With a very large vision in mind for the future, we are first focusing on golf — specifically, helping golfers perfect their swing.

To be successful in the market, any startup must draw on a blend of unique experiences. Here’s the story of how we got here, and why we’re well suited to make this vision a reality.

As the CEO, I am a serial entrepreneur with more than 15 years of experience in tech companies, where I have raised over $20 million from investors and had two successful exits. Sam Pigott, Sparrow’s COO and co-founder, has serious product expertise: He’s designed more than 100 apps that have had five exits — they were bought by Time or Twitter or became multi-billion-dollar companies in their own right and are being used by over 100 million people collectively. Together, Sam and I founded our mobile app and website development agency, Sourcepad, nearly 12 years ago.

Within SourcePad, we help aspiring startups assess potential products and build them out. During this time, we also came up with our own internal ideas and tested them. Throughout the years, we experimented with a dating app, a tourism app, a productivity app and a few other ideas to see if they could achieve high levels of adoption and virality. We have a deep background using innovative technologies and knew we would be able to merge video with AI to enhance athletic performance. This is Sparrow’s heritage.

When we first tested Sparrow, it immediately blew our benchmarks out of the water. The next step was to receive user feedback. We started testing our app with an alpha program and received excellent feedback from our testers about the technology. Our users specifically liked being shown the aspects of their swing that needed improvement, combined with receiving recommendations from our in-app drills.

Although our target market has been very receptive to Sparrow, at a startup, you constantly face constraints such as limited time, energy and resources. As a company, we have had to prioritize and identify our critical path and goals, so that we can continuously move our company upwards to the next level. By thinking creatively, we are constantly looking to shorten that path and identify other possible roads that will help us achieve our goals. Priorities and timelines tend to shift, so it’s essential that we are prepared to embrace changes.

Given these constraints, our road to success has had its ups and downs. When we first started Sparrow, building the proprietary technology was particularly challenging. Although we initially tried off-the-shelf technology, we realized that it didn’t align with our needs. With the help of co-founder Todd Eaglin — an industry expert with a doctorate in computer vision —and his AI development team, we were able to overcome this hurdle and develop our own proprietary tech to power Sparrow. Thanks to the recent advancements of phone technology and the fields of AI, machine learning and computer vision, we’ve been able to develop and adapt a solution that performs machine learning on video in real-time without requiring internet access.

We’re now driving toward our App Store launch. We will continue to add new features that evolve the product, champion our golf and tech communities and provide universal access to instruction. In the future, we will expand from golf to provide the entire global athletic community the opportunity to advance through access to real-time athletic instruction.

Our earnest belief is that we can revolutionize athletics in the coming years by democratizing this category and making athletic improvement accessible to everyone.

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