Kiwi enterprise CricHQ intends becoming ‘the world’s largest cricket broadcaster’, and potentially more. Kevin Kevany has its remarkable story.
by Kevin Kevany
The rise of New Zealand’s digital cricket platform CricHQ is as spectacular as the size of the market it has entered and is rapidly dominating. The statistics and sheer volume of data are equally mind-numbing.
This is about having a dream, seeing the opportunity and then facing huge obstacles to that success; then cleverly drawing in the solution, all the while not losing sight of one of CricHQ’s mantras: “remaining cricketers who love cricket.”
Because of that they have resisted the opportunity to focus on the big money to be had and priced the necessary equipment for clubs at $1,500, rather than the $150,000 you might expect.
CricHQ founder Simon Baker is in the UK to grow the business globally, and launch the latest acquisition (My Action Replay, a sports-video highlights provider) in time for this English cricket season. So Mike Loftus, resident executive director, takes up the story and lays out some startling facts and stats.
“The convergence of data, video and digital at all levels of cricket is what we have been pushing forward with for the last few years,” he explains.
“CricHQ’s customers include 54 out of 105 national governing bodies; 350 associations; thousands of leagues, tournaments, clubs and schools; and millions of players, coaches, parents, administrators and, of course, the fans.
“We currently capture one-in-ten cricket balls bowled, in the world, giving us the largest database in the game. If we covered every ball bowled in every level of cricket, it would encompass 66 billion video clips.
“CricHQ intends becoming the world’s largest broadcaster of cricket. We are already the world's largest digital cricket platform,” says Loftus. “The company has grown to be the online home for all levels of cricket around the world – making cricket more accessible for everyone by providing mobile, enabled cricket administration; high-performance data and content management tools; and CRM capability for cricket organisations.”
Behind the startling figures and achievements to date, not to mention the vast potential in cricket (can rugby, football, etc be far behind?) lies a gutsy tale of entrepreneurial endeavour, optimism and sheer determination to succeed.
In 2010, Simon Baker, founding entrepreneur, captained one of Wellington’s premiere club cricket teams and worked for Spark in sales management. He was determined to focus his time on the things he loved, rather than just the things he could do well.
So he took a punt and started CricHQ, identifying the impact smartphones and tablets could have on cricket. Baker foresaw the potential in changing the paper-based systems of the world’s second most popular sport (3.2 billion followers) and launched into the creation of an app to disrupt the existing, time-consuming and complex pen-and-paper system.
CricHQ started as a free, smartphone scoring app, enabling professional and ‘Mum-and-Dad’ scorers around the world to easily score matches. Enthusiasts could follow a favourite player’s performances – be it UK County Cricket or getting an alert when a niece is playing in Nelson. Players could track their stats across a season and, remarkably, each match generates a 60-page match report, identifying players’ areas of strength and where they need to focus their training.
But that wasn’t enough for this innovative start-up.
“CricHQ added competition administration, customer relationship management, data and content management and high performance analysis (to name a selection) to its initial free offering, all on one ‘socially enabled’ mobile platform, to truly become the world headquarters of all things cricket,” says Loftus. “But that’s not to say it was easy or that we’ve stopped growing, as our latest acquisition proves.”
Success didn’t come easy. Raising finance locally was tough and the cricketing fraternity is one steeped in tradition. At the time it didn’t share Baker’s vision.
But he believed in what he was doing and was sure the market was there. He just had to get in front of the right people.
A stroke of genius
A stroke of entrepreneurial genius saw former New Zealand captains Brendon McCullum and Stephen Fleming persuaded to invest in the business early on. With their support the business gained more momentum, especially in India.
Sri Lanka and South Africa followed, and then CricHQ landed its first nationwide contract, becoming the scoring platform for all Kiwi cricket; from tests down to club matches.
Baker identified India as the big target; the country where more than a billion cricket-mad fans lived. In 2014 a deal was signed with Blackberry (Android and Apple are big players worldwide, but Blackberry dominated India). This deal allowed CricHQ to launch into its biggest potential market with the most suitable partner. Again.
CricHQ secured US$10 million from Singaporean private equity firm, Tembusu Partners in 2015 – an investment which New Zealand Venture Capital Association said represented 25 percent of all overseas venture investment that year.
As mentioned earlier, Baker’s currently in the UK expanding CricHQ’s ever-growing base. With 30 staff in Wellington (the international HQ of CricHQ) plus 70 in India and employees in Sri Lanka, Pakistan, South Africa and the UK, CricHQ is soaring.
With the arrival of celebrated Kiwi ad-man Kevin Roberts as chairman and investor, they are no longer satisfied with sticking to where cricket’s already established either.
Loftus again: The United States is now firmly on our radar and so far it’s been successful. We view it as the second biggest market, after India. We now know there are two million-plus registered cricketers there.
As the world’s largest digital platform for cricket, CricHQ provides stats, commentary, communication tools, real-time updates, and will create draws for competitions in three minutes. Something that would traditionally take days.
“We put players and fans at the heart of what we’re doing. They can watch the footage they want; when they want it; and on any device,” says Loftus. “Live-streaming has contextual infographics, like scores and data – more extensive than what is currently provided on TV – reducing the production cost for rights holders wanting to broadcast and monetise their cricket.
“By enabling fans and players to see video of cricket at all levels, they’ll get to enjoy cricket in a whole new, non-traditional way.
“We’ll definitely be revolutionising cricket through technology,” says Loftus.
Kevin Kevany is a freelance business writer.