Sportradar is a global sports-tech company that cooperates with well-known sports organizations, such as the ITF, NASCAR, NBA and NHL and operates in more than 120 countries. During the last year, Slovakia has also become a part of them. Sportradar found the flexible BASE offices as an ideal place for their work. At the coworking spaces, they were particularly interested in the atmosphere and quality of services.
Can you tell us more about your company?
We founded the company 21 years ago in a place in Norway called Trondheim. We are now the world’s leading sports technology company, at the intersection between sport, media, and betting providing sports federations, news media, consumer platforms and sports betting operators with a range of solutions to help grow their business.
Across 120 countries, they rely on our know-how and technology for their business. We work in different segments of sport media, with names you’re probably familiar with, like Google, Yahoo, Facebook. We work with many sports governing bodies covering many sports including soccer working with UEFA, Bundesliga and the Asian Football Confederation. We also work with some of the biggest sport leagues in the US including the NBA, NHL and MLB, who are investors as well as partners.
How should we understand your connection with betting? Do you have a system that can predict what will happen?
We are trying to understand what the outcomes will be. That’s where we use things like AI and machine learning, we build models based on the deep data we accumulate over time, and we are then trying to predict probabilities. We work with sportsbook operators and are trying to help them analyze what’s the most likely outcome. We create pre-match odds based on what’s happened before. We also provide in-play odds, we might see momentum shifting in a soccer match for instance and our models will then adjust to provide real-time live odds. We use quite a lot of data science here, including the Monte Carlo simulation (a mathematical technique which is used to estimate possible outcomes of an uncertain event). Our models are running ~14 000 simulations per second to try to predict the outcome. It’s big data, and powerful computation.
It's interesting in big US sports right now as the big media companies are looking for tools around fun engagement. Let’s say you are a Red Sox fan, and you are watching the game. Based on what might be happening right now in the match, they’re trying to engage you as a sports fan to say ‘Hey, look, it looks like the outcome we talked about earlier, is now likely to happen. Do you want place a bet now?’ Or do you want to engage people close to you through social media to say ‘Hey, family, who wants to bet me because I think this is going to happen’. So that way, it becomes much more of an interactive tool. What the sports leagues and teams are trying to do is engage the sports fan. Therefore, we consider the sports fan when we build our products and services.
You’ve already mentioned some of the products you offer to your clients, are there any other products you provide?
Yes, we serve three main categories. We’ve already touched on betting and gaming, where we offer simulated reality products which enable us to look at past performances and try to simulate the likely outcomes. This was especially important during COVID. When all live sport events were suspended before the season was complete. We then started to think about what would have happened if we played it on? That play-on became the hook for us to develop reality simulator products which we used during the COVID 19 pandemic for our sport betting clients to re-engage their customer base because there was no other live content. So we used our deep archive of video material and AI and machine learning which allowed us to effectively simulate results based on predicted probabilities. Like e-sports, simulated reality also became very important. We have a gaming unit as well. We are trying to give people the opportunity to feel like a coach running the season.
That crosses over to our next field of focus which is sport entertainment. There’s a lot of cross-over in our business. We do things like ads technology, where we’re trying to understand your preferences, and then target the right content based on that. For these purposes, we also use the deep data to understand what the preferences are, and then to offer the best possible content based on your affinity for a particular sport.
We also use OTT platform which enables us to deliver content on the internet. We have teams which specialize in this field, not far from here, in Vienna. We also provide the broadcast capability via the internet.
And lastly, we also provide in sport solutions. We work with leagues in competitions to help the players and coaches with player performance analysis. This includes everything from competition management platforms to coaching and analytics, so again we use quite lot of technology here. We work with things like computer vision which the teams can use to scout for players or look at historical performance data.
We use AI and machine learning algorithms in example for baseball, where a team might be looking to scout a player. Creating a video archive of that player to allow the coaches to assess past performance and make informed player acquisition decisions.
There are many other fields we operate in. All are based around deep technology. One key area is about keeping sport clean. Our integrity services include a core detection platform which we provide to all sports for free. We also provide services on top, based on a free platform measurement.
Thanks to the nature of our business, the data we detect can be helpful in determining an illegal activity such as match fixing. There are some sports where we have been very successful in tackling this issue.
Are the players wearing smart technology that collects the data?
You may see a lot of players wearing something like a cropped vest but, that is a GPS tracker. They tend to be used now for the player performance. They enable us to look at patterns, player performance, positions etc. to allow coaches help drive improvements.
Do you also work with the match and training data?
These are the match data. When they’re training, they are trying to assess performance as well as coaching in terms of what they do technically. The same thing applies to how they perform in the match environment. It shows whether they listened and performed as the coaches instructed them.
So basically, you can tell if something is wrong based on your historical data?
Yes. You can look back post-match and say, did we accomplish what we said we’d do?
If the match ends differently than your predictions say, can you tell if it was manipulated?
Yes, in some cases. It is quite interesting. There are some sports where that is more prevalent, including tennis. What the data often finds is a player who is on a hot streak and then suddenly drops sets or loses matches. We spot things like that during our analysis and based upon our fraud detection technology. In these situations, we are often able to help flush out the issues we detect. In many cases we help prosecute for match fixing.
If we move to the topic of your office in Slovakia, can you tell us more about its focus?
Well, this is year one for us, we’re still forming here. So far, we have quite a mixed office in Bratislava. We have some software engineers here who are working in our sports entertaining area. They work on things like the ads, and AV. We also have a part of our talent acquisition team here, helping us hire locally. Lastly, some of our finance and legal and compliance colleagues are here as well. We are currently building around many functions, not just the engineering.
So how many employees do you have in Slovakia?
Currently around 25 but we are expanding, and we are planning to have plenty of space here.
And how many people are working for Sportradar in total?
With more than 3000 people with offices in 32 countries around the world, mainly in Europe as that’s where we started, but also in North, South and Latin Americas and APAC – we are a truly global business.
What was the motivation behind opening an office in Slovakia?
It was a combination of factors. We always look for locations which allow us to have access to a technology talent pool. We’ve hired Slovak people before and we found a great source of talent here. We are actively working on developing research projects with the University here too, therefore we want to continue to grow and evolve our business in Slovakia. AI machine learning is one of the areas of specialty in this country, which is crucial for what we are doing. It’s about talent but also about proximity. We also operate in Vienna where we have a big office, so it provides us with an accessible branch network for people who work in both offices because they are just an hour apart. We were interested in local clientele based on the capabilities we found, and we were keen to cultivate relationships here as well. Later this year in October, we are sponsoring the Slovak Women in Tech event as we are focused on diversity and bringing more women into technology.
How did you proceed when you were looking for an office in Slovakia?
We were very lucky because when we first started looking into this, we got in touch with SARIO, which is the Slovak Investment and Trade Development Agency, who introduced us to the city and its opportunities, and they facilitated our property search in a number of locations. We had specific criteria in terms of space, and they were kind enough to walk us through various options. That is how we came across BASE.
Were you looking for an office in a coworking space?
Yes. Elasticity is what we like about coworking. We have space to grow here. We might have started small, but we made a commitment to grow and scale our business here. It was a good fit for what we required.
Over the course of my career, I’ve worked with smaller start-up organizations. It was a very multitalented environment full of good vibes and energy. It tends to be the younger players in smaller companies who are trying to make things happen. I like that energy in the open spaces it helps cultivate and create that kind of environment for business to get established and start growing. It’s a nice environment to work in.
What would you say is the benefit of having your office at BASE?
I think we chose BASE as the ideal work environment based on several factors. The range of services, the facilities, and its location. But also, the fact that the building has been restored to a very high standard contributed to our decision. We love that it has been listed as a National Cultural Monument.
We had about 100 people here last month for our engineering summit. For many of them it was the first time they visited Bratislava. I’ve heard a lot of transfer requests from colleagues from other offices asking, ‘Can I move to Bratislava? Because I absolutely love the building’. We spent 3 days here during which we organized an event in the big hall downstairs and another one at the gallery.
This building is the landmark of the city and as we are a B2B business and when we are opening a branch in a new city, we don’t have the luxury of being a well-known consumer brand. That’s why we thought why not to establish ourselves at an iconic location?
Surely that’s going to say something about who we are as a business if you’ve never heard of us before. ‘Wow, you’re in this building? You’ve certainly given it a lot of thought.’ I think that’s what we’ve been looking for. Plus, I’m an architectural nerd, and I know all about SKY PARK and Zaha Hadid’s legacy.
Are you satisfied with the services we provide and with BASE in general?
We are very satisfied with the location and the building meets many of our requirements. We have found all the key aspects we were looking for including support, technology, modern access to the building via an app - which doesn’t sound like much, but it is very convenient. I love the fact you’ve applied technology directly into the workspace as I’m all about that digital employee experience and this removes the need for passcards and lanyards. It adds an extra tick in the box for me. We like the way the building is set up, combining the offices, gallery, shared spaces and a large conferencing facility that allowed us to host an event here. We recently had teams from across the globe, from San Francisco to the west, and Singapore to the east and from across Europe visit us here and your team hosted us all seamlessly. Your team helped us host this event helping with everything from event planning, catering and a team building activity which included a tour of the city - we were very impressed. The overall experience and service so far have been top-of-the-class and we are very happy that we decided to come here.