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Shelbyville uses new incubator to lure tech firm Tyros

April 16, 2011

A company that will soon become Shelbyville’s newest corporate resident has a nifty, high-tech idea to help schools, leagues and sports associations connect with sports referees and officials.

Monteleone Monteleone

But Tyros co-founder and CEO Tony Monteleone said his firm’s Web-based program goes much deeper. He calls it “Facebook with a purpose.”

Tyros will offer an online training system for officials, a universal rating system that could also be used for certification, and an electronic scheduling system that will match officials’ qualifications with needs of game schedulers, and an automated payment system allowing game organizers to more efficiently pay officials, said Monteleone, himself a sports official with 15 years’ experience.

“Officiating is a serious profession with a lot riding on it, but it’s not organized in any way, shape or form,” said Monteleone, who spent the last five years in sales for Monster.com. “I want to take a standard and blanket it all over the country, even the world.”

It might sound like pie in the sky, but Tyros, despite not yet having any revenue, has the endorsement of National Football League officials and has gained interest from European soccer leagues.

“There’s a lot of movement right now to improve officiating, and I think their system plays right into that,” said Mark Baltz, a head linesman in the NFL with 23 years’ experience in the league. “It takes the good old boys network element out of it and helps bring officiating more into the 21st century.”

Sports officials and leagues aren’t the only ones excited about the startup’s offering. Shelbyville this month approved a $10,000 upfront grant for the company, and up to $100,000 if Tyros can bring in $1 million from other investors and hire 40 or more employees within five years.

Shelbyville also this month granted Tyros discounted rent in the city’s new incubator at Intelliplex park. The company will pay nothing the first year. Then rent will kick in and gradually increase to market rate after the fifth year. The technology park opened in 2005; its 50,000-square-foot incubator, called Accel IN, is scheduled to open in July. Shelbyville also agreed to pay for a $20,000 buildout of Tyros’ space.

None of the Tyros principals are from Shelby County. They say they were attracted to the area by the support they got there—and the incentives.

“The idea for Accel IN is to fill it with growth-phase or startup companies that are just reaching commercialization,” said Amy Haacker, Shelbyville’s director of redevelopment. “We’ve gotten a number of applicants to be in the incubator, and we’re being pretty selective.

“You have to have a solid concept, a well-developed product and some startup capital,” Haacker added. “Right away, I thought [Tyros] had a really compelling idea. It’s a specialized social network for officials and assigners with some nice add-ons.

“We think this is a technology company that could really grow and be something special here,” Haacker said.

Tyros was founded in 2009 by Monteleone, 29; Kyle Armstrong, 25; Josh Koch, 25; and Larry Chisholm, 31.

Monteleone, Armstrong and Koch met while playing in the same basketball league in Plainfield. The trio brought in Chisholm, a technology guru, as chief technology officer. They hired three more employees to prepare for an April 20 soft launch. The soft launch will be by invitation only, but by the end of May, Monteleone said, the system will be opened to all officials and any organization seeking the service of participating referees.

Monteleone is confident that Tyros’ system will help those seeking sports officials to find them in a more methodical way, and offer referees and officials a structured platform to earn the standing to move up through the ranks of the profession. While rec-league officials generally make about $30 per game, major college and pro league officials can make more than $3,000 per game.

“Right now, every sports league, every high school and college conference, and every state association has their own certification for officials,” Monteleone said. “It’s complicated and arcane. We want to standardize all that.”

Though Monteleone said he’s not permitted to say much about potential investors, he projects having $1.3 million raised—all from local sources—by year’s end. He said most of the investors have come from leads from the Indiana Economic Development Corp. or through presentations made before Kiwanis or other local organizations.

Monteleone projects “extremely conservatively” that Tyros will have 60 employees and $18 million in annual revenue by 2016.

Most of the revenue, almost 80 percent, will come from fees charged to use the officials assignment service. Tyros hopes to get $1 per assignment transaction. The balance will come from mobile apps, site advertising and other site-driven sales.•

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